In the southwest corner of Palo Alto County is the community of Ayrshire. With a population of just under 150 as of the last census, it's definitely a town that is small enough to know just about everyone.
Like a lot of towns in our state, Ayrshire can trace it's founding to the expansion of the railroads.
In it's hey day, it was a town with significant amenities though its population never cracked 400. "At one time it had two banks, two grocery stores, blacksmith shop, livery stable, creamery, hotel, at least two barber shops; Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches; five gas stations, grain elevator, two cafes, a locker plant, a pharmacy, a lumber yard, two beer halls and several other businesses," according to research I found online.
Last Fall, a friend and I spent some time exploring the community. My friend married a man from Palo Alto County and though she did not grow up in the area, she definitely knew some of the great stops to visit. One of those stops was the locally popular Beaver's Den. Before the school closed and the district was consolidated, the school's mascot was the Beavers.
The school pride is kept alive with the help of the town's watering hole.
Beaver's Den is a cozy place that is the typical mixture of a small town cafe, a bar, and a place to gather to share the local gossip.
They have a nice billiards table and there a few televisions on the walls that are suitable for watching the Cyclones or Hawkeyes or whatever other game might be on.
I appreciate when an effort is made to have some unique decorative touches. I would say that these cowboy hat lights fit that bill.
Other than seating at a bar, there are a number of different tables available for parties both larger and smaller.
Whoever wrote this sign and made the logo clearly has a good sense of humor.
It was not open when I was in town (and apparently it's only open for breakfast and lunch), but the community also has the Silver Lake Cafe. The cafe is across the street from the bar and is named after a local 648 acre recreational lake that is just outside of town.
A town of Ayrshire's size is fortunate to have even one eatery - let alone two!
Of course, there is more to Ayrshire than just a well named bar and a small cafe. A peaceful cemetery is located on the west side of town among the rolling hills and farm fields.
In one corner, there is a beautiful tower with a bell attached.
Heading back into town from the west, you immediately encounter the old school building.
Like a lot of old, abandoned school buildings in rural Iowa, it has seen better days.
Given the housing needs throughout Iowa, it's too bad more of these old schools couldn't be turned into apartments. My guess is many are too neglected to be salvaged for that or a similar purpose.
Back in the heart of the community, I found a nice community center building that is also utilized as city hall and American Legion post.
Nearby is the old city hall building.
The downtown area of town is also home to a number of other buildings that are in varying stages of use and condition.
Elsewhere around town, there are a number of current or past commercial or industrial structures that are in various states of use.
Of course, there are also garages that houses the emergency services vehicles.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of rural Iowa and that certainly includes Ayrshire. There is a large cooperative site in town and I spotted a few other grain storage structures as well.
Ayrshire does not appear to have a post office anymore but they do have a bank of mailboxes set up to fill that purpose. This is not unlike you would find in a large scale town home development or apartment complex in a larger city.
There is a still a church in town.
Unfortunately, another church has recently closed and I believe it has been sold. I'm not sure what it's next use will be but perhaps it may find new life as a residence.
There's a nice sign and bell, surrounded by nice landscaping, that marks the spot of a former church that is no longer standing.
Ayrshire has some space set aside as a park and picnic area.
I found one or two multi-family housing structures.
Otherwise, most of the housing in town includes modest single family homes.
Though, I did find one extraordinarily beautiful mansion on the top of a hill.
Heading north out of town, I found one homeowner who got creative in protesting an issue they have with Iowa Lakes Regional Water.
I enjoyed my visit to Ayrshire and the opportunity to spend some time with my friend. It's a town with a lot of history, nice people, and and a few elements to keep things interesting. Earlier in the year, I spent a little time visiting Lost Island Lake, another great spot in Palo Alto County.