Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Appreciating Main Street December 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:01 AM
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Entering Janesville from the west along old Highway 14, you'll see this grain bin signage welcoming you to town.

I REMEMBER YEARS ago driving through the heart of Janesville along well-traveled U.S. Highway 14 in southern Minnesota. The town of 2,100 teemed with traffic following this main east-west route.

Today, as motorists bypass Janesville along the four-lane highway completed in 2006, the town barely stirs on a Sunday afternoon. Certainly, I should have expected this change when I drove into Janesville several months ago. Yet, the stillness, the boarded up buildings, the quiet Main Street surprised me. It shouldn’t have. What other result should I expect when a major highway reroutes around a town?

Janesville's downtown business district on a Sunday afternoon in August.

I possess no stake in this community nor am I critical of the Highway 14 improvement. The fixes to this treacherous roadway were necessary for motorists’ safety. I wish all of Highway 14 across Minnesota was a four-lane route, especially the deadly stretch between Mankato and New Ulm.

But back to Janesville…I’d never turned off the highway into the downtown business district, never in all the years I’d passed through this community along the old Highway 14. I’m almost ashamed to write that. But Janesville was just one more town to slow me down in getting from one destination to another.

Therein lies part of the problem. We are all in too much of a hurry, way too much of a hurry.

We need to pause, to turn off the interstates and highways and drive onto Main Street in Small-Town, U.S.A., park our vehicles and walk. Look at the buildings. Peer in the windows. Admire the character of old buildings. Stroll into a business and make a purchase. Strike up a conversation with a local.

An antique store anchors a a downtown corner across from the elevator.

The entry to a radio and TV shop.

A jolt of color in downtown Janesville.

Lovely historic brick buildings grace the downtown. So much potential exists here.

I noticed this beautiful tile outside a former bank.

More potential in this building...

The past preserved in lettering on the side of this brick building.

The intersection at old Highway 14.

I encourage each of you, wherever you live, to take the time to appreciate the small towns in your region or the Main Street in your community.

If you live in a metropolitan area, consciously choose to drive out of the city and into a rural area and onto Main Street.

If you already live in a rural area, choose to appreciate what you have, to remain positive and upbeat about your local businesses.

I expect that if I was to drive into Janesville on a week day, I’d find a busier downtown than the one I discovered on a Sunday afternoon in August. I can’t judge a community by one visit, of that I’m sure. But I do know that I can choose to slow down, look and appreciate Main Street in Small-Town, U.S.A.

So can you.

The post office, a community meeting place in small towns like Janesville.

NOTE: All of these images were taken in downtown Janesville on a Sunday afternoon in August.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling