SPAHN & ROSE HISTORY
Leading the Midwest in Lumber and Building Materials
Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. was organized in 1904 as a retail lumber company with the goal of providing knowledgeable staff, excellent service and superior-quality products to Midwest contractors and builders. When Spahn & Rose sold its first lumber, Theodore Roosevelt was president, Henry Ford set a new automobile land speed record of 91.37 miles per hour and Cy Young of the Boston Americans pitched baseball’s first perfect game.
Spahn & Rose, born a decade before the first World War, has survived two national economic calamities and witnessed plenty of historic and cultural events both within the lumber trade and without. Throughout, though, the foundation on which the company was built has stayed the same: quality products and quality employees.
Over the years, Spahn & Rose has continually improved its operations, adopted technological innovations and improved efficiency—all while maintaining its steadfast commitment to its customers.
The following brief history of Spahn & Rose illustrates how the company has grown, weathered changes and challenges, and provided more than a century of reliable customer service.
1904 - Humble Origins, with a Commitment to Customer Service
The Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. received its charter from the State of Iowa on January 24, 1904. J.C. Collier, C.J. Spahn and G.D. Rose incorporated the company during a meeting six days later. They immediately elected J.T. Adams and J.T. Carr to the Board of Directors. Spahn was 32 years old at the time; Rose was 25.
On March 10, 1904, the group purchased the Citizens Lumber Co. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which included nine lumberyards: in Waverly, La Porte City, Baxter, Parkersburg, Sinclair, Williams, Webster City, Sulphur Springs and Storm Lake.
Spahn and Rose handled the day-to-day operations of the business that bore their names, while Carr, Adams and Collier focused on their sash-and-door mill company, later called Caradco. The primary products and services offered at the time were lumber, millwork, wood shingles, wood lath, nails, bricks, lime, plaster, wood posts, barbed wire and coal.
1911 - Resilience After Disaster, and a New Home
In 1911, Spahn & Rose’s main lumberyard in Dubuque, which also housed the company’s corporate office, suffered a devastating fire. But closing shop wasn’t an option for the founders: Spahn & Rose soon built a new lumberyard at 11th and Jackson Streets in Dubuque, where company headquarters would remain for more than 100 years.
1950 - Second Generation Takes the Helm
For Spahn & Rose, 1950 marked the close of one era and the opening of another. All the organizers and original stockholders had passed away, and the second generation began running the company. C.J. Spahn Jr. was now President; P. Adams and R.H. Collier, Vice Presidents; H.W. Nielsen, Secretary; and D.I. Meyer, Treasurer.
In 1950, the company founded the Spahn & Rose Charitable Foundation, whose mission has always been to improve educational opportunities and quality of life in the communities the company serves by supporting like-minded organizations. The Foundation remains highly active: Between 2015 and 2018, it donated more than $386,000 to a range of nonprofit groups and other worthy causes.
1951 - Surviving a Flood, Establishing a Contractor Customer Base
In 1951, a major flood hit downtown Dubuque, closing the Spahn & Rose General Office.
In the decades that followed, Spahn & Rose upgraded as technology improved. The company renovated many of its locations, relocated some to new buildings and opened additional facilities in new communities in the second half of the century. In time, Spahn & Rose became known as the reliable building-materials supplier for contractors and homebuilders in eastern Iowa.
As building materials and related products changed and developed, Spahn & Rose evolved, too. The company continued to offer a large selection of high-quality lumber, along with expanded lines of building materials such as drywall, millwork, cabinets, insulation, roofing, siding and paint. When the concept of big-box retail swept the country in the ’80s, Spahn & Rose was tempted to follow—but ultimately resisted. Instead, the company remained just the right size to continue offering customers high-quality lumber and building materials with a personal touch.
During the ’80s, the third and fourth generations of Spahn & Rose’s founding families began managing the company.
After company president Chuck Spahn’s sudden death in January 2002, John Hannan was named to the position, making him the first non-family president in the company’s history.
2015 - New, Expanded Dubuque Store Built for Contractor, Homeowner Customers
After 108 years in the Dubuque Millwork District, Spahn & Rose’s lumberyard and retail facility there outgrew its space. To better serve Spahn & Rose’s growing customer base, the company built a 28,000-square-foot edifice at 250 Harrison Street. The new store featured more displays and hands-on accessible demonstrations—a boon for both the company’s traditional contractor base and for its growing share of homeowner business as well.
2017 - Dave Davis Named President
In March 2017, the Spahn & Rose Board of Directors named Dave Davis company President.
2019 - Acquisition of Dunn Lumber
In February 2019, Spahn & Rose acquired Dunn Lumber, a Lake Geneva, Wisconsin–based company that had been in business, like Spahn & Rose, for more than 100 years. The corporate philosophy of the two firms dovetailed, making the acquisition a natural fit.
Dunn Lumber, which has been owned by the same family since its founding in 1894, consists of three business segments: lumber and building materials, hardware and equipment rental. Dunn’s 18,000-square-foot store is also home to DC Design Services, a full-service cabinet-design studio that caters to homeowners and contractors. Dunn Lumber has a reputation for excellence and was recently named the 2019 Wisconsin Retail Lumber Association Dealer of the Year.
Today, Spahn & Rose has 24 retail lumber and building-material stores in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, along with a lumber-distribution facility in Independence, Iowa.
The company’s building-material product lines have expanded significantly and now include engineered lumber, fiberglass insulation, drywall, siding and a much larger variety of woodwork including cabinetry, flooring and roofing. Spahn & Rose stores have also broadened their product lines to include complete selections of paint, paint sundries, fasteners, hand and power tools and much more.
Over more than a century of success, Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. has always been the reliable choice for contractors, builders and do-it-yourselfers in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Spahn & Rose focuses on customer needs, delivering reliable products and services that engender long-term trust.
During the past 100-plus years, much has changed, but Spahn & Rose’s core values still hold true today. The company continues to be dedicated to providing high-quality lumber and building materials for contractors, builders and serious do-it-yourselfers. Spahn & Rose enables you to buy easier, so you can build better!
What’s in our future? More reliability, more high-quality lumber and building materials—and, always, customer service you can count on. That’s been the company’s mission since 1904, and we pledge to continue that tradition throughout the next 100 years.