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Gold Point, NV

Louise Speaks:  Heading home and about 30 miles south of Goldfield is the turn off to Gold Point.  This is heading west towards California and is a main connector.  Our purpose to go to Gold Point was to see some castle that is currently for sale.  We never found the castle but thanks to the internet I was able to do some research and find out the history.  In 1998, Randy Johnston bought 40 acres of land adjacent to Gold Point.  Two years after buying the property, Johnston began construction of his “castle,” known as the Hard Luck Castle, and he has been at it ever since.  Originally a plumber, this self-taught jack-of-all-trades does most of the work himself, occasionally helped by visiting volunteers.  He lays block, sets stone and tile, fabricates steel and iron, installs plumbing, runs gas and electrical lines, builds furniture, harnesses solar and wind power, plasters, paints, grouts, maintains his own access road and handles whatever else needs doing.   From a foundation on bedrock, the 50-foot-diameter tower of concrete, stone and metal rises four stories, capped with a plate-glass cupola perfect for enjoying expansive daytime views and glittering night skies.  The structure encompasses 8,000 square feet from basement to cupola and consists of 22 rooms.  Walls are 126 inches thick with arches for solid wood doors with hand-wrought hardware.  Many windows pierce walls for light.  The living space includes a great room, dining room, two kitchens, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a wine cellar, a media room, an electrical room and a workshop.  A large shed outside houses a larger work space.   Johnston’s bastion utilizes power generated by the sun and wind, stored in banks of batteries.  Thick walls protect the house from extremes of cold and heat.  Vents channel outside air or rising heat to keep the interior spaces comfortable.  The structure has no fireplaces, odd for a castle, but there aren’t any ready sources of firewood nearby.  Cooking is done with propane in the kitchen and on a barbecue outside that burns wood pellets.  Water is trucked in from a spring near Gold Point on the far side of the mountains and is stored in a huge gravity-flow tank.

Johnston has the basic house completed, but finishing work remains to be done, such as grouting floor tiles and applying finish coats on many walls. He is installing two pipe organs in his desert retreat, complicated instruments he enjoys playing and maintaining.  He admittedly gets sidetracked when opportunities arise, such as his recent acquisition of cast-off parts of a vintage pipe organ, which he plans to use to increase the number of pipes in his organs.  He has made many recent trips to the coast to pick up the long lead pipes and wooden covers.  By the way, the unique property was on the market for $3,250,000 but has since be reduced to $1.5 million.  This is quite the deal since Johnston has invested over $3 million dollars in the property.  Johnston says he is selling the home because his health is failing and he wants to buy a 50-foot sailboat and just relax.  The entire Hard Luck Mine and Castle estate is for sale,’ the home’s website reads.  ‘Everything – and we mean everything – comes with the sale.  All the owner wants to leave with is his truck, his trailer, and his dogs.’

Johnston interrupts whatever he is doing to give visitors a guided tour of his unique home.  A donation of $5 to $10 per person is suggested at the end of the tour.  Not sure what the cost is as different web sites have listed different donations.  We would have gladly paid the donation if we could have found the castle.  Our mistake was that we went into Gold Point instead of taking a turn before reaching town.

Upon arriving in Gold Point, we didn’t even get out of the car.  There were tents camped everywhere and we have no idea why.  There were buildings but none looked livable.  We did see people, but they were just staring at as as we drove by.  We felt like we were trespassing and the first car they had seen in days…maybe weeks.  If they call this a ghost town, this is an accurate description.  It wasn’t until I started researching Gold Point and it’s history to write this blog that I’m thinking we should have stopped and looked around. 

The town of Gold Point goes way…way back.  A mining town turned ghost town.  Fast forward to 1960.  Mining continued up until the late 1960’s, when, at the 1000 ft. level of the Dunfee Shaft, a dynamite charge went off wrong and caved a large part of the ceiling in. Rather than put out more money, on what had declined to a marginal operation, the mine turned off the lights and closed the doors.  Other than an occasional lessee here and there, this was the last serious mining operation in Gold Point.  For the next 10 years, Gold Point was basically a Ghost Town and would have blown away piece by piece like so many other towns of the Old West had it not been for the loving and watchful eye of  Ora Mae Wiley and her friends.  Ora had come here around 1930 from Georgia to have a little look and see what the wild west was like. She met her future husband, Senator Harry Wiley, one of the founding fathers of Hornsilver, now Gold Point,  and stayed in Gold Point until her death, at the age of 83 in 1980.  In addition to mining, Harry,  served on the  Board of Supervisors from 1940 until he was elected to the Nevada State Senate in 1946, where he served until his death  in 1955.  The couple also operated a little general store and a Standard Gas station.  Ora Mae was Postmistress in Gold Point from 1940 to 1964.  In 1967 the 4th class Post Office closed.   Slowly, a newer generation of Gold Pointers started moving into town.  Today Gold Point boast of a population of 6 full time residents and as many as 6 part time residents.  There are a handful of other people who own property in Gold Point, but they are scattered around the U.S. and rarely make the trip out. There are a few others who live just outside the town limits as well.  Together, everyone watches out for everyone else and that is the reason there are no problems in Gold Point. When you visit Gold Point you may not see anyone, but rest assured they are watching you, and we sure felt that way today.

The  mercantile store  and grill have both gone through restoration.  Restoration of some of the other old buildings have been going on since the late 1970s.  Apparently there are two museums in town that are open to the public on most weekends.  Today is Saturday and like I said, if it wasn’t for the wind blowing, we would be seeing nothing move.  The story about how Gold Point got to be this tourist attraction, although I don’t see it, is quite fascinating.  In 1978 Herb Robbins  and his buddy, Chuck Kremin, pulled into Gold Point, which in 1908 was a flourishing gold mining town.  They found a handful of die-hards clustered alongside a gravel road proudly named Gold Street,  which is off the nearest highway, 190 miles north of Las Vegas.  Kremin stopped to talk to the first person he saw, and after several minutes, he called out to Robbins, “Do you want to buy property here?”  ‘‘Sure,’” Robbins recalled.  They later drove up to purchase 3 lots for $500 a piece.  Kremin took one and Robbins took two, and a few months later, they were part owners of a few empty lots in Gold Point.   Once Robbins got the lots, he got hooked, and his love affair with Gold Point began.

Property ownership grew from hobby to avocation.  In 1981, Robbins partnered with Chuck Kremin and Chuck’s brother Walt to buy the old post office, the general store and the home of former state Sen. Harry Wiley.  The price included all the antiques and furnishings.  Now they had a place to stay other than in a tent or trailer when they visited Gold Point.  Chuck Kremin soon stepped back from an active role, but over the next 10 years, Robbins and Walt Kremin  continued to buy any and all the buildings that were available no matter what their condition.  In 1986 Robbins purchased the cabin/home where he lives now and plans to spend the rest of his life in that very cabin.  Their plan was no more grandiose than to save a bit of Old West heritage.  Robbins and Kremin have spent years going through mining shacks, homes and businesses, trying to stabilize and rehabilitate them.  They have re-roofed structures, gutted interiors and added framing, drywall, insulation and electricity.   Visitors coming to Gold Point stay in their small RV park or the bed-and-breakfast, yes they claim to have a B & B, which are actually renovated miner cabins that are popular with European tourists.  They have decorated the cabins with old-fashioned wallpaper and furnished them, giving people who enjoy ghost towns a chance to stay in one.  This experience of breathing fresh life into this hamlet is not about the money.  Robbins and Kremin say they’ve spent far more than they could hope to recover in a lifetime.  Such is the price to preserve and share history.

For over 30 years now Walt and Robbins, with many thousands of dollars of their own money, have been purchasing building materials and working on all the different cabins and buildings. It takes thousands of dollars to rebuild and preserve even a small old miner’s cabin, and they have 12, not to mention the other bigger buildings, so it’s been a slow process.  Each year they find the price of wood products continuing to climb.  It takes a lot of different materials to save a cabin. The only thing they generally do to the outside is put on a roof. They try not to put on any new wood unless absolutely necessary.  Rolled asphalt roofing is usually applied first. Then as they get the extra money they put on the cedar shingles.  Inside is a little more complex.  These 100 year old cabins and buildings were built without any framing like they build today.  The walls are only as thick as the 1 x 12 inch board and bats that were used. They go in and strip the walls down to the original walls and then build a 2 x 4 frame inside.  This stabilizes the cabin tremendously. They can then install the electrical wires, insulation, sheet rock, paint and/or old newspapers or old fashioned wall paper, carpet, curtains and finally furniture.  Besides their own labor they are very grateful that they have what they call our Friends of Gold Point who occasionally come and donate their time helping them.

The Bed and Breakfast idea came a few years ago when they finally took the suggestions from different friends to let other ghost town enthusiasts stay in the old cabins that they had fixed up and take donations from them to help purchase more building materials. Throughout the year they are constantly purchasing building materials with this money along with their own hard earned cash.

Living here, may sound like a romantic notion to some, but make no mistake, it’s hard.  It’s a 60-mile drive to get groceries.  The nearest Walmart or Home Depot is a couple of hours away at best.  Before cell phones, residents had to drive about a dozen miles to the now closed Cottontail Ranch brothel to use a pay phone.  Now they have some service, and they have satellite TV.  And what happens when Robbins and Kremin are physically spent and can no longer maintain Gold Point?  Both are in their 60s now and have cut back on many of the activities they used to do in the town.  “When the time comes, everything goes up for sale, not necessarily to the highest bidder but to the person who takes care of it the best,” Robbins said.  “Buy it all, we’ll sell you everything with one condition.”  That condition is that they have to live here until they die.

These buildings were 100 years old in 2008.  Each building they save they hope  will see another 100 years.  This will be their legacy. This is what they wish to pass on to future generations to see and experience as they have over their lifetime.  So you see by reading all the history of Gold Point I wish we had stopped and looked at some of these buildings.  I generally research sites before Thelma and I go on one of our adventures, but since I didn’t plan this trip, I didn’t know what I was looking for.  I’m not sure this is a place I would return to, but the idea of staying in one of these mining cabins does sound adventurous and might be worth a trip back.




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Catalina Island, Avalon, CA

100_2377Louise Speaks:  I have been to Catalina many times, and it is still one of my favorite places.  However, Thelma had never been there, so we decided to take a cruise where Catalina was a destination stop.  I’ll give more details of the cruise and how we ended up in Catalina today when I blog about the cruise, but today it’s all about Catalina Island.  Santa Catalina Island, often called Catalina Island, or just Catalina, is a rocky island  off the coast of California.  The island is 22 miles long and 8 miles across at its greatest width. The island is located about 26 miles  south-southwest of Los Angeles, California.  There is actually a song that says how far across from LA the Island is.  Catalina is part of Los Angeles County so even when you go to Catalina Island, you are still in California.

100_2380Catalina’s total population in the 2010 census was 4,096 people, 90 percent of whom live100_2385 in the island’s only incorporated city, Avalon.   The second center of population is the  village of Two Harbors, which is on the other side of the island.  Catalina basically consists of one main street with shops and hotels.  The neighborhoods go a few streets up the hill.  When we took one of our excursions our tour guide told us the reason he lives on Catalina was because of the school district.  He said the school was so small that every parent knew every child and that was important to him.  He also shared how expensive it was to live on Catalina Island, if you could find a place to live.  Most available rentals are used as vacation rentals, but finding a place to live full time is difficult.  Apparently our tour guide had a very small apartment that cost well over $1,000 a month.  We don’t know how small or how much over a thousand, but he made us feel that is was expensive even by California standards.


100_2441Catalina has a history of who owned the island, but that is just history.  Fast forwarding how it came to being we can go back to when the sons of Phineas Banning  bought the island in 1891 from the estate of James Lick.   The Banning brothers fulfilled  dreams of making Avalon a resort community with the construction of numerous tourist facilities.  On November 29, 1915, a fire burned half of Avalon’s buildings, including six hotels and several clubs.  In the face of huge debt related to the fire and the subsequent decline in tourism due to World War I , the Banning brothers were forced to sell the island in shares in 1919.  One of the main investors to purchase shares from the Bannings was chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr.   In 1919, Wrigley bought out nearly every share-holder until he owned controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company.  Wrigley invested millions in needed infrastructure and attractions to the island, including the construction of the  Catalina Casino  which opened on May 29, 1929.  Wrigley also sought to bring publicity to the island through events and spectacles.  Starting in 1921, the Chicago Cubs,  also owned by Wrigley, used the island for the team’s spring training.  The Cubs continued to use the island for spring training until 1951, except during the war years of 1942 to 1945.   On our city tour, we were actually able to go by that original ball field where the cubs played.  Following the death of Wrigley, Jr. in 1932, control of the Santa Catalina Island Company passed down to his son, Phillip K. Wrigley,  who continued his father’s work improving the infrastructure of the island.

100_2386100_2388Close to one million people travel to Catalina Island every year, though the total numbers in any given year varies depending on economic conditions. That has increased over the years, but it was always a tourist attraction.  Actress  Natalie Wood  drowned in the waters near the settlement of Two Harbors under questionable circumstances over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 1981. Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, were vacationing aboard their motor yacht, Splendour, along with their guest.  In 2011, thirty years after the actress’ death, the case was reopened, partially due to public statements made by the captain of the Splendour.

100_2398In May 2007, Catalina experienced the 2007 Avalon Fire.   Largely due to the assistance of 200 Los Angeles County fire fighters transported by U.S. Marine Corps helicopters and U.S Navy hovercraft, only a few structures were destroyed, yet 4,750 acres of wild land burned.  In May 2011, another wild fire started near the Isthmus Yacht Club on Two Harbors and was fought by 120 firefighters transported by barge from Los Angeles. It was extinguished the next day after burning 117 acres. As we took our city tour we were shown buildings that had been destroyed by the fire and ones that weren’t touch.

101_0033Catalina is still a tourist destination.  You can only get there by boat or helicopter.  Cruise ships stop here but because of the shallow waters, ships dock off shore and we must take a tender to land.  Many tourist attractions are things like the Glass Bottom Boat tour, the reefs and shipwrecks  of the area, and scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in the clear water.  Lover’s Cove, to the east of Avalon, and Descanso Beach, to the west of the Casino, are popular places to dive. The Avalon Underwater Dive Park was the first non-profit underwater park in the United States.  Parasailing and zip lining  are now also offered.  Bus tours are given of the interior of the Island.  We were on Catalina for the day, arriving at 8:00 a.m. and not having to be back at the ship until 4:00 p.m.   With that time line, we were able to book two separate excursions.  As our first tour was to begin, we noticed the 1952 bus pull up.  Never did we think a bus could be so cool.  I had been on this bus with my mother, and it was  an amazing memory.


101_0031Our first excursion was a city tour.  It was one that I thought we would get a chance to see the island and find out the history of Catalina.  Our tour bus was from 1952 and it made us feel like we were definitely back in time.  It’s never really warm in Catalina so the fact that the bus had no air conditioning didn’t bother us one bit.  Our first stop was The Wrigley Memorial and The Botanical Garden.  The bus stopped at the gate and as we walked thru the gardens.  For most people on the bus they were amazed at the desert plants, for us, being from Arizona, we were like…umm there are a bunch of cactus here…looks like our back yard.  The cactus were not in bloom, so those who didn’t know cactus have no idea how beautiful these plants can be when in bloom but we do.  The botanic garden covers 38 acres  near the town of Avalon.  The garden places a special emphasis on California island endemic plants, that is plants that grow naturally.  At any rate, the weather was nice and you have to walk through the garden to get to the Wrigley Memorial.

101_0016The Wrigley Memorial is in honor of William Wrigley Jr.  who bought most of100_2417 Catalina Island in 1919 with proceeds from his chewing gum empire.  When he died on January 26, 1932, at age 70, he was interred near his Catalina home, in a tower in the botanical gardens.   The tower stands 130 feet high and is primarily built with local materials.   With its commanding view of Avalon Bay, the Wrigley Memorial is the centerpiece of the Botanical Garden.  It was built in 1933-34 with the goal of using as much Catalina materials as possible.  Quarried Catalina stones can be seen in the reinforced concrete construction.  The facade having been sandblasted to hide the cement and highlight the native crushed stones. The blue flagstone rock on the ramps and terraces comes from Little Harbor, on Catalina’s “back” side. The red roof tiles and all the colorful handmade glazed tiles used for finishings came from the Catalina Pottery plant, which was in operation from 1927 to 1937.  The marble inside the tower was quarried in Georgia. You must climb many many stairs to get to the 130 foot tower.  Once to the top, the climbing of all these steps is definitely worth it.  Wrigley’s body has since been moved, but his original grave memorial marker still adorns the tower site.

scanned-image-20From here we drove around the town of Avalon on this old 1952 bus.  The streets seemedmt-300x186-ada-01483477550454 so narrow, and with parking a premium, cars park on the street.  So now with the narrow streets and cars on each side, it was a wonder we made it.  Our tour guide took us to the highest point of Avalon.  From here we could see the casino below, our cruise ship and Mt. Alda, the original Wrigley Mansion.  Mt. Alda is in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You die”.  Mt. Alda was named after Wrigley’s wife and sits 350 feet above town.  The view of town is mt-ada-01472690661w3k-300x186mt-ada-014726906612ik-300x186indescribable.  This is the reason Wrigley chose this site to build his home.  Mt. Alda is currently a bed and breakfast but in the past you could actually tour the mansion.  Listed on the National Register of the Historic Places, this classic 1921 inn was once home to the Wrigley family.  Mt Ada offers 6 rooms, each with it’s own bath, many amenities, and breathtaking views. Guests enjoy complimentary breakfast, lunch and evening wine & hors d’oeuvre reception, complimentary butler’s pastry available throughout the day, complimentary golf cart to use during the stay, complimentary private van pick up from the airport, heliport or boat terminal and much more.  This is by far the most spectacular place to stay on the island.  There are ways to get to the Inn without staying here such as participating in one of the afternoon lunches offered.

100_2381The Casino, is probably the most well known and most recognizable building on the 100_9988island.  It is the most visible landmark in Avalon Bay,  when approaching it from the mainland.  The casino was actually never a gambling establishment.  It was more or less used as a gathering spot.  A place for celebrities from the Los Angeles area to come and dance and hear every famous big band from the 30s and 40s.  On May 29, 1929, the new Catalina Casino was completed under the direction of Wrigley at a cost of 2 million dollars.  Its design, is in the Art Deco style.  With a height equal to a 12-story building, it was built to serve as a theatre on the main floor and a ballroom and promenade on the upper level. Movie Stars frequently came by yacht to the Casino to preview their newest cinema productions.  The large building now contains a movie theatre, a ballroom, island art and a  history museum.  It also serves as the island’s civil defense shelter, large enough to accommodate Catalina’s entire year-round population.  Within its walls is stored enough food and water for all Avalon’s residents for two weeks. 

glass-bottomOur last excursion of the day was to take the Glass Bottom Boat tour.  Catalina is full100_2430 of vegetation so that creates a great habitat for fish,  Of course the guide drops food so the fish gather in schools so that we can look through the bottom of the boat to see the different species.  Santa Catalina Island is famous for crystal clear water and glass bottom boats, a perfect combination for fun and discovery.  These large, comfortable vessels bring the undersea world right to you.  During the trip we visited Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve, where colorful fish and marine plants thrive among the kelp forests.

As you can see, this was a full day.  We even had time to have fish and chips at the local lobster trap.  There is usually a fish and chip place on the pier, but this is Tuesday and in February so not prime season.  I just love coming here.  I’ve been here on just a day trip, I’ve been here for weekend getaways, and I’ve been here as a cruise destination stop.  One of my fondest memories is that I took my mom here for the day, and she always said it was her most favorite trip.  If you ever have the chance, you  must experience Catalina Island.  They have catamaran boats that leave from several California ports and it’s about an hour and a half boat ride across the pacific to Catalina…or you can take a cruise that stops here and enjoy the day like we did.

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The Villages of Van Buren, Iowa, June 22,2016

Louise Speaks:  The villages scattered across SE Iowa in Van Buren County are famous for what they have…one stop light.  Now Thelma who was born in Iowa has never even been to this part of the state, but it is listed in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die” so of course we had to stop.

This is part of Iowa’s earliest settlements and in their hay day were very productive.  Today the Villages of Van Buren County have turned their historic brick buildings into charming B & B’s, restaurants and gift shops.  Bonaparte and Bentonsport are considered the main villages or cities, but each village has it’s own character and it’s own claim to fame.  There are only 7,100 residents in the entire Van Buren County.

100_9553Our first stop was the Bonaparte Retreat in Bonaparte, IA.  We weren’t really sure what this stop was but it looked like an old hotel going over some major renovations.  Bonaparte itself had almost no life.  We did not see any people except for 100_9555the construction workers, working on the building.  I asked one of the workers what the place was and I was told it was a restaurant but was only open during lunch and dinner.  We were here about 2:00 so it was not open. The construction worker I spoke 100_9556with was very knowledgeable.  He told me that the Bonaparte Restaurant has a widespread reputation as an outstanding restaurant and used to be an old grist mill.  This made sense since it is right on the river.  He also said it was to bad I couldn’t go inside because I was told that besides the great decor they also served great food.  He also said that people come from as far as a 100 mile radius just to eat there and that their guest book contains signatures from all over the world.  Now being that the streets are dirt, nothing in town was open and there wasn’t a person to be see, this seemed hard to believe.  But he was a local so what can I say.  In doing a bit of research I discovered that the grist mill was active in 1878 and is now known for it’s juicy rib eye steaks and Windsor chops.  I also discovered that Bonaparte has a population of 468, but I don’t know where they were hiding today.

100_9561Directly across the street, and our next stop was the Bonaparte Inn.  This is suppose to be open and have 13 rooms.  This Inn was once the Meeks Pants Factory.  We peeked in the windows and by the signs of the cobwebs covering the doors, I’m 100_9560guessing this Inn was not occupied.  There is a very cute patio with a gazebo that would make a great site for a wedding, but it didn’t see, to be seem to be used much.  The views from the upper windows would have been spectacular as they over look a small park that runs right along the river.

100_9565Our favorite stop in Bonaparte was the Bonaparte Pottery Shop.  There is a story here and you just have to stop by and talk with Marilyn.  Marilyn and her husband Don were looking for a good place to go fishing when they purchased this place in 1992.  They were Img_3112b_smallgoing to build a log home right on the river.  However, in 1993 the Des Moines River jumped it’s banks and their property was flooded.  Thinking they had lost everything and had began the paperwork to recoup their losses, they noticed pieces of pottery emerging from the ground.  It soon became an archeological site and many digs have been done.  The property is now a registered historic site.

13466087_1778598352387054_1251541870677630552_nMarilyn never had her log home built.  She now lives in what was once the gift shop.  But the real gem is the building she now uses as a museum and sells pottery that she has found or that has been made in her pottery barn.  The story is much more fascinating than I am making it sound here, but I’m trying to get your imagination going so that you will go visit Marilyn herself and let her tell you her story.

We spent way more time here than we had planned, but talking to Marilyn, looking at the pottery just coming out of the ground and hearing the history while being inside the old lumber mill made it very hard to leave.

Img_3103b_smallThe lumber mill that was built in 1876 is in remarkable state of preservation.  You can see remains of old kilns and even a 30 foot high beehive kiln that was used to fire stoneware pottery.  The lumber mill was used as a decoy to cover up the fact that pottery was being made and fired in the 1800’s.  The second floor of the mill has been cleared out but you can still see hand prints of workers from hundreds of years before.

thomasesAgain, this is a must stop, so much history and just fun facts.  The sad part is Marilyn has no one to continue on with the pottery tradition.  Don has passed away and Marilyn is getting up in years.  She does have a son who has no interest in pottery.  I hope whoever takes over this historic site has the same compassion for it’s history that Marilyn has.  It is just too much history to be forgotten.

100_9566From Bonaparte it was off to Bentonsport or Keosauqua, IA which is how it is known to locals.  This is a more quaint village than Bonaparte and did have many tourist roaming the streets.  We were here to see  The Mason House Inn, the oldest “steamboat hotel”.  Joy Hanson invited us in but we were unable to see any of the rooms as she had no vacancies.  This Inn is in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die”, and Joy did tell us that Patricia actually stayed here, one of the few times we have been given verification.

The charming Inn is a 170 year old B & B in the historic district.  The Inn was built in 1846 by Mormon craftsman coming from Illinois.  It was meant to provide housing for steamboat travelers.  The building has been used as a hospital three different times and was also a station on the Underground Railroad.

100_9570What I found most unique is the Caboose Cottage.  This is a real 1952 railroad caboose from the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway line from Texas.   The caboose features a queen size bed, a dining area, a full kitchen and a private bathroom with shower. Just looked like a real fun place to stay.

100_9572Directly across the street from the Mason House Inn is the Historic Bentonsport Bridge.  The size seemed massive.  It is not being used today in any capacity, not even for pedestrians to walk across, but it still makes a statement.

100_9575As we were leaving town we stopped by the Hawkey Canoe Rental.  I’m sure the reason Patricia mentions this in her book is because of the summer festivals that occur in Keosauqua, IA.  The Canoe Van Buren Festival hosts at least 100 canoes carrying guests along the river to enjoy much entertainment, with stops to eat and sleep, and many places to shop.  All day long you may hop on and off a canoe all along the river.  The rest of the summer the canoes are available to rent so that you may enjoy the river at your own leisure.

thThis entire drive through Van Buren County follows the Historic Hills Scenic Byway.  You follow the river and the scenery is just breath taking.  So many trees and so much greenery.

What a great day and so many things to see.  Thelma is in awe that in all her years living and visiting Iowa she never made it to this part of the state.  This is a place to come back to and just enjoy some of the shopping and eating in all the historic buildings and seeing what antiques are luring inside the quaint shops.  I would have to rate The Villages of Van Buren an A.  There is just so much to see and do and everything is so historic.  There really is too much to see in just one day.  I’m sure we’ll be back to Iowa so now we have a reason to go through the SE corner of the state.

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