Around Marshall County, Illinois, June 2022

North of Washburn is the town of La Rose, which is in Marshall County. The country actually has two parts on either side of the Illinois River. The town is dominated by a grain elevator, a part of which looks to be quite old. The booth for the truck scale is still standing, much like the one we saw near Goodfield, Illinois.

There is a small commercial strip, as well, with Italianate storefronts.

Heading even further north, we arrive at the town of Varna, which like many places, has a broad front street near the the right-of-way where I suspect were once railroad tracks.

Most of the buildings are one story, except for this one on the corner.

Many also seem to be empty, though they’ve acquired large awnings out the front.

I also came across this interesting church; it was built in 1919, I believe, but it is a very simple, severe design.

The grain elevator dominates the town from its site in downtown along the former railroad tracks.

Moving along across the countryside, the next town to the east-southeast is Toluca, where surprises meet us after passing the gas station.

It’s poorly documented, but many Italian immigrants settled in the small towns of Illinois, and every so often you’ll come across restaurants that reflect that heritage.

First up was Capponi’s and then there is Mona’s. What is the chance of there being two Italian restaurants in one small town?

The two neon signs and their cool 1950s exteriors are priceless. I wish I could have come by at night when their signs were illuminated.

The city hall is in a cool old bank building.

On the edge of town is an increasingly common sight: Dollar General, which has a business model that comes in and runs out local business with prices that are impossible to compete with, often leaving it as the only place to shop in town for groceries.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Mamanella says:

    Mona’s and Capponi’s are now owned by the same family-run business, which also owns a couple of Bernardi’s locations in and around Peoria: https://www.bernardirestaurants.com/ I always loved trips to Toluca that permitted me to drop in to Mona’s!

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Yes, I saw that! One of the four is in Washington, where I often visit. I will have to try one of them at some point.

  2. Allison Smith says:

    Toluca was a coal mining town with many Italians employed in that industry. The town has preserved the two large slag heaps from their mining days and have incorporated them into a city park.
    The mines dried up in the early 1920’s which is when my paternal ancestors left Illinois.
    A couple of decades ago, people would travel from Peoria and the surrounding area to eat at Mona’s and Capponi ‘s.
    I visited there years ago as I have great grandparents buried in the church cemetery, and, yes, I ate at Mona’s.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Ah, mining! That makes sense. How I totally missed the slag heaps is a mystery to me.

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