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Cobblestone, monument highlight changes to O'Brien County seat

Cobblestone, monument highlight changes to O'Brien County seat

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PRIMGHAR, Iowa | Thousands of residents and native sons and daughters flocked to the only Primghar in the world last August to toast the town on its 125th birthday.

In doing so, they walked, drove and sat on a courthouse square remade just in time for the big bash.

Primghar, which was incorporated in 1888, was known around the region for its streets of cobblestone, conduits that dated to the late 1880s. Well, over 125 years, the cobblestone streets deteriorated a bit while attracting those doing commerce or simply stopping to see the four-block square surrounding the O'Brien County Courthouse.

"We talked about replacing the streets with the original material, but the infrastructure underneath was deteriorating too," says Marlene Anderson, Primghar city clerk.

The City Council voted unanimously to unearth the bricks and replace the pipes and lines beneath the streets. General obligation bonds and a special assessment of business owners helped fund the $1.18 million effort.

The old bumps and bricks were replaced with white, bright, smooth cement. Not all the bricks disappeared, however. City leaders adopted a plan to incorporate cobblestone into sidewalk areas at the intersections and areas around vintage lighting units. Other bricks were sold to residents and businesses throughout Iowa's smallest county seat.

Fifty bricks engraved with "Primghar, IA. Est. 1888" were sold in a short time. A contractor purchased 50,000 bricks for $10,000. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of old cobblestone bricks were shipped to Primghar natives who reside throughout the U.S.

Two 80-pound boxes of the bricks, pieces of Primghar's past, were mailed to Colorado.

The streets and small cobblestone sidewalk areas were full and likely getting their first heavy summer rain as thousands crammed the courthouse square to celebrate the dedication of the Primghar Veterans Memorial, a solemn showcase of the sacrifice 460 U.S. military veterans from this community have made.

The dedication, featuring a reading of the names of 11 men killed in active duty, helped start the Primghar Quasquicentennial.

"We raised right at $100,000 in less than two years for this project," said Brad McDowell, commander of Chateau Thierry American Legion Post No. 36. "We have a little money left over for upkeep."

Granite monument pieces rise on the corner southeast of the O'Brien County Courthouse, each bearing names of those who served the U.S. military. The monument, like the cobblestone bricks lining its walkways, should stand and serve this community for generations and celebrations yet to come.


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