This sums up the state of downtowns everywhere:


On the left, a modernistic structure, restrained, deliberately ahistorical. On the right, across the alley, something from the 20s with loads of decoration, cut off by a post-war awning. The rehab uses the "eclectic" brick style.

In other words, the most recent addition to downtown is the worst. That's usually how it goes.

Question: why did grocery stores look like bowling alleys? And why did bowling alleys look like grocery stores?


You know what it is on sight. But you might wonder what the sign makers had in mind. "Let's put up a big mast and run the name down the sign off to the side."

Dead. It's possible it was a 30s five-and-dime chain, but it belonged to a universe where Woolworth's was green.

Red and Gold seemed to be the prefered hues for variety stores; I wonder if any chose green and silver.

You know, I really shouldn't research these on the fly; I should sit down and do some readin' and clickin' before I even start. It would keep me from saying things like "looks like Woolworth's."

Hurrah for my instincts.

1972, I'd say. The maximum amount of architectural insanity the post-war era had seen.

They kept designing these awnings that looked as if they'd slam down and turn pedestrians into jam.

Rent now, move in today! Note: bring umbrellas.

When they said "everything must go" they meant the roof, too.


"Guy lived up here, he was obsessed with bowling. We'd sit downstairs and here him roll balls across the floor and then he's make a crashing sound. I guess what he wanted the most was one of those overhead projectors that showed your scores for everyone."

I almost thought it was Ur-America, a travel agency that shows you the absolute most America ever.

There's the building we saw at the top - the ornate top, the dull remodeling. Now we see the Mystery of the Side.

Bollards keep people from running into the building if they've had a few.

The local department store? Maybe. The left entrance is grand, but the one on the right indicates a different store. TO SAY THE BLOODY OBVIOUS

I mean, I'm not pretending these are great insights gleaned from years of studying small-town buildings.

Here's a ghost sign from the side:

The name of the store? Lamoes! But no, that can't be it. Look at the left side of the image. Looks like . . . the "Famous." And that long strip below the word looks as if it's covering up some words.

Ah. Maybe this was the reason I did Porterville.

It's a movie theater. Or was.

Two screens: Onmill showing on one, and Moto M at the other.

"The building is currently undergoing renovations and is for lease," says a comment at Cinema Treasures.

In 2009.

So this, perhaps, is why I did this town. Take a look at this picture of the interior.

Here's something to consider. The same corner, a few years apart.

Which one's newer?

Obviously the bottom picture. They added a cornice, which is rare. The brickwork doesn't fit. Nothing really works. Whatever that building was, it was taken away long ago.

I thought the building below looked as if it had emptied out in preparation for a renovation.

Alas, no.







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.