My first photo essay on a decaying small town. I lived here for a year more than 50 years ago: Greeley, Iowa.
Greeley was founded a little over 100 years ago. There is a small central park with an open air gazebo, a lovely flower bed, and a small book share facility. All that really remains of Main Street in Greeley is 3 or 4 run down buildings on one side of the road. Kind of indicative of the rest of the town, really. Although there remain some lovely houses with wrap-around porches, most of the buildings seem to be mobile homes or in deep disrepair.
Greeley is now more road than town, it seems. A place to slow down, but there are no gas pumps, not the slightest hint of groceries. Some electronic maps will tell you there is a place to eat in town, but it has been long abandoned. State Road 38 is being resurfaced through Greeley, but the sign itself is as misshapen as much of the rest of the town.
The largest business in Greeley is a feed store and grain elevator. The wind turbines have altered the skyline, such as it ever was, a hint of modernization – good or bad – in a town otherwise seemingly stuck in 1940.
In many ways, Greeley seems very much to have given up on itself. Even the flagpoles in what passes for the city park have no flags flying, even on Independence Day weekend. The former city Maintenance Shop is perhaps the best metaphor existing for the current state of Greeley. It has itself failed to be maintained so thoroughly that it is collapsing on itself. There are apparently no city buildings suitable for habitation, so state and federal flyers mandated for public display are posted in an open air display case bound to the chain link fence around the water tower with baling wire.
Once upon a time the steeple on the Catholic Church was the highest point in town. The turbines have claimed that distinction now. The Greeley cemetery is nearly full, yet it’s difficult to imagine how long it will take to fill the remaining plots, with so few people left in the area.