"It boasts a fire department, a community hall, two churches. Its businesses include a hardware store, telephone company, a bar, a meat locker, and a large agricultural service which serves a wide area, including several larger towns." That's how Oran's own website describes itself.
And despite that relatively impressive list, you might be surprised to find out that community is not even an incorporated town anymore. Oran is now unincorporated, though it does still have a zip code. There are a lot of similarly sized communities in Iowa that are still incorporated, yet lack even half of what Oran has going for it.
Iowa Adventurer paid a visit to Oran in far southwest Fayette County in late October of 2020. The visit was quick but I was was truly impressed by what I found. On the road on the way in, you'll find a large welcome sign letting you know that Oran is part of the Wapsie Valley School District and that they are unabashed supporters of the Warriors.
Oran was home to the school district's junior high until 1999, when the building was closed due to budget constraints. The building is still standing, celebrated it's 100th birthday in recent years, and is now owned by Rita and Allen Losh. According to an article I found from 2018 in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, they coupled has turned the building into a community events space.
It's a stately looking brick building that appears to be in good shape. There are many older school buildings around Iowa that have unfortunately been neglected.
On the grounds of the old school building is also a basketball court.
As their own description notes, there are a couple of church buildings in town. However, one of the churches has closed. The only congregation still worshipping in Oran is the St. Peter Lutheran Church. It's a nice old building.
The other church building is a bit smaller but also quite beautiful in its own right. According to the town's website, it was the Methodist Church and they closed their doors in 2017.
The "downtown" business district has several occupants.
Perhaps the most popular spot in town is the Oran Tap and Café. Based on what I found on their Facebook page, they have a bustling business. I'll have to stop in next time I'm in the area. I love the eat local and drink local signs. As you can see from my own logo, I'm partial to the concept of using the outline of the state as the "O" in Iowa.
On this particular late Saturday afternoon, not far from dinner (or supper) time, there were quite a few cars (or a even a side-by-side) out front.
There's also a hardware store, something you definitely don't expect to find in an unincorporated town.
The telephone company has a pretty sizable presence.
There is a nice township community hall in town. This is nice to see and it looks like it's a quality place to gather.
On the other side of the street is the Oran Locker. Due to COVID-19 problems with larger packers, lockers around Iowa have been swamped. I hope we continue to see a bit of resurgence in the interest in local lockers. I think they are good for rural communities.
Next door is a couple of other buildings and I'm not sure of their current usage. Based on the number of satellite dishes, perhaps they are used for housing?
There is also a nice emergency services center. In all of my travels around Iowa, this is one of the nicer buildings I've seen for this use in a "town" of this size.
There's a neat old brick building with a brick chimney. It appears to have been the creamery. This looks like it would be a great building for something like a brewery.
Agriculture is a major driver of the economy all over Iowa and that is certainly true in Fayette County. Innovative Ag Services, Inc is an agricultural supplier and grain elevator.
As you can see, the grain bins dominate the town's skyline.
There are a number of nice single family dwellings in town. I was impressed to see that the roads are all concrete. Many unincorporated towns end up with gravel roads because they just do not have the resources to keep the roads paved.
A "Steve's Auto Body" sign is on this building, but I'm not totally sure if it's a business or someone's private tinkering garage. Nonetheless, it looks like a neat building.
I also found a couple other buildings in town that appear to be utilized as storage.
If you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop in and enjoy this nice little farming community. They have a lot going for it, despite not actually being an incorporated town. In the meantime, check out their nice website (a cool story about their famous two-story outhouse!) and sign their guest book. I know a visit to the Oran Tap will definitely be part of Iowa Adventurer's future visit to the area. But of course, there's also a lot more to see and do in Fayette County and I will look forward to exploring further.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Fayette County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.