This month we look at four towns, the Quad Cities of the Iron Range. Virginia was named after the state - many of the lumbermen who settled in the area were from Virginia, it seems. Almost nine thousand residents, down from 15K in 1960. It's the birthplace of Chris Pratt. whose father worked the mines until that business dwindled.

If you want to make a building interesting, tilt the windows! Makes it look romantic and . . . I don't know, Swiss? Something or other.

For extra fun, put a double-door on the second floor so people think there's a deck, and walk right out. But don't worry! You're in a comedy movie, and a truck full of hay is pulling out just as you fall.

As I have noted about this series of towns, they liked their bars. They need their bars. MAC'S looks featureless, but look at that door: curved black tile Could be the 30s or the 40s.

"Boss, people are saying they want a window, just in case something is going on outside. Like, a parade, because the pit's hiring again."


"Boss. C'mon."

"Okay. One. In the corner."

The air conditioning unit seems insufficient for the job.

There's a piece of stone over the door that says "BANK." No columns or stone ornaments, so people might have wondered if it was solvent.

A serious piece of rock with the word BANK would reassure them.

Was the door original, or was it what they thought the original doors looked like? The tile in the entryway is probably original; the black material. possibly not.

Don't know and it really doesn't matter.


The Power Plant! Now for seniors.

Seems small, but again, consider the amount of air conditioning it had to power.


If you were bothered by things unaligned, you would avert your gaze when you walked past:

THE DOOR. Please put the door IN THE MIDDLE OKAY

Never was a barber shop ever turned into a gas station:

If it was a gas station, what's missing?

Right: the scars left by the island. But you'll note that the concrete is lighter in front of the place, which indicates that they brought the tanks up and paved it over. They had to bring up the tanks; it was a new state law. The old tanks had to be replaced.

Not every old station could afford it. So they closed. But at least the old gas tanks, which hadn't hold fuel for 20 years, didn't poison the dirt.

An emblem of civic pride: the school! But . . .

This really is a travesty. I'm sure the old windows were drafty and cost too much to replace, but this turned an open, bright place into a bunker.


Finally: the Village Hall.



Flush times: it drips with Roman luxury. Wonder if everyone was okay with that. Wonder if they thought it was a proud thing to show the other towns how well they were doing.

Around the corner: more unfortunate bricking - doors and windows.

But not all the windows were covered up. I'll bet the ones that survived illuminated the offices of important officials, who did important things. Like approving building-permit requests to brick up the windows.

Take a tour, if you wish.





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.