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Iowa History Daily: June 27 - Spencer Fireworks Disaster

Iowa History Daily: On June 27, 1931, the town of Spencer nearly burned to the ground during a fireworks explosion. The fire destroyed 80 businesses and caused over $2 million in damages while leading the Iowa Legislature to ban fireworks in the state.

When a young boy dropped a sparkler into a fireworks display at Main Street’s Bjornstad Drug Store, a massive inferno torched downtown Spencer. As local and area firefighters scrambled to fight the rapidly spreading flames, a plane took off from Des Moines carrying dynamite necessary to create a firebreak.

Firefighters eventually dynamited the Spencer Dry Cleaners, creating a gap to contain the fire from continuing to spread. A bag of melted marbles, believed to need a temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit to melt, was found in the drugstore’s burned out shell. The vault at the Clay County Bank survived to secure many local valuables, but took ten days to cool enough for opening.

With over twenty downtown buildings destroyed, Spencer set about rebuilding. The Art Deco Architectural style prevalent during the era and evident throughout the downtown today demonstrates the far reach of the flames of Iowa’s most significant fireworks explosion. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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