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Downtown Gem: Woodbine Grain Elevator

July 11, 2022
Downtown Gem: Woodbine Grain Elevator

Agricultural buildings are often the first thing visitors see when driving into small Iowa towns. Some communities have turned these unusual structures into real assets by transforming them into amazing public art projects that make visitors want to stop and learn more about the town.

A perfect example of this type of structure is the grain elevator in Woodbine, Iowa. This 65’ milk-carton-shaped structure is situated on the western slope of the unique land formation (wind-blown glacial till) that borders Iowa’s western edge.

Built in 1940, the grain elevator was saved and repurposed in 2011 thanks to the funding provided by businesses, individuals, municipal and federal and state dollars.

The final design was a result of three community charrettes, ultimately landing on a design which evokes place and cultural significance. This highly sustainable design features LED lighting and a rusted metal stalk on a field background showing the contour farming necessary in the Loess Hills.

“An iconic piece of Woodbine culture, the grain elevator has been lighting our way home for ten years now. Members of the community still share fond memories – from helping pull small wagons through the elevator at harvest time to an enticing ice-cold grape pop if riding shotgun with grandpa during a quick stop at the elevator. It is an established and somewhat quirky “mile marker” for travelers going from Omaha to Ames, and beyond on the Historic Lincoln Highway. Visitors stop daily to take a quick photo or turn in to check out the rest of our cool little town,” said Deb Sprecker, Woodbine Main Street executive director and part of the design group who led the preservation effort. “It was sincerely a community effort and promises to be a well-loved part of the Woodbine skyscape for generations to come.”

Thanks to this community project, led by Woodbine Main Street, a once neglected grain elevator now serves as a sentinel welcoming visitors and residents to this western Iowa community of 1,500.