A big town with a long name. 27,000 souls, and growing. It was named after Marshall, Michigan in 1853, but when someone discovered that Iowa already had a Marshall, IA, they appended the "town." Shouldn't have bothered: that town changed its name to Wayland. And now it has but 966 people.

Swift is the biggest employer - they're a meatpacker. It's the home town of Toby Huss, who plays Boz on "Halt and Catch Fire." Among other things.


I assume there's an area in the lobby where people can stand and let their eyes adjust to the interior. I assume people stand in front of the building on a hot July day and let the facade activate a bag of microwave popcorn.

Hard to read the building - what it was, or whether it was always like that - but it's nice to say it's still open.

After I wrote that I wondered why I was being so lazy. Does McGregors have a website? Yes. It has a history page. I quote:

In 1928, Charles moved to Marshalltown and opened up the second McGregors location on West Main Street.

Which was this.

Same building. That's a pity. On the other hand, its neighbor - visible on the right in the old photo - is still intact, if looking a bit blue:

It looks a bit elongated, due to my attempt to correct perspective. The upper floors were not a hotel for NBA players.

Interesting uppoer-floor brick ornamentation - a fountain? A mushroom? Nothing at all?

They eliminated one apostrophe, and passed the savings on to you!

It was a Penney's for a while, which probably explains the windows. Penney's relocated, and you've already seen the last store they opened.

It's the silvery bank above.

Two styles of storefronts - the one on the left looks prewar . . .

And the one on the left is post. The color of the bricks, the jaunty angle - I'll bet it was the Apgar Studio that commissioned the renovation. (I found a historical district page while writing this, and yes: it was Apgar, in 1955.)

Pictures like this might give you the wrong impression about the health of downtown:

Around the corner you'd see it's a Hispanic grocery store - many of whose patrons work at the Swift plant. But that's another story.

Oh, why. Why.

That elephant-man stone again. Those 60s arches. Whose name was thus sullied?
  Mr. Benedict, who set his name above the streets over a hundred years ago, and would be pleased at least to see that much had survived.

A tidy civic building; its self-possession and trim shape would suggest a municupal structure, or perhaps . . .

. . . a phone company. As I may have said before, it was fortuitous that the stripped-down style coincided with an economic contraction. They fit the new times both as an expression of a rational future and a lean present.

"I want something that says bank. But also Moon Base."

If only the top revolved.

I have no earthly idea. Maybe they sold Space Invader games or orbital starship-construction platforms.

Or staples.

I'm not sure why I snapped this, except perhaps to note the inevitable Buckaroo Revival shingled awning.

It adds such a timeless, classy note.

A timeless piece of small-town America, a small survivor.

TUXEDOS says the window sign, so they sell more than furs. They'd have to, these days.

Just as brick can be used to make a blank facade ornate, so it can add dignity and style with a minimal effort: just mass it carefully and vary the shade.

The ground floors were no doubt better once, but have since gone their own ways.


Whatever held down the corner was lost to fire or time - but the gash reveals an echo. I'll bet there are still folks in town who walked up and down those stairs, and remember why, and where they were bound.

I think it may have been a VAB:

That would be a Verticle Assembly Building. They started at the top and added to the frame as it went down, with finished cars rolling out the back.

It was RUDE FORD, in its day.

Finally, two signs of a place that still has life:

You're seeing what it looked like in 1949. Almost.

Any guesses what this was, and what it's going to be?


It has the most Iowa name ever: TALLCORN TOWERS. So the sign says - although now it's just known as The Tallcorn. Of course it was a hotel once. The pride of the town!

I'm sure it still is. There's a lot more than this brief survey showed you, and I haven't captured what the downtown feels like. Have a look.

One more thing. From an old newspaper:


I found this after I put up this site, and I'm adding it months later. Just because.

Mr. Perry probably didn' have "Asian Grocery Store" as his shop's eventual use.