Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Rural Americana: A personal tour of historic Canton, Minnesota October 18, 2012

The water tower in Canton, on the other side of the roof line seen here in the foreground.

LeROY HAYNES WAS BRUSHING green paint onto wainscoting in the sunny warmth of an October afternoon when I happened upon him in Canton, a town of 328, in southeastern Minnesota near the Iowa border.

He was, he said, in the process of sprucing up Lumber Yard Antiques, the shop he and wife Kathie opened in July. Kathie’s originally from Canton where the couple now lives only three blocks from their antique store.

When the lumber yard moved here, it added the front red part of the building onto the former Masonic Lodge building on the right. The first floor of this complex now houses Lumber Yard Antiques.

They named their business after the lumber yard previously housed in the building complex which some 10-plus years ago was home to another antique shop and before that Canton city offices. The older part of the Haynes’ shop, the Masonic Lodge building, was once rented out by the Masons and used as a grocery store, barbershop and even as apartment space.

See what you learn when you start a conversation. I learned even more when I spotted a cut-out of Tonto and the Lone Ranger and mentioned to LeRoy that I’d seen one just like it in the basement of an antique shop in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto cut-outs, photographed last fall in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

Imagine my surprise when LeRoy informed me that the cut-out had come from Stockholm, where he once sold his antiques and collectibles at A+ Antiques & Oddities.

It is a small world.

Beautiful 1950 Homer Laughlin china for sale at Lumber Yard Antiques.

LeRoy and I hit it off marvelously and soon he was offering to take me and my husband into the upstairs of the former Masonic Lodge. I had my doubts as this Presbyterian minister led us past a jumble of boxes, over broken glass and finally weaving our way up a steep and dark stairway littered with piles of bird poop. And I was wearing flip flops.

Inside the former Masonic Lodge, the second floor of Lumber Yard Antiques. Can you see the potential here?

But it was worth the climb when LeRoy led us into a spacious room with incredible potential, despite the crumbling ceiling and general disrepair. The wood floor and the step-up small “stages” on both ends of the room—something to do with Masconic ritual, LeRoy said—instantly ignited my creative thoughts. This, I told our tour guide, would be perfect for theatre and/or music.

Canton’s original depot, recently reroofed.

I don’t know that LeRoy and Kathie share my vision. But they have been thinking preservation as has a railroad buff from California who bought the next door vintage railroad depot, sight unseen, according to LeRoy.

Inside the depot.

The depot came next on our tour (LeRoy’s been entrusted with a key) and I was just as delighted to get inside this historic building.

The door LeRoy unlocked into the depot. Love it.

The California man has a vision to create a historic site in Canton and a Canton Historical Society has been formed. Plans are to seek grants to restore old buildings like the depot.

Old elevators like this are disappearing from our small towns, replaced by large, generic storage units. The Canton Historical Society hopes to save Canton Feed & Seed and other old buildings in town as part of an historic site.

And that pretty much ended our tour of the portion of Canton which lies off the main route past town, Minnesota Highway 44. Had we not driven into town via the back way, past the elevator, we may have missed all of this, and that personal, historic tour by LeRoy.

Exterior details on the old Masonic Lodge building.

Outside the back door of the antique shop, this tangerine hued vintage truck contrasted against the gray metal caught my artist’s eye.

A broader view of the scene directly across the street from Lumber Yard Antiques and the depot. Pure rural Americana.

FYI: Lumber Yard Antiques is open from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. “most days,” LeRoy says, but will be closed from January – March. My apologies for failing to photograph LeRoy and Kathie. What was I thinking? Clearly I was not.

CLICK HERE TO READ a previous post from Canton. 

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling