Dome of city hall, originally county courthouse

Aiming the camera upwards can be very rewarding

| Today was a bright, sunny day, so I took myself downtown for breakfast. I also decided to walk from one end of downtown to the other and back again, paying attention to the architecture.

In the years after its founding, 1857, Hastings was an up-and-coming place. It was the largest town in the county, situated on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. 1st Street was the riverbank; 2nd Street was where all the stores were. The buildings from the late 1800s have wonderful architectural details, but you have to tip your head back to see them.

Many buildings carry a plaque for the National Register of Historic Places

As I walked along I could not help noticing how many of the buildings have a National Register of Historic Places plaque. Obviously, the city fathers and mothers have decided that "Historic Hastings" is going to be their theme. And despite the fact that, with few exceptions, the stores have been taken over by antique shops, curiosity shops, insurance agents and the like, the downtown is not run-down. In fact, it is quite well maintained, clean-swept, and even has a prosperous air about it.

I had breakfast at the Red Rock Cafe, and once inside, the decor was stunning, the service was friendly and competent, and the food delicious. Several tables were occupied, and one chap sat next to the window with his laptop plugged in, using the restaurant as his office du jour.

Vermillion River falls

The city has also turned a lot of the riverbanks and lakesides into parks and walking trails. In short, many people would find it a very livable small city. It is near the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, so it could be very attractive, particularly to young couples with children looking for their own Lake Woebegone.

As it happened, two barges approached the lock while I was downtown, one going upstream, one going downstream. So I went out to the lock to watch one of them go through. There has been major reconstruction of the lock since I was a kid, and the new lock is wide enough that six barges (3 wide, 2 long) and the tug can fit in the lock. I recall that they used to have to break the barges up and put them through piecemeal, reassembling them after passing through the lock.

railroad bridge raised to allow barge to pass under it

I also took the opportunity to investigate that open question about how the railroad bridge accommodates barge traffic. It does, indeed, lift the span straight up. The structures on either end of the span that look a bit like elevator cages seem to be counterweights — they go up and down in opposition to the span.

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Last updated on May 12, 2016

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