It’s too bad there aren’t any Falls nearby. Well, let’s see what the 20th century left as it filled the sails of this Kansas community. I don’t know why I’ve started here, except that it’s an interesting contrast. Something got knocked down, and the other building isn’t going to move a muscle.


We go to the Pratt Tribune, whose founders never thought the URL would have three consecutive Ts.

The same old story: it opened in 1930, which couldn’t have been worse.

With only two floors completely finished, the hotel opened for business in June. Room rates were $1.75 for rooms with a lavatory and stool and $2.50 for rooms with a complete bathroom. The hotel contained 85 guest rooms, three apartments, a Grill Room, barber shop, drug store, and a ballroom and was considered the ultimate in luxury.

The hotel lost $500 in the first month but made $750 the next month. The Pratt Hotel Company failed to reach its goal of $120,000 and the Elson Construction Company assumed ownership in 1933.

According to that newspaper story from 2009, it had been vacant for 20 years, but you know it’s going to end up as housing. Possibly senior housing. Googling . . . ah. Opened in 2015 as an apartment building. It’s going by its last name, the Parrish. The interiors do not appear to be overly bestowed with charm.


As Google Street View saw it before the overhaul:



Another addition to the city in 1930:


They liked ‘em crisp. This was the Convention Center whose construction spurred the Hotel project. Fun detail: “A new auditorium floor was installed after a Shrine Circus elephant fell through.” Poor elephant.

Nice job preserving this one . . .


And a lousy job on the ground floor. Another 1930 building: banner year for Pratt!

Closed in 2013; the website is now all Chinese. Comments at Cinema Treasures say it’ll be converted to a Christian Youth Organization HQ.

An example of the way modernization can erase the boundaries between different buildings, and relegate the upstairs to unpersonhood:


It’s almost like they were ashamed to cover it up:

Or perhaps something fell off and revealed the old OXFORD PAPER sign.

For all its disharmony, it’s actually not bad.

Did you notice the disharmony? The way the first floor is arranged around thirds, and the second floor around fourths? The way the bricked-up window under the arch is a bit taller, which adds more visual discontinuity, but somehow is better now that it’s bricked?

Why yes. Yes it was exactly what you think it was.


Cinema Treaasures: “The Kansas Theatre was built in 1940 for Charles Barron, and was located almost directly across the street from his Barron Theatre.”

The man made his mark.

A beaut:


But you’d be surprised to see what it looked like originally.

A strong windstorm damaged the third floor so severely that it had to be removed five or six years after construction. A turret was left above the entry. The lobby was lowered to street level in 1917. Much of the debris fell into the basement, forcing a tailor and barber to vacate the shops they leased. During the 1930s, the turret was removed and the deteriorating red brick was covered with the current buff brick.



More next week! Interesting little town.




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.