The Tangney Hotel is a historic landmark and the northern anchor to the Grand Avenue Historic Commercial District in Spencer, Iowa. It was a key structure in illustrating the development of Spencer into the commercial center of Clay County. Architecturally it could be used to illustrate a dictionary of the popular styles used for early 20th century commercial design. The location of the Tangney, across from the railroad tracks, was perfect for travelers, both business and leisure. 100 years later, The Tangney Hotel now Grand Avenue Community Outreach remains a key structure in reaching Spencer, Clay County and surrounding counties with hope, practical services and shelter.

The Earling Hotel, built in 1886 by a stock company, mostly citizens of Spencer, on the corner of Pine Street (Sixth Street) and Main Street (Grand Avenue) stood on the site of The Tangney Hotel. Known throughout the prairie states as a first-rate hotel, a stock company had organized expressly to build the three-story Earling Hotel. By 1919, even more rooms were required for the growing city’s travelers. Although there were other hotels in Spencer, they provided a lower class of lodging and dining. The Tangney Hotel was a symbol of the prosperous economy of Spencer, a sign of a good business climate. Every county seat town wanted a first-class hotel to prove it was forward-looking. In most cases, as in Spencer, the local business community was called upon to raise money for the construction of the new facility. E. C. Tangney had proposed that Spencer residents buy $75,00 of preferred stock with a retirement clause to assure the construction of the new hotel. In addition, the Commercial Club secured a loan of $50,000. Within two weeks, this monetary goal was achieved. Tangney then agreed to lease the hotel and furnish it when built. Its total cost was $225,000.

E.C. Tangney buys The Earling Hotel and is permitted to build a four-story hotel. Born in Canada, Tangney was a veteran hotel man, starting his career in Sanborn and then working in Sheldon. Other hotels in the Tangney hotel chain included the Wahbonsa in Fort Dodge, the Burke in Carroll, the Muscatine in Muscatine, the Arlington in Sheldon, and the Lafayette in Clinton. Construction on The Tangney Hotel began April 2020.

An entry in “The Hotel World: The Hotel and Travelers Journal, Volume 91”, published 1920 read: E.C. Tangney, of Sheldon, Iowa, began the erection of a hotel at Spencer, Iowa, in April, to be known as the Tangney Hotel, work on which is expected to be completed in November. Boyd and Moore, of Des Moines, are the architects. The Spencer Construction company, Spencer, are the contractors. The structure will be of brick, steel and concrete construction, four stories high with basement, on site 86x127. There will be 124 guest rooms, all with private bath, six sample rooms and eight employee’s’ rooms, also six storerooms, billiard room, Turkish baths, two dining rooms, complete vacuum cleaning system, passenger elevator.

1921 The Tangney Hotel built in the Renaissance Revival style originally had four stories. The building was constructed to accommodate three more floors. By February 1921, the top floor was completed. The Tangney Hotel officially opened in April 1921 and included a dining room, candy kitchen, and billiard hall in addition to the "pleasant" hotel rooms. The hotel was considered to be important enough that the city agreed to the widening of Pine Street between Main and West. It is of fire-proof construction, including concrete floors. Originally there was a broad metal cornice around the entire building which provided an appropriate finish to the design. Court records describe The Hotel as a full-service hotel, restaurant and lounge with 40 rooms available to rent to the general public.

1931 A major fire in 1931 on Main Street destroyed most of the buildings north of 4th Street on the east side of Main and half a block north of 4th on the west side. This fire totally altered the appearance of downtown Spencer. As the first spread northwards in the downtown district dynamite was used to prevent it from continuing further north. The Tangney Hotel was not affected by the fire.

E. C. Tangney, veteran Spencer hotel man whose name for 31 years has been a hallmark in hotel circles, retired from active management of the Hotel Tangney at Spencer in February 1934. Succeeding Mr. Tangney as manager of Spencer hostelry is William C. Springer who comes to Spencer from Waterloo where he has been the manager of the President Hotel of the Tangney-McGinn hotel chain.

The Tangney Hotel was the location of the Greyhound Bus Terminal from approximately the 1930's until it was discontinued in the 1980's.

1934 June 14 Earl J. Tangney, manager of The Hotel Lafayette, and Jean Maurer of Spencer, Iowa were married. Earl J. Tangney, son of Mr. & Mrs. E. C. Tangney, founders of the Tangney hotel properties and formerly of Clinton, has succeeded W. C. Spring as manager of The Tangney Hotel.

1936 A fifth floor was added in 1936, making it the tallest structure along Spencer's Grand Avenue business corridor. The broad metal cornice was removed, perhaps at the time that the fifth floor was added. Although the elaborate metal cornice has been removed, the overall shape and mass of the building is intact, and the quoined corners and main entrance on W. 6th Street with massive stone surround make this 31,994 square foot Brick Commercial Building in prime downtown Spencer, Iowa a major landmark in the district.

E. C. Tangney’s eldest daughter, Helen Tangney, secretly marries W. C. Springer, former manager of The Tangney Hotel, on July 31, 1936. They do not announce their marriage until August of 1937.

1937 January 6 E.C. Tangney’s Wife, Mary Farrell Tangney, passes away.

1939 February 24 E.C. Tangney, passes away. When E.C. Tangney passed of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1939, he not only operated the Tangney but also these Iowa hotels: the Arlington in Sheldon, the Burke in Carroll, the Wahkonsa in Fort Dodge, and the Muscatine in Muscatine. About five months before E.C. Tangney passed, he was the oldest living member to attend the Northwestern Hotel Association’s convention in Des Moines. Tangney had been a charter member of the distinguished organization and was a guest of honor at the banquet.

1953 August 2 Wanda Dillon was murdered at The Tangney Hotel by her husband after he found her with another man. He was later acquitted.

1960 October 9 Celebrity guest Former President Harry Truman visits The Tangney Hotel.

1961 April 13 Earl J. Tangney passes away at his home in The Tangney Hotel.
April 30 Mr. & Mrs. (Helen Tangney) W.C. Springer take over hotel management of The Tangney Hotel.

1962 January 28 Announcement of plans to sell The Tangney Hotel.

1963 April 10 Announcement The Tangney Hotel was sold by Tangney Estate Heirs to the Old 21 Club which consisted of a group of 20 Spencer business men, including Tom Mehesan, president; Ben Shine, vice president; Wayne Hurd, secretary; Bob Sieh, treasurer; Frank Hart and Jack Stillwell.

1964 April 9 Announcement of Wayne Sampson taking over the hotel management of The Tangney Hotel. He was previously employed by Lloyd Booth of the Tangney Family.

1966 June 19 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman is a celebrity guest at The Tangney Hotel addressing farmers regarding farm values for the Johnson Administration.

1972 The Earling Hotel Annex to the west of The Tangney Hotel is torn down.

1973 March 13 Celebrity guests Governor Robert Ray & E. M. deWindt, Board Chairman of Eaton’s Corporation sign an agreement to begin building an Eaton’s Corporate Plant in Spencer.
October 1 Wayne Sampson buys into Palmer House Motel in Sioux City and will no longer manage The Tangney Hotel.

1977 March 29 Celebrity guest, Sixth District Congressman Berkley Beddell, visits at The Tangney Hotel.
December 11 Fire destroys The Tangney Hotel Room 325.

1980 January 12 Celebrity guest Joe Kennedy son of the late Robert Kennedy stays at The Tangney Hotel.
February 12 Mrs. Helen Tangney Springer passes away.

1983 June 2 Celebrity Guest Joan Mondale (wife of Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale) visits at The Tangney Hotel.


1986 August 20 Spencer Hotel Inc. owner the Tangney Hotel – held by Ben Shine, Toby Shine, Dr. George Fraseur, John Greer, Wayne Winslow, Don Bertell, Tommy Thomas & A.M. Johnson – offer hotel to city of Spencer.

September Carolyn Toebes and Sylvia Shine buy The Tangney Hotel and apply for historical preservation grants. Although denied the grants, they renovate. They applied for historical preservation grants, which were denied; consequently, they persevered to renovate the project themselves. They take The Tangney Hotel from 7% occupancy to 82%. Shine credits much of that to community support. Local businesses encouraged salespeople to stay there.

1988 Toebes and Shine purchase A.M. “Stub” Johnson’s widely-known “House of Plenty” restaurant and relocated the restaurants to The Tangney, replacing the little cafe that had operated there for years.
Celebrity guests Former President George H. Bush and son, President Candidate Michael Dukakis; and Presidential Candidate Jesse Jackson.

1998 January 10 Jean Maurer Tangney, wife of Earl J. Tangney and operator of Jean Maurer Gift Shop in the Tangney Hotel passes away at age 96.

2000-2006 Steve Bear of Spencer took over operation of The Tangney Hotel by establishing a loan agreement with Northwest Federal Savings Bank. As cosigners for Bear's loan, Shine and Toebes inherited some financial responsibility for the building.

2005 Oct. 17 Northwest Federal Savings Bank calls in the loan agreement it established with Bear in 2000.

2006 May 3 Steve Bear abruptly closes The Tangney Hotel doors.

2007 February 28 Sheriff’s Hotel foreclosure sale cancelled.
August 23 Sheriff Sale at the Clay County Courthouse the day prior, KES Properties, LLC purchased The Tangney Hotel with a bid of $382,000 for the property and $20,902 bid for the contents inside for a combined investment of $402,902. Mike R. Bovee was the representing attorney for KES Properties, LLC.


2009 June 18 The Tangney Hotel is up for sale.
December 14 Tangney Hotel Quit Claim Deeded to Dayspring Assembly of God from KES Properties, LLC.

2010 November His Hands Extended food and clothing ministry begins… Free food (in cooperation with the Food Bank of Iowa) and clothing to individuals in need on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month from 2 - 5 PM. Emergency food bags are available by emailing (limit one per week per household)


2011 October Free Medical & Dental Clinic Ministry begins 1st and 3rd Thursdays, 4 PM-8 PM Walk-ins welcome. First-come, first served… part of Free Clinics of Iowa. Dental Clinics by appointment only (First appointment requires free medical check-up)

October 28 Tangney Hotel Quit Claim Deeded to Spencer Dream Center from Dayspring Assembly of God.

2013 November Red Cross relocates office to the Spencer Dream Center

2016 May Local founding pastor resigns as Spencer Dream Center CEO and the non-profit ministry begins the reorganization process.



2017 October Ministry board determines part of God’s direction is for broader shared ownership of the vision among area churches and change the name from Spencer Dream Center to Grand Avenue Community Outreach to reflect their intentionality to serve the Spencer community as a community of area churches.

2018 November Birthright ministry relocates to Grand Avenue Community Outreach. They are available by appointment (as well as Helping Hands Baby Closet) Birthright services are available to any pregnant or new mother regardless of age, race, circumstances, religion or marital or financial situation.


2019 Kevin C. Brown named new Executive Director. Kevin focused on bringing various area ministries into he Grand Avenue Community Outreach building to share overhead costs and create efficiencies. Although 2019 would see a suspension of resident programs due to fire code issues; a change of cafe management and ultimately discontinuation; a consideration for change of ownership for the building; ultimately God revealed that he had more plans for Grand Avenue Community Outreach (GACO)

April Family Crisis Center relocates to GACO. Services available by appointment. Call (800) 382-5603

May All Those Yesterdays relocates to GACO. Services available by appointment. Call (712) 580-4732 x8

June Narcotics Anonymous relocates to GACO… Meetings are held Tuesday @ 7:00PM

October Grand Avenue Community Kitchen (GACK) opens… Serving every Monday and Thursday night. Free to the public with donation boxes available

November Hope Haven “Day Habilitation” Program relocates and begins serving at GACO…

December First public meeting in 2 years allows the public to see how Grand Avenue Community Outreach is building and moving forward and soliciting public feedback. Public support provided the feedback sought to confidently progress forward in pursuit of our mission.

2020 January United Way of Spencer relocates to GACO…

March GACO reaches profitability. The coronavirus pandemic hits. GACK serves more than 200 people per evening while working with other agencies throughout the county to create a centralized COVID relief site for Clay County:

April Community donations continue to increase and additional grant offers are pursued to support the work of GACO and provide for necessary building improvements so that emergency housing and in house residence programs can be reestablished.

May Alcoholics Anonymous meetings needed a safe place to meet in the community, so they started an OPEN meeting at GACO… Saturday at 7:30PM

100 Year Landmark Celebration - April 23, 2021

Grand Ave Community Outreach
605 Grand Avenue, Spencer, Iowa 51301
Phone (712) 580-4732

Mon 07:00 am – 01:00 pm
Tue 07:00 am – 01:00 pm
Wed 07:00 am – 01:00 pm
Thu 07:00 am – 01:00 pm
Fri 07:00 am – 01:00 pm
Sat Closed
Sun Closed

Board of Directors:
Randy Cauthron
Bill Kersting
Rev. Nicholas Hanges
Rev. Lee Laaveg
Dr. Terry Shively

Executive Director:
Kevin C. Brown

To email click thiis link:

Copyright © 2020 Grand Ave Community Outreach - All Rights Reserved.
Used with permission of Kevin Brown, Director of Grand Avenue Community Outreach-April 29, 2021.