As we departed Fort Madison, Iowa we decided that these Main Street Award winning cities might be nice to check out. That is of course, if they weren't way too far out of our travel path. So we took off from Fort Madison to go check out what is called the Bonaparte Historic Riverfront District which is located on the Des Moines River in Van Buren County Iowa (and not the Mississippi River where we just were). The city of Bonaparte was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
It is within this southeast Iowa village that there has been a resurgence of historic restoration which will give you the feeling of stepping back in time. We were however a little disappointed by this quaint little place. It seemed to us as though this place had not done much to improve itself since getting this award in 1989. In fact many of the places were just boarded up and had for rent signs on them. We could however see where in it hay-day (no pun intended) it would have been much more fun that it was when we visited there.
Bonaparte's National Historic Riverfront District offers a unique blend of yesterday's ambience, today's progress, and tomorrow's success, with a pinch of home grown ownership and a dash of community enthusiasm giving downtown a new flavor of potential for those with discriminating tastes.
A feast for the eyes is the sometimes contrary Des Moines River, garnished with a butterfly garden, (which we walked down to). Its historic lock walls, refurbished band shell, and two restored mills were all pretty neat too.
Appetizing teasers were offered with historic street lights downtown, gracious Victorian homes, and charming 1800's cottages. One can't help but enjoy the architecture and shoppes in their beautiful National Historic Riverfront District.
Bonaparte had been named the smallest Main Street Community in the United States and in 1996 and was one of just 5 winners in the entire U.S. of the "Great American Main Street Award" But as you can see from the pictures is was still kind of cute and the Des Moines river (which the town sat right beside) was a quick mover and looked as though it could have seen a lot of trade in the cities early days.
A couple of old farmers were talking about the old days in one of the mercantile type shops that we were in. And the experience was like listening to a couple of Mrs. LZ's great uncles talking back in the day!
In spite of a little disappointing visit here, we did manage to have a great time. We just wished we had been there before so many of the other unique stores seemed to have departed.“The gift of happiness belongs to those who unwrap it.”
~ Andrew Dunbar