Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

If you appreciate old buildings, you must visit historic downtown Appleton, Wisconsin January 9, 2012

I’M NOT A MALL KIND OF GIRL. Never have been. Never will be. If you want to while away an afternoon window or power shopping at a sprawling indoor mall, don’t ask me.

But invite me to explore an historic downtown and I can’t get there fast enough. I delight in the detailed architecture, the charming ambiance, the folksy shops, the comfortable feel and the visual appeal of a downtown that hearkens more to yesteryear than to the modern day 21st Century.

A row of old buildings in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin, on a December morning..

Knowing this about me, you’ll understand exactly why I am so enthralled with downtown Appleton, a city of 72,400 in eastern Wisconsin and home to the 7-acre College Avenue Historic District with 27 buildings dating from 1857-1932 on the National Register of Historic Places.

This downtown is my kind of place—described as “one of Wisconsin’s folksiest, funkiest and friendliest downtowns.”

The exterior of funky Vagabond Imports.

Loved the downtown signage, especially on Lady Bugs Bistro & Children's Specialty Store.

One of the more unique downtown buildings brought to mind the Roaring 20s and flappers and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’ll add photogenic to that list of superlative adjectives.

During my brief tour of downtown Appleton recently, I couldn’t stop gawking at the lovely aged buildings with their artsy signage. Even the more modern buildings meld nicely with the old, a sometimes difficult transition to make.

Downtown Appleton, along College Avenue, melds the new with the old.

The Trout Museum of Art moved into the Riegel building in 2002.

Studio 213 features art, collectibles and handcrafted items.

I found myself wishing for more time to explore and photograph the details of this historic district. However, my husband and second daughter, whom I’d accompanied downtown (the daughter lives in Appleton), will only put up with so much of my photographic dawdling.

So on this Saturday, the photo shoot was short and sweet. But I’ll be back to further embrace a downtown that’s already romanced her way into my heart.

My husband and second daughter head toward the Winter Farm Market at City Center (colorful awnings to the right) while I linger to photograph the street scape and hey, daisy.

The charming front of hey, daisy, a women's clothing, accessories and gift store.

Downtown Appleton decorated for the Christmas season.

Another beautiful historic building at 103 East College Ave. in downtown Appleton.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling