Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Scotch Grove Iowa - The Warehouses

"Hey, what's that?"

Road Trip rules meant we had to do a quick turn around and look.

Welcome to Scotch Grove Iowa, a tiny hamlet that appears to consist mostly of little numbered warehouses.  Oh, there is also a tavern, a couple of houses and a seed company.

Even the former gas station has been converted to a "Balster Warehouse".  You can see where the old fashioned gas pumps used to fit into the cement.

Here we have the original Balster's Store, now boarded up.  It once had a neon sign.

So, what's going on here?

Scotch Grove was a very early settlement for this part of the world, it goes back to 1837.  It has never been a town of any size.  It has never needed a Mayor or Town Council.

It's first Postmaster was a John Lovejoy, whose previous job was United States consul in Peru!

Not much of importance seems to have ever happened in Scotch Grove, but that does not mean it is entirely insulated from the world.  The Great Depression hit here of course, and there were hard times.  But the local store owner, Arend Balster, used it as an opportunity to buy up the stock of many other stores and equipment dealers, filling most of the buildings in downtown with the stock.  Hence the numerous and varied "warehouses".

I am actually understating things a bit with that assertion.  Arend Balster was was just one part of a multi generation family of entrepreneurs who were the anchor of the local business community since they turned up circa 1870.  A blacksmith shop, a lumber yard, a general store, these were quintessential go-getting American businesspeople.

The implement and parts business did well over the years.  It was the kind of place that if they did not have it likely it did not exist.  They did mail orders from all across the nation, with Amish and others who favor the simple life being especially good customers.

Eventually the patriarch of the Balster tribe passed away and it was time to have a massive auction. You can read about it and see a fascinating video HERE.

This "sale of a generation" must have taken a bit of the life out of Scotch Grove.  Most of the warehouses appear to be empty and a few have signs that nature is actively working mischief upon them.  One is still open as an antique shop but we decided that seeing the sad, picked over bones of the great hoard was not for us.

As we walked back to our car we went by what seems to have been the headquarters of the Implement business, an odd brick building.  Looking out of the upper windows were photo cutouts of Senator John McCain and a fellow who I first thought was Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator but instead turned out to just be a race car driver.

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