Current weather conditions

Click for Dexter, Iowa Forecast

Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



I sometimes wish my mind would shut itself off now and then. I’ve been torn the last few weeks between this internal debate in my own mind about old and new. We all from time to time get new cars. We drive them for a while, and then it comes time to trade them in, cast them off for something with a few less miles and a sharper paint job.

Buildings are the same way I guess. There is something to be said about a new building. With it’s updated technology, energy saving and just overall nice feeling that one gets when walking into something new, we as Americans, love progress, moving forward, building new.

I’ve watched the work slowly progress over in Stuart as the old and new battle. The water tower there, the welcoming site since I was a young boy that told me we had finally made it there. I think that I remember the look of it so well only because it was tall and sitting right next to the road, was something I could see by looking up and out the back windows of the car. It’s robin egg blue orb welcoming me to town. I delighted watching it get repainted over the past few months, teasing a long time Stuart resident about it.

“Sure looks like they are going to paint it white.”, I would chuckle, only to be met with a glare and admonished for my lack of intelligence. Blue…always blue…always had been blue and always would be I was told. Now sporting a fancy script “Stuart” on it’s side the white water tower now makes me chuckle every time I drive by it.

East of town the concrete block walls of the new high school are starting to take shape. It is interesting to watch the progress and I well remember, as do many of you, the battle that raged in the debate on whether it should ever be built.

Father uptown, the new dome on the former All Saints church really brings that old building back to life. There is something about old buildings that make me smile. They have a character, and warmth and charm to them. There is still a lot of work to be done to bring that building completely back to life, but what a treasure it is and one that had it been torn down would have always left an empty spot in that community.

Sometimes a building outlives its usefulness. Sadly for one Stuart landmark this week will be its last. The Carnegie library building, the foundation for the four way corner in Stuart for 103 years will feel the sting of the track hoe’s arm as it tears into the building and reduces it to a few truck fulls of debris that will find a home in a landfill. It’s sad to see that building torn down, even to make way for a new one. A gift of Andrew Carnegie to the people of Stuart in 1903 the structure cost a little over $6000 to build. It has served the people of Stuart well over its life. It is only too bad more thought couldn’t have gone into preserving the building and getting a new library in the process.

The library, along with the square box city hall building, the former Rock Island Depot and the former “Strictly Modern” Hotel Stuart provides a glimpse of a time period in Stuart’s history before the advent of the Interstate Highway system, and creates in its own way its own little historic district. It’s only too bad that the library couldn’t have been moved across the street next to the Depot, or a new location for the library could have been found giving that grand building a new life.

Of course, it all comes down to money, and the lack of it. We see it time and time again. Many times it is easier and cheaper to build new rather than to restore the old. We have short attention spans and in the end we won’t give an old building that has gone away much thought after a few years. It happens all over the state as historic properties are torn down, victims of neglect or progress. And the few that remain become burdens on our system, not because they are money pits, but rather we lack the foresight to take the time to develop a plan, to think outside the box and to find new ways to keep these historic structures viable and useful to our communities.

Certainly this may be the case with the Roundhouse in Dexter. It’s much easier to point fingers, and do nothing than to come up with a solution. Unfortunately the solution found by city fathers in this case was out of necessity. I can’t imagine though growing up without that building in my hometown.

We must be cautious as we move forward to understand the important impact socially and economically that historic properties have upon our communities. I’ll end with this thought for you to ponder….when driving on vacation, or that lazy Sunday afternoon, think about the places you visit, the towns and cities you go through and the things that hold your attention and thoughts long after you have left. Are you enamored with a place because of the number of ranch homes and metal pole buildings you see in your travels? Or do you take the time to pull down a side street to gander at those grand old historic homes; stop along the main street to get out and relax and peek inside that wonderful old corner store front, and in the meantime make a mental note to tell someone about the place you visited, old perhaps…but still serving an important place in that community.

See you next week. Remember, we’re all in this together.