In many of our 99 counties, a stately courthouse is located in the middle of a town square in the county seat. These gorgeous examples of period architecture are often surrounded by storefronts and businesses that are the backbone of the commerce activity in that community.
On a recent Sunday, a friend and I spent nearly nine hours adventuring around parts of Monroe and Appanoose Counties, including having lunch at the locally popular Highway Restaurant along Highway 34.
After lunch, we ventured up to the square to check out the Monroe County Courthouse. As it was Sunday, very few of the businesses were open (except for the Pour Richard tavern) and the courthouse was closed. However, it was a good opportunity to check out and appreciate the elaborate decorations on the courthouse lawn.
Like a lot of courthouses in Iowa, Monroe County's has been recognized for it's historic nature and unique architecture. The more than century old building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
There was another plaque near the building which had a good narrative about the building and area.
There are several permanent fixtures on the grounds that are quite attractive. Iowa played an important role in the Union's victory in the American Civil War and as such, there is a nice memorial.
There is also a nice bell which was draped with Christmas lights.
A beautiful (and well decorated) gazebo is located off of a corner of the building and it was well decorated. There were some arches added as well but they appeared to just be temporary holiday touches.
A time capsule is buried on the grounds. It was placed there in 1959 and will be opened in 2059. I am sure that will be a fun event to enjoy in 40 years for those who are around.
There's also a lot of seasonal decorations on display. I don't know what the timeline is for putting them up and taking them down each year, but I am sure it's quite a sight to see when they are lit up at night. From a Santa sleigh, reindeer, carolers, and a train to a multi-piece nativity scene, there is clearly a lot of work that goes into the holiday decorating. You can tell they take pride in making it look festive.
Around the courthouse, there is an impressive lineup of buildings that have nice facades. I did not notice many empty store fronts, as is sometimes the problem in other similarly sized Iowa towns. Albia's town square looks healthy.
It might go without saying, but they certainly do not make buildings like these anymore.
There are nice trees and other streetscape elements that add to the charm.
I loved that many of the buildings had small plaques on the outside detailing the history of the building. It is set up as a a tour of sorts. What a great idea. More towns SHOULD follow Albia's lead in doing something like this, in my opinion.
I will plan to come back to Albia sometime when it isn't so cold and when more of the businesses are open, so I can explore more of the stores and shops. I'd also love to take a look inside the courthouse.
In the meantime, take a look at the Albia Chamber's Facebook page and give them a like and a follow. I applaud the city and county for really putting forth the effort to showcase their courthouse and the surrounding square. It's one of the nicest I've seen in my many travels around Iowa.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile either in Monroe 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 my website.