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


22 Responses to “Rural Americana: A personal tour of historic Canton, Minnesota”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a fabulous photo story of LeRoy and Kathie and the dream that is sure to come true! What a fabulous little gem you found!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. I was just fortunate enough to meet LeRoy (pronounced “La Roy, emphasis on Roy) and get those personal tours. Always so fun for me to discover these gems, as you say, and showcase them for readers.

      If any of you readers stop in at Lumber Yard Antiques, tell LeRoy and Kathie that I sent you.

  2. Kongo Says:

    I love your study of Canton.

  3. Loving your photos – thanks for the tour:) Have a Beautiful Day!

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    All so familiar to me. You ‘covered’ it perfectly. The day I was in Stockholm (a week ago) I didn’t have a chance to explore the antique shop as it was closed for a couple of hours.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ah, Stockholm. Love that Wisconsin town. Did you try the pie?

      • treadlemusic Says:

        You bet! The Stockholm Pie Company ( http://www.stockholmpiecompany.com/ ) is where I ate lunch. Tried a couple of main dish pies and a piece of triple berry. The crust has got to be made from lard….awesome!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Here’s the deal and you are not going to believe this. But we ate lunch in Wabasha before crossing the river to Wisconsin. We knew nothing of Stockholm. So when Randy and I arrived in this charming town, we were too full, too full, I tell you, to eat a single bite. But that did not stop us from drooling over the pie. We should have bought some to-take. The folks at the antique store owe me a pie, I think, because I posted about their shop and a Minnesota Prairie Roots reader bought a print I photographed and posted in my blog. A little commission is due, don’t you think?

  5. artsynina Says:

    I want to explore old buildings with you!! LOL Wow that masonic lodge room is cool. I have a little bit of a fascination with the Free Masons – and their secret rituals – that they do on altars. hehe 😉

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Nina, just hang your camera around your neck, ask lots of questions, mention that you blog and you’ll likely get invited on tours. I find old buildings so fascinating and am always pleased as punch when folks like LeRoy invite me into areas where the general public does not go. This exploring is so much fun and I love sharing my finds with appreciative readers like you.

  6. Paul Udstrand Says:

    I live in Saint Louis Park MN. Our old train depot has been turned into the headquarters for our historical society. Very cool.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’ve seen this elsewhere, depots turned into historical societies or museums and I expect that works well. Thanks for stopping by and, most of all, for appreciating history and old buildings.

  7. How fun that he showed you that room!

  8. Jody Engen-Solberg Says:

    I enjoyed your story on the Lumberyard and Depot in Canton,MN. My Mom previously owned the buildings and tried very hard to restore them herself, she has a lot of knowledge of Canton, the train depot, and the Masonic Lodge.
    Thanks for your story about our little town,
    Jody Engen-Solberg
    Canton, MN.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are welcome, Jody. So glad your mom recognized the value of both historic buildings. All too often these treasures are torn down.

  9. Bernard Vail Says:

    My grandfather, Homer Vail, ran the elevator in Canton.

  10. SuAnne Says:

    So fun finding this article of my in-laws even now 4 years later!

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