An Idiot, A Broad: St. Paul, NE

Panoramic view of part of the city park

My wife is a hairstylist, so she often comes home with grand ideas of what to do and where to go based upon something a client has told her lately.  Visiting St. Paul was one such grand idea.  And it paid off.

St. Paul is a small, but beautiful, city in central Nebraska, about 30 miles north of Grand Island.  It’s biggest claim to fame is being the hometown of Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of Major League Baseball’s winningest pitchers, but it’s also rich in other history as well.

When we first arrived in town we made a beeline straight to ‘Sweet Shoppe’, a local bakery/ restaurant with cookie jars everywhere and a very classic/ vintage vibe to it.  Erin had heard a lot about it.  It wasn’t bad… but not great either.  It got the job done anyway.  After we left the Sweet Shoppe we walked down the block to the Nebraska Major League Baseball museum, but Erin didn’t want to go in.  Bummer.  Maybe another time.

Historical marker for Major League Baseballer and St. Paul local, Grover Cleveland Alexander

Instead we walked down the other side of the street to get to the Historical Village we had heard about, but stopped off to see a little city park with some play equipment and a historical marker I wanted to read.  The marker told about Grover Alexander.  From there I could see a very nice city pool and, to my surprise, a skate park!  On the same block was the historic village.  The historical village did not open til 1 so I did a little skating at the skate park to kill some time.  (Always keep your skateboards in the back of your Jeep, in case of unplanned skate spots)

St. Paul skate park, you can see the city pool in the background.

At 1 pm we went to the entrance at the front door of the train depot building.  We were greeted by two older folks, a man and a woman, volunteers who help run the village.  They were more than helpful, and cheerful to boot, as the woman showed us around the entire village and, catty-corner, across the street, a historic Victorian house filled with exhibits as well.

Panoramic view of the historic village, from left to right, train depot, post office, blacksmith shop, grocery store, school house, church.

The buildings were very standard fare for what you see in re-created towns across the plains area; train depot, school, church, blacksmith… But the quality of the exhibits and artifacts were above par.  You can tell a lot of time and care has gone into every detail here.  Another thing that I found very interesting was the close proximity of origin for all the buildings and artifacts, they all came from very close to St Paul.  Sometimes you’ll go to an ‘Old West’ town and the buildings and exhibits are from states away.  Howard County Historic Village has done a fantastic job of keeping everything close to home and therefor that much more genuine and realistic.

One section of the inside of the train depot
Another section inside the train depot
Exhibit on the history of the local watermelon trade in the neighboring town of St. Libory.
Panorama of the train depot (and one of the pleasant volunteers)
Inside the school house
Native artifacts inside the Gruber House
More native artifacts inside the Gruber House
A phonograph! As seen inside the Gruber House

The village and house boasted many types of exhibits; trains, homesteading, World War I & II, native artifacts, local history.  No matter what kind of history you’re into, there’s bound to be something of interest for you here.  Me, personally… I enjoyed it all.  As many re-created main streets and ‘Old West’ towns as I’ve been to, the Howard County Historical Village and the Gruber House still had a lot for me to take in and enjoy.  This is among the top I’ve been to, with quality exhibits and super-friendly staff.  It was awfully sad to see the dates in the guestbook spaced out as much as they were (even taking into consideration they are only open Sat-Sun).  Hopefully people just aren’t signing the guestbook!  Cause I would much rather that be the case as opposed to people just not visiting this hidden gem.

Come see the Howard County Historic Village, and the town of St. Paul in general, as soon as you can, I highly recommend it.


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