On a recent Sunday afternoon, I wandered on down to Chariton in Lucas County, about an hour south of Des Moines, to find some lunch and see what kind of adventures I could find.
Prior to stopping at Hunter Bros Tree Farm north of town and the town of Lucas on my way home, I found a local Mexican restaurant on the square that was open.
Sure, once in awhile it's good to indulge your cravings at Taco Johns, Pancheros, or Chipotle, but ma and pa Mexican restaurants like Casa de Oro are never a bad choice. The food is always authentic, served piping hot, and the business is always a family affair.
There are restaurants like Casa de Oro all over Iowa and many have a similar look and feel and are complete with vast menus and bottomless chips and salsa.
I had one of their burrito dishes that came with rice and re-fried beans. There was no "after" picture but I can assure you, the plate was clean. Very delicious.
Following my lunch and before heading out to the Christmas tree farm, I decided to wander around the square. Since it was a Sunday afternoon, many stores were closed but I did find Teresa's Treasures, which is exactly the kind of eccentric and eclectic place I love.
There was a life-sized Elvis in the window
I am a big fan of mission style furniture, especially antiques, and was tempted to buy this $150 dollar hall tree.
I believe they accept consignments and prices varied, but there is a wide variety of furniture and potential - as the names suggests - treasures to be found.
A few doors down, I found an old building that is on the verge of coming down - or is being taken down. I'm always sad to see old buildings meet their demise, but I know sometimes it's unavoidable.
All of these buildings are in the square - with the Lucas County Courthouse in the middle of it all.
Like many of Iowa's historic courthouse buildings, the Lucas County Courthouse is a stately building with grand architectural elements. I'll have to come back sometime when its open in order to see inside, but as you can see, it's quite the building.
On the grounds, I found a couple of interesting landmarks - including a monument to Civil War soldiers and a large rock with a plaque commemorating this area as part of the Mormon Trail.
On one corner of the square is the Hotel Charitone, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
This is tremendous example of a community working together to save a local landmark and provide more amenities, services, and options for local residents. According to it's Facebook page:
"Designed by noted Chariton architect William Perkins, the Charitone opened in 1923 as a hotel catering to railroad passengers. As the years passed, downtown hotels like the Charitone fell out of favor, and the hotel passed through a succession of owners and eventually fell into disrepair. In 2012, a coalition of concerned citizens formed an organization to acquire the hotel and received a major fundraising boost from Hy-Vee, Inc. and the Vredenburg Foundation. The Hotel Charitone has undergone a $5 million historic rehabilitation and now houses a restaurant on the main floor and apartments on the upper floors."
There is a lot more to see and do in Chariton, especially when it's not a Sunday afternoon in December. What did I miss? I look forward to return visits and always welcome suggestions of places to see, tour, or eat at.