Creston is a city of about 8000 people and located about 70 miles southwest of Des Moines, Iowa
Stanton is a small town in Montgomery County, about 65 miles east of Omaha/Council Bluffs with a population of around 700 people. It was known as the ‘Little White City’ when all houses were painted white. That apparently isn’t the case nowadays, but most of the houses I saw on my brief visit to Stanton were. It was settled mainly by Swedish immigrants in the 19th century. It’s also ‘famous’ for being the one-time home of a family that was killed onboard the Titanic, and one of them, whose body was recovered, is buried in Stanton.
Quite possible the best, but certainly the most unexpected, find on last March’s Illinois/Missouri/Iowa trip, I completely stumbled upon this by (lucky) accident. Staunton, about 40 miles north of St. Louis wasn’t on my schedule at all, but I decided to check the town out on my way from Lincoln, IL to Belleville, IL. After driving and walking around the town for a bit, I saw that Route 66 led through here once and of course I had to check it out and drive on it for a short way.
Then I found this. Clearly a labor of love and a decidedly low-key affair, which is all the more reason for me to love it, plus the weather was nice, cold and sunny after a harsh blizzard the day before , so I was very happy to have found it. Unfortunately it wasn’t open the morning I went, as a handwritten note informed me the owner was at the local library on a computer course. Otherwise I probably would have kissed him (well, most probably not that, but I would have loved to congratulate him on the good work he’s doing, and would have bought a few souvenirs). He (or she perhaps?) made my day.
Patagonia is a small town of under 1000 people in southern Arizona, about 20 miles from Nogales (and Mexico). I read about it in my trusted Rough Guide and didn’t regret going there. Unfortunately, I went on Thanksgiving Day, as a European I wasn’t aware of how much of a big thing it is in the US, I knew it was a holiday, but there was absolutely nothing open in Patagonia I could get a bite to eat (but I have learned from that experience and am always taking something other than just mineral water with me now). I wanted to take the road all through the mountains back to Tucson originally, but had to abandon that idea as I was absolutely starving, so I had to get back onto the Interstate at Nogales. But the extremely beautiful setting in the mountains and the frontier town feel of Patagonia made me like it a lot and wishing I could have stayed longer.
Towanda is a village of about 500 people about 125 miles Southwest of Chicago and close to Bloomington-Normal. To read more about Towanda click here
Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne, was born in this house in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907. Like most boys I devoured his classic Westerns as a child. When growing up, I lost interest in his films and the genre altogether and was also troubled by his political views (although I have to admit I never really made any effort to get a very informed view on them). But in the last few years I have made an effort to build a collection of the best Westerns on DVD and found (rather unsurprisingly), that quite a few of them have got him in them. My favorite is possibly his last film The Shootist, although that’s probably not in accordance with most people’s view, but I liked it a whole lot, both with regard to the film’s message and also because the films melancholic mood and its extremely beautiful photography.
The American Gothic house is located in the small town of Eldon in southern Iowa. Regionalist painter Grant Wood saw it on a visit to Eldon in 1930 when he visited a friend called Edward Rowan who had started an art gallery and school in the town. It was built in 1881 and today is occupied by an old lady who (hopefully for her) apparently has gotten used to the stream of tourists coming to take photos of and in front of the house. The American Gothic House Center is offering a service to take your photo complete in a dress modelled on the one shown in the pointing, dungarees and a fork – I opted to take a photo of the house only. As you would expect, the exhibition in the Center is interesting too, filling in a lot of background knowledge about Grant Wood and the town of Eldon, I enjoyed my visit very much, and the town of Eldon is also lovely, small and rural – very much my kind of town.
Walt Whitman in Specimen Days said the following:
‘… while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the upper Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure about the Prairies and Plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest and make North America’s characteristic landscape.’
I haven’t yet been to Yosemite, Niagara Falls or Yellowstone, but I have to say that what I saw of the Plains and Praries so definitely left a long-lasting mark on me and I am very much drawn to them. Here are a few photos capturing the affection I hold for this part of the US well, all taken in Kearney and Franklin Counties, Southern Nebraska
I passed through Franklin by chance on my way from Kearney to Red Cloud, but am very glad I did, if for the Lincoln Hotel alone. It seems to have been standing empty for some time, but at least it is still standing, I hope somebody will give it a new lease of life soon, it would be very sad indeed to lose a fine old structure like this. It is located in Franklin County in Southern Nebraska and close to the Kansas state line. It was founded in 1870 and the site of Franklin Academy from 1880 to 1921. According to the city’s website (www.franklinnebraska.com) its most famous alumni is Frank Cyr, the creator of the yellow school bus. The population is about 1000 people.