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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.




SPAHN AND ROSE LUMBER COMPANY

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One of the many buildings belonging to Spahn and Rose in 2010.
Corporate headquarters (2015). Photo courtesy: Spahn and Rose
New store. (2015). Photo courtesy: Spahn and Rose
SPAHN AND ROSE LUMBER COMPANY. Spahn and Rose was the last of the major line-yards located in Iowa. Consistently ranked within the top 200 of the top four hundred lumber companies in the United States, Spahn and Rose in 1991 operated twenty-two stores within the Midwest region of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Store employees in the 1950s. Photo courtesy: Spahn and Rose

Spahn and Rose was incorporated on January 23, 1904, by James Currie COLLIER, Charles Joseph SPAHN, Sr., and George DeForest "Bud" ROSE, John Taylor ADAMS and James Carr. This was after successful efforts Spahn and Rose had in California saving lumbering interests owned by wealthy California bankers including the Crockers.

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By the latter part of the nineteenth century, Iowa lumber companies were noticing the decline in supply of timber from the forests of Wisconsin. Spahn, then an employee of the Carr, Ryder and Engler lumber company, was asked by John Taylor Adams to investigate the supply of wood, especially pine, in the western United States. Traveling to California, Spahn discovered fine supplies of Ponderosa and sugar pine were being harvested by California lumber interests controlled by several prominent banking families. Due to improper drying, however, the lumber was being ruined; the bankers were losing vast sums of money.

Spahn was followed to California by Adams who arranged with the California bankers to bring a crew from Dubuque. Rose, a member of the Dubuque group, was appointed assistant superintendent. Within months of their arrival, the seasoned Dubuque lumbermen were turning the California lumber business into a profitable venture.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

In 1903 the lumber business operated by Spahn and Rose was sold to a group of Michigan lumbermen. The profit from the sale was shared with Spahn and Rose who returned to Dubuque and established their own company. This was accomplished in the spring of 1904 with the purchase of a number of yards from a Minneapolis line yard company. As stated in its articles of incorporation, the objective of the company was the sale of building materials, lumber, grain, tiles, doors and sashes. The first president of the company was James Collier. Charles J. Spahn Sr. was the company's vice-president; George D. Rose was secretary.

In an article in 2008, the company attributed its success to many factors. Knowledgeable employees ensured customer satisfaction. The establishment of the Spahn & Rose Charitable Foundation in 1950 helped the company stay community-oriented with the primary mission to support programs that provide services for higher education, healthy communities and at-risk youth. (1) In 2014 the Foundation contributed to the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, LORAS COLLEGE, CLARKE UNIVERSITY, WAHLERT CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, and HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES among many organizations. (2) In ten years, the company donated over one million dollars to non-profit organizations. (3) A profit-sharing plan for employees helped the firm attract and retain employees. Company growth was conservative and emphasis was placed on establishing personal, long-term relationships between the company and its customers.

1951 advertisement. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Spahnrosetokens.jpg

In July, 2013 the company announced that it would be moving from its nearly century long residence at 1101 Jackson. The lumber company announced that it intended to relocate to the downtown location of FedEx at 370 Harrison to help improve efficiency. The new location would allow the company to operate everything from one location. The goal was to have the new location opened for business in December, 2014. (4)

The new building at 250 Harrison actually opened on March 30, 2015. The new building offered triple the space of the former store. This allowed stocking 2,300 new items and expand existing product lines. The showroom boasted a 1,000-square-foot model home allowing customers to see how various products would look in a residential setting.

In August 2016 it was announced that SR Jackson Real Estate LLC, owned by Gary Carner and Tom Kelzer, had purchased the old lumber company warehouse at 1100 Jackson for $900,000 and the neighboring 1065 Jackson St. from Spahn & Rose for $600,000. Plans called for the construction of high-end, extended stay hotel. (5)

Company officials in March, 2019 announced the acquisition of Dunn Lumber based on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Owned by the Dunn family since the company was founded in 1894, the firm was naed the 2019 Wisconsin Retail Lumber Association Dealer of the Year. Founded in 1904, Spahn & Rose had 24 locations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. (6)

The 1911-1912 Dubuque City Directory listed 8th and Washington.

The 1962 through 2013 Dubuque City Directory listed 1101 Jackson.

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Source:

1. "Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. Announces 2014 Charitable Contributions," News Release. Online: http://spahnandrose.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2014CharitableFoundation.pdf

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Becker, Stacey. "Spahn and Rose to Relocate After 100 Years in 1 Place," Telegraph Herald, Aug. 6, 2013, p. 3A

5. Barton, Thomas J. "Hotel Plans in Works in Millwork District," Telegraph Herald, August 12, 2016, p. 1A

6. "Dubuque Lumber Company Acquires Award-Winning Wisconsin Business," Telegraph Herald, March 5 2019, p. 3A

175 Years, Volume 3, "Spahn & Rose Grows Winning Strategy," Telegraph Herald, September 15, 2008