Why Gilbert? Good question. You might ask that all month long, perhaps, so I'll tell you what's up. This month we look at four towns, the Quad Cities of the Iron Range. Each town had its own character; Gilbert's might be summed up by an attempt in 2005 to hold "Whorehouse Days" to celebrate its past. (City Council nixed it.)

The population is below 1,800 souls, down from 3500 in the mining days of 1920. So this sems apt:

I'm sure it's fixed by now.

The most basic small-town government building possible:

Just a little massing to show it's important, and just the hint of curves to show it's modern.

The building on the left looks like a kindly robot who plays the "dumb hick" role; you can hear it say "duh-uhhhh" like a Warner Brothers cartoon moron:

I'm onfident the building on the right was a gas station, but the bays were oddly situated.


The force of gravity is so strong in Gilbert the letters are frequently dislodged:

The pop machine looks like a little pet, with its own concrete apron.


It's a strip club.

You're wondering: is everything covered with siding? Look to the right, and there's some Buckaroo Revival full enshinglement. Isn't there any naked brick in town?

Yes: At Yo'r Mudders Place.

Who ever spelled YOUR like that? Note the Buckaroo Revival shingles over the second-story windows - oh, that really kept the blazing sun out.

The architect of the building above apparently sold the plans to whoever wanted them:

Another of those buildings that look like it lost a fight.

You'll note that the town is not underserved when it comes to drinking establishments.

This poor fellow is wearing a Phantom-of-the-Opera style mask, perhaps to hide horrible scarring:

Couldn't center the letters for the anal-retentive types in town, could you? Did that just to irritate them, didn't you?

Finally, a sober citizen:

Doric columns for extra seriousness; clock for civic responsibilty. The facade does look as if you could peel it off with a crowbar, though.

From the days flush with money, the City Hall. Complete with fancy terra-cotta.


There's something about that space on the left that says it was used for something besides office space. It was one broad window, as indicated by the ornament above - a garage? Fire station?

To emphasize the point about all the siding:

Who knows what interesting facades were smothered-up. It does give the buildings individual identities, but they look a bit scuffed and busted now.

So why did I do Gilbert? Because a young lad walked past this building, and I'd like to think he was making amusing sounds as he imagined the noises made by comical animals.


This was the birthplace of . . .

Tregoweth Edmond "Treg" Brown (November 4, 1899 in Gilbert, Minnesota, USA – April 28, 1984) was a motion picture sound editor who was responsible for the sound effects in Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starting in 1936. Before that, he worked with Cecil B. DeMille. Adding to this, he also gave legendary Warner voice actor Mel Blanc his big break. He also won the 1965 Academy Award for Sound Effects for his work on the film The Great Race.

In the famous Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening (1955), the skyscraper into which Michigan J. Frog is entombed is named the "Tregoweth Brown Building".

One more thing: when folks tell you that the mine's played out, they're not kidding.:



Lake Ore-be-gone is a 140-acre artificial lake, formed by the flooding of three open-pit iron ore mines, within the city limits of Gilbert, Minnesota, USA.

Since the flooding of the mining pits, the area around the lake has been subject to land reclamation, and there now exist beaches and docks. As of June 2011, the beaches previously closed due to low water have been excavated and a new swimming area and boat landing are in the works.

Yes, the name is a reference to a certain famous, and mythical, Minnesota town.

Have a look for yourself: here's Gilbert.




A humble start to this year's entry. Population: 3,460, give or take a few souls. It has ambition, though: the hotel no doubt made everyone think of the bustling train depot in old Gotham, with its brisk, sophisticated cosmopolitan scene.

It has a Facebook page. One comment: "The rooms are clean upon arrival but not much by way of getting towels and tp on a regular basis if your stay is extended. We ended up having to buy our own. Owners are really friendly though." That counts for more than you might think,

Unhappy brickwork on that green building. But a ghost sign redeems the view:

Owl Cigars. But was it a White Owl? That's what I don't know. Some signs for the White Owl brand said just Owl. If they'd have had modern marketing sensibiilties, they would have had White Owl, Black Owl, and so on, differentiating the flavors.

Barn Owl for the really nasty cheroots.

And what, pray tell, do they sell here?

I have no idea what they're talking about. One guy sitting at a card table with a stack of daily periodicals, waiting for someone to walk by and think "by cracky, I wonder how many they have. I'd like to read a journal from a different city entirely, just to see how many funerals there are for old ladies this week."

That's a lot of turret, Mr. Hetzel.

A Nebraska historical journal says "A majority of the structures are best classified as commercial vernacular. The most prominent, Queen Anne-style building is the Hetzel Block (NH01-044), located on the southeast corner of J Street and Central Avenue. It features an imposing corner tower, carved stonework and an ornate cornice."

And that's a big fat lot of help. Who was Hetzel?

Four buildings? Or one?

The answer can be found in the number of windows.

After all these towns we've explored, you have to admit: this is all too typical. From the rehab to the awning to the paint to the refitted window.


As if a curse had stricken the land.

I have to think there was more to this one, but what remains is spectacular:


The reason for those windows? If you guessed "hall for secret Masonic rites," you're wrong. It was the New Opera House. Again, scant historical information; Auburn seems underwhelmed by its past, or disinclined to share what it knows.

Can't have the Main Streets feature without the OSA, or Obligatory Shingled Awning:

The first-floor windows above the main windows are probably bricked up for good, but the building looks like it could be restored with minimal work.

Providing there was a market for office / residential at the price it would take to fix it up, and I'm guessing there isn't. But that's what they said about Fargo before its renaissance.

The last building in the world you'd expect to house a theater:

It's still in business! The site has a "Save the State" page, though. Uh oh. Turns out it's for a renovation drive. There are no historical photos of the place. There's no history of the place.

I suppose if you needed to know, you'd know, because you lived there. It was originally the Booth - great name for a theater in a state whose capital is named Lincoln - and was renamed the state in 1941, eleven years after it opened.

Finally: The sign version of screen burn-in.

  Love that 9, although I'm sure everyone wondered why they did it backwards.


I believe this old book of biographies has our man:

Previous to his coming to Nebraska Mr. Keedy was for several years engaged in the manufacture of lime at Keedysville. He came west in 1881, locating near what was then called Sheridan, now Auburn, and here he bought one hundred and sixty acres of improved land, upon which he carried on farming until the fall of 1893, when he sold to his sons, and bought two lots in Auburn. Here he built his present residence.

When a young man in Maryland, Mr. Keedy was intiated into the mysteries of Oddfellowship. Politically, he is what is termed an independent, and in religion he also holds independent views, and has never identified himself with any creed.

There has to be a fascinating story about the reason a man named Keedy would leave Keedysville.