When writing my post praising Northfield last summer, someone (probably from Faribault) said “what about Faribault? I had never been to Faribault so I had no opinion. Recently we did a short road trip to some towns in Southern Minnesota, and here is what I saw.
Caveat: This is at best drive-by urbanism, I didn’t do any investigative reporting besides citing Wikipedia and visiting and photographing. I don’t really know what makes the town tick, but even at a short glance, some issues can be identified.
Faribault is [the county seat of] Rice County, Minnesota, United States. .. The population was 23,352 at the 2010 census. Faribault is approximately 50 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The “Main Street” of Faribault is Central Avenue, a north-south street sandwiched between 1st Avenue NE and 1st Avenue NW. (The original main east-west street is Division Street, this seems to have been replaced by 4th St NW). [photos]
Now, I wasn’t around when the streets here were named, but this seems a small enough town that numbered street names need not have been repeated, especially given the ravine, Cannon River, and railroad tracks just to the east of 1st Avenue NE. One should also note that the Streets and Avenues are both numbered. So 1st Ave NE meets 1st Street NE and 1st Street SE, AND, 1st Ave NW meets 1st Street NW and 1st Street SW. So there are four “First and First” intersections within a 4 block area. I suppose numbering aids in way-finding, but hasn’t anyone here heard of the alphabet?
The Main Street itself is nice and well-maintained, with lots of diagonal parking. The buildings are very nice classical period piece of late 18th century small-town midwestern architecture, with a great deal of ornamented brick and nice windows. You really need to credit the masons of the era for building something that required high skill to create such detail and texture, and also something that has lasted 130 years. And also credit the developers of the period for creating permanence. I doubt you could say similar for today’s architecture.
There are people on the street, though clearly the downtown has seen more prosperous days, as the business occupying the main street were not the type to pay very high rents. Nothing wrong with that, those businesses need to be somewhere, and occupancy is better than vacancy, but it is an indicator of the state of health of the downtown and the level of demand. Overall the town is still gaining population, which is a good sign.
The economics of the town are not as strong as some others. It does have a correctional facility. Unfortunately, while also an institution, its residents don’t get out as much as the college students of Northfield.