We used to make fun of this name when I was in high school. If there's anything that sums up rural cow-towns, it's BARNSville. But it was spelled Barnesville, after its founder, George I. Barnesville. Wikipedia says it's George S., but the town's website says different.

This is very much a Minnesota place.

Will it be like the empty towns we've seen, stripped and forelorn, or something with signs of life? Let's take a tour.

We start at the edge of downtown, where NAPA has decided you don't need to see inside the store. Yes, they have it. No need to stand outside gawking.

Probably wasn't NAPA that bricked it up. Seems a shame, though.

It is a bricky kind of town, no?

Late 70s, judging from the brickwork on the new wing. Or later, and they tried to match the original building. A lot of churches added these for office space or handicapped access; too bad it looks like a hand in front of your face to keep you from admiring the church.

Looks like the rosettte window was bricked over - lost in a storm, perhaps? Too costly to replace?

Oh, now, come on, you didn't have to do that.

The metal looks original. I imagine it had more brick, but now it looks like a muscular torso perched on spindly legs.

T. Gunness. He was co-inventor of a Beefseak Roller, U.S. Patent 1,129,232. First name Thomas. He got out of merchandising in 1914 and went into potato dealing.

You find compositions in these small towns you don't get anywhere else. The skyscrapers have a different purpose.


See that mark on the sidewalk? The unmistakable sign of a downtown revival effort. Let's put art on the pavement! People will come and shop.

You have to think the ground floor wasn't always this bare.



A bit of history - older history - around the corner.




The OLD city jail. The sign says it's now for tourists and artisans, so if you're either, this is where you're incarcerated.


The Oliver Block:


That's as perfect an early-20th-century small town building as you'll find. Solid, plain, handsome, proud. Two stories! The town was on the grow.

Barnesville had the state's first municipal telephone system, and an opera house. A progressive town, in the old sense of the word; no doubt old man Oliver was in on hte action.

The area on the right makes you wonder if someone wasn't lured to the shop with the promise of Amontillado. How did anyone involved decide it was a good idea? That it fit? It was probably done in the 50s or 60s, so it was Modern and Up to Date, but it's like putting a Jackie O hat on a noble hound.

Ol ' DW was in the wood trade:

Again, a brick insert that has nothing to do with the rest of the building. It's like they took it off a truck and shoved it in.

Initials were popular: if DW can do it, why, so can P.H. Actually, P.H. probably was first.


He was on the board of directors of the Building and Loan Association, but probably had his hand in lots of things.

I'm not a fan of trees downtown. I'd rather have streetlights and neon and signs perpendicular to the building.



You can see why I'm a big fan of the huge metal screen with big swoopy letters. This just looks bleak and humiliating.

More names: Eldridge & Phillippi.


They're like conjoined twins, one of whom made his way in the world, and the other decided to be dissolute and live off his brother's largess.


Eventually you just run out of town . . .



. . . so turn and see what else the town as to offer. Mr. Janneck built this tidy little building:


Frank Janneck was a farmer and dairyman, and did okay. Must have put this up just for some extra scratch. I liked this old sign:



There are still lots of King Koins around; must have been a franchise. They sold you the name and signs and perhaps the machines.


We could end with this strange but satisfying arrangement . . .




Or this. A Minnesota town. Thanks, Barnesville; I'll drop by some summer day on the way home to Fargo.