by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board President, Reed Riskendahl

Our Lincoln Highway and the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway – a National Scenic Byway. It is not like they belong to us, but we do get mighty possessive over things. It is more as if we belong to them.  They are in our very being. So much so that we take it for granted.

The path of the Lincoln takes a meandering path through Marshalltown and Marshall County. Many times, I have found that “L” designation on a street or paved road where I didn’t expect it.Nevertheless, I have not always paid attention, when it runs on a street that I have frequented thousands of times over the last 30+ years.

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Marshalltown, Iowa

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Marshalltown, Iowa

You see, I have worked in several businesses that actually are on the Lincoln. Here in Marshalltown, the Lincoln runs right down Main Street – right beside our courthouse. The business district runs on Main Street from 3rd Avenue to 3rd Street, with several other nearby streets. Several decades ago, I worked in Spurgeon’s Department Store. It was one of dozens throughout the Midwest that were located in county seat towns. The location was a good one – directly north of the courthouse, with its stately appearance and grand history. The amount of traffic was substantial, and I recall sweeping the sidewalk daily, and washing the windows so folks could see the latest fashion for the family or the home. Thousands of dresses, shoes for the family, sheets for the beds, yarn and crafts for those talented with a needle. That era has passed, but the Lincoln – America’s Main Street is as important as ever.

I also had the pleasure of working at the Times-Republican newspaper. We were a daily and the unrelenting deadlines gave us a certain rhythm that is important in a small city. News of the realm, as well as solid local coverage gave the paper a readership that many of the businesses close to the Lincoln wanted to advertise in. Stores like Gildner’s Men’s Store, Thompson True Value, Hellberg’s Jeweler’s, Zeno’s Pizza, Taylor’s Maid-Rite and hundreds more.

Over the years, after traveling, I would return to Marshalltown along the Lincoln. The beautiful canopy of trees along west Main St on the Lincoln just said “home” to me. The shade was welcoming. Some trees remain, even after the terrible tornado that ravished our city in 2018, and the derecho of 2020 took even more.

But the Lincoln still is here. A testament to the ebbs and flows of events and culture in our history. No longer is it the primary conduit from one place to another. Sometime along this treasured history, it has become a place to experience life at a different pace. Sometimes ignored by the pell-mell pace of today’s life, but sometimes a pleasure to behold, thinking of the decades that have passed and what this old road has experienced.

Take a trip down the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, slow the pace a bit, and pull off occasionally to simply witness America’s Main Street. You may even see some of the many stories that are yet to be told.

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