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Railroads have always been an essential part of the development of America. Towns have grown up around the rails that brought the outside world into our local realm. In the 19th and first half of the 20th century, America moved by rail, and for a town to survive, it was essential for it to be connected to the mover of goods and people of the day, railroads.
But moving goods was not only a process of bringing in products, but it was also a way of getting the products of your community out into the world, and that product for the community of Desloge was lead. The ore beneath the ground, once mined by the labors of the day, brought to the surface and loaded into rail cars, brought commerce, business, and relative prosperity to the developing Missouri town as well as the surrounding communities.
Main Street in Desloge was and is Lincoln Street, which runs parallel, north-south, to the tracks that are owned today by Union Pacific. Businesses grew up alongside the east side of the street, facing the tracks. The Desloge train depot was situated on the west side of the tracks; its foundation was still partially visible, but the structure is long gone.
The train traffic that drew business and people to Lincoln Street is now a memory as are the grocery stores, drug stores, taverns, and the Grand Theater that formed the social and commercial heart of the community located there. The commercial center is now located around State Street and U.S. Highway 67. The highway has become the Main Street of St. Francois County with businesses springing up around it. But this doesn’t mean Lincoln Street and others like it are doomed to a depressed and trivialized future.
Lincoln Street is the home of many businesses — Momentum, a performing arts center; the Lincoln Street Event Center; Apple Blossum Children’s Boutique; Lou Lou’s Cakes, a bakery; Lost Creek Properties, The Desloge Chamber of Commerce; Rock Star Tattoo; Carries Place; The Way Wellness Center, Platinum Waxing; American Heritage Abstract; and Edward’s Electric Motor Sales and Repairs.
One suggestion heard from merchants was the need for Lincoln Street to be better advertised and have more foot traffic. The need for the area to be a viable business district is to engage local businesses that will be destination businesses — businesses that fill a special unique need with the hope that shoppers at those stores will then walk by and browse the street’s other establishments.
An obvious improvement would be better sidewalks and possible lighting for the area.
Although Lincoln Street will never regain the vitality it enjoyed in the heyday of the mines and railroads, it could certainly fill a specialized need with its proximity to the Desloge City Park. An eating establishment, catering to parkgoers in the form of a mercantile could also serve as an incentive to increase foot traffic to the Lincoln Street businesses. Specialized businesses, unique to the area with a tie to the locality could succeed. With the development of Owl Creek Park (formerly known as Bone Hole), Lincoln Street can expect an uptick in traffic.
The resurrection of “Main Street” can be an exciting time for small towns.
Dan Schunks is a staff writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.