I'm trying to remember what took me to Ft. Dodge. It's usually a matchbook and you'll probably see it in a year or two and think "why does that sound familiar?" There's no grand scheme to this feature, although I wish there was; it would make things easier.

This one's interesting. Twenty-five thousand souls; the county sea. Right on the Des Moines river.

It may look bland and featureless to our eyes, but - well, it is bland and featureless, but it's also a symbol of a certain era of confidence and Newness.

The streetlights on the right make me suspect they tried the old Downtown Beautification idea. Let's make modern ones with big names and THEN people will come back downtown.

I've no idea what this used to be; I wouldn't be surprised it it was a department store remembered by people over 40. Under 40, not so much - except perhaps as something Mom mentioned, or a name on a box she kept.

Three generations of facades: the original old brick with terracotta accents, the 30s - 50s porcelain or metal panels, and finally craptastic Waltons-era wood over bunker-grey brick.

What's inside? I don't know. Do you want to find out?

Oh, Seventies. You were so proud of yourself.

Just looking at this thing, with its vague historical references, makes me hear mid-70s Tv show music and see men with sideburns and thick sportcoats with thick lapels and wide ties looking for Michael Constantine, who stole something.

"Can we wait a few years until they come up with better-looking panels? There's something about it that doesn't reflect the true soul of the -"


The windows up above look original. Which is good! And not so good.

This wasn't an immediate decision; it took a while to deaden the ground floor.

Raw wood; always a good look. And I guess they were all plumb out of matching bricks.

Around the corner, a reminder that fire escapes used to be much more common, and made for some interesting views. This seems to be a working fire escape; the counterweight is still hanging on a wire on the right.

That was once plate glass, I'm sure. A corner restaurant? A drug store? did that shadow fall across a counter, draw lines on a placemat or menu?

Yes, I think I was right about Downtown Beautification. Brickwork sidewalks! Why, they'll be lining up to shop.

I like the jaunty angle of the window. It would be better with some goods for sale. I wonder if it had the standard trajectory - an old shoe store closes, something goes in that represents someone's retail dream (cookies! Flowers! Crocheted stuff!) and then dies.

Ah, a classic palimpsest.

Is the Coke sign on top of an older one? I think so.

Now and then, a survivor, still at work with bright pride:

Their website says it opened in 1963. Brother, is that 1963.

Ft. Dodge could stand some business, frankly.

Maybe there was a flood.

At this point you might think you'd gotten the flavor of Ft. Dodge, and you're thinking it's a small weary dive.

That's because I've been selective. Next week? A completely different look. Same place. Same camera. Different choices.