The town was established in 1865, and within a few years coal mining began in the surrounding region. After the depletion of the coal, attention was turned to the extensive deposits of a fine white clay that lent itself to the production of ceramic products.
Within the center of town are two interesting brick buildings. At 201 Barnes (Iowa 21) is the restored What Cheer Opera House (1892). It is mildly Richardsonian Romanesque in style; a central large arch is carried up into its second floor and then there is a third-floor fenestration of arched windows. The building houses an 800-seat auditorium with a horseshoe balcony. Further south on Barnes from the Opera House is the two-story masonry Baines Block (1887). The building retains intact the vertical showcases for the retail stores. The metal entablature/cornice has a small shed roof of metal tiles, and a central gable with the building's name and date.
At the corner of Barnes and South streets is a 1942 WPA gymnasium building. This reinforced concrete building is composed of two rectangular volumes, the one to the right somewhat higher than the major section of the building. A center row of seven large vertical steel-frame windows is held in place by vertical windows of glass brick, one on each side. Thin horizontal grooves run across the surface of the building; between these one can see the imprint of the wood panels used in forming the concrete.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.