Chicagoland Photographer | Final Destination: CHARITON - IOWA

Just a few days ago we were hanging out in our kitchen and enjoying our dinner. Spring break had just started and we thought about the fun things we could possibly do. Over the Christmas Holidays we talked about the fact that we should really go see CHARITON sometime this year with our children. So, standing there and talking it came to mind that we could just make that visit happen now. Spontaneous is my middle name! Everyone was in! I went on the computer to research where we could stay the night. Country Cabins seemed like it would be perfect for us. In no time our Motel was booked.

A little backstory...

In 2001 when Jeff (my husband) still traveled a lot with Retro-Tech, he was working close to Chariton, Iowa. He knew about this little city since he was a young boy and always wanted to visit and this time, the time was right. He came back from his trip with lots of pictures and I even put them in a scrapbook for him. It said CHARITON on everything. I thought that was so cool. Over this year's Christmas, I dug up our old scrapbooks and came across those photos. How cool would it be to visit there and show our kids that our last name is written on everything?!

Jeff wrote the High School an e-mail that THE CHARITONS are planning a trip to CHARITON in a few days and that we'd be happy if our sports obsessed kid Linus could shoot a basket at their gym. Principal Tracy Hall wrote back right away that this would be no problem, and that he could even get a few of the star players of their Chargers Basketball team to take a picture with Linus.

It might seem like an April fools joke to some but Friday, April 1st we left Crown Point, Indiana at 6 a.m. and by noon we arrived in Chariton, Iowa. In his e-mail Mr. Hall recommended a store called 'The fifth Mile' for some sports gear and that was the first place we stepped foot in. Linus found a cool Chargers Baseball hat. Then we were recommended to check out AJensen Promotions for some more sports gear. We found a few cool shirts and a Chariton Chargers hoodie for Jeff.

As planned by 1 p.m. we went to the High School and met up with Principal Tracy Hall & Asst. Principal Tim Milledge. Both were very welcoming and walked us around the school and pulled
T.J. Hockenson and Daric Laing out of class to meet with us. It was really exciting for all of us but especially Linus to meet these inspiring athletes!

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Chariton High School has about 400 students.


Chariton is a city and the county seat of Lucas County, Iowa, United States. The population was 4,321 at the 2010 census. It is the primary distribution center for, and former corporate seat of, the Hy-Vee supermarket chain.

Chariton was platted in 1850. Chariton was the name of a French trader.

After our meeting at the High School we were starving and stopped at THE CHARITONE Hotel for lunch (now Market Grill).

Our cute Motel Country Cabins! It was super comfortable and clean! We would stay here again on our next visit.

Nobody wanted to spend the night in this!

Nobody wanted to spend the night in this!

Hotel Charitone

Designed by local architect William L. Perkins and listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the development of Chariton as a county seat, the Hotel Charitone is listed by the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance as one of the most endangered sites in Iowa. (It has been renovated and has apartments and a restaurant in it.)

The Mormon Pioneer Trail went through Iowa... the castle like building is the Lucas County Courthouse.

The city has lot of history and we loved walking around...

Next stop THE CHARITON LEADER newspaper where we met with Bill Howes. As we found out we made the front page news today! They even found the picture and article they wrote on Jeff in 2001. Bill will mail us a copy and I will add it to the blog later.

Our next stop was PIPER'S a charming candy store & more. We met Jill the owner and a few other lovely ladies. We even got a tour to the back of the store, where all the wonderful candy is made in small batches. The smell of chocolate and caramel was heavenly. Piper's has shipped their candy to every continent in the world. If you hurry up you might still be able to order some. Obviously in the warmer months that's not a good idea. We loved their turtle candies so much we stopped in a second time the next day. They also sell amish products and local honey! YUMMY! Check out

Everything is just starting to bloom and in a few more weeks it will be even more beautiful.

Jeff got a fishing license hoping to catch a fish at the Chariton River. While Malina and I relaxed at the Country Cabins later that evening, the boys went finishing. But they didn't have much luck. In the evening we had dinner at the DOUBLE-DIP. The food was so good and we were so hungry, I forgot to take some pictures. Their specialty is the KK Burger and their homemade ice cream. Yeah, we loved their malts as well and the next day we had lunch there. If you visit or drive through that area, make a stop at the Double-Dip - it's worth it!

We also visited RED HAW STATE PARK and Linus tried fishing one more time. It was just too windy but fun anyway. We saw a deer and a red squirrel! We hear that it's redbud trees are gorgeous but they were not blooming just yet. It's beautiful there and a popular destination for visitors.

We double-dipped twice at the double-dip!

Of course All Star Linus and Coach Jeff needed to play a bit of baseball at the Don Klobnock Field.

On Day 2 we went to a couple antique shops and Linus is always on the hunt for new shoes, so we ended up in this shoe store. Of course we told everyone wherever we went that we are THE CHARITONS. Everyone kept asking if we are driving through and where our final destination is!? Our final destination was Chariton, Iowa. Ha! Some could not believe it, most thought is was super cool! As did we!

We met Mary Stout Stierwalt, the owner of the Family Shoe Store. After telling her our story and Jeff mentioning that she reminded him of the woman who was mayor in 2001, they both realized they've met before! Mary was indeed Mayor in 2001 when Jeff came through the first time. We had a great time visiting and hearing some history of the town, since Mary is very involved and probably knows everyone and everything that has happened there in the past 50 or so years. The collection of yearbooks is amazing!

We bought a few football shirts for Jeff's brother and nephew Lucas! How funny is it that my nephew is Lucas Chariton (he is a wrestling champion and also loves to play football) and that the wrestling hall is on Lucas Ave in Lucas County? We hope one day they get to visit as well!

We stopped at the Pin Oak Lodge. Although I prefer living animals, it was fascinating to see and compare animal sizes next to each other. The turtles were fun and apparently have a temper! ha!

The Chariton River is beautiful! The temperatures were a bit cold and the wind was over 30 miles per hour. I know on his first visit Jeff dipped his foot in, don't think he did this time. Actually he told me, he almost fell in this time.

As a photographer I love charming run down buildings and interesting spots. I would be in heaven photographing High School Seniors there. So many cool locations!

Famous Old Betsy, an Early Horse Drawn Fire Engine in Chariton, IA

Right before we were ready to leave town, I spotted this cool truck. We pulled over and met Nash Cox, the owner and started chatting. Turns out he is an artist and has his studio right on the square. So we made a little stop there and checked out his cool art work. He said he took up painting 3 years ago. Like I always say it's never too late to follow your dreams. (His wife owns a Fitness Club in the same building.) He uses this truck every day to go to work and as far as I am concerned this would be my dream car. Can't you just see me cruising around town in one of those, and pulling up to my photo shoots?

We fit a lot into 2 days and were sad to leave. The whole car ride home my mind was looking for the Chariton name on things and buildings but it was no longer there. We had a wonderful time thanks to all the friendly people we crossed paths with. Thank you to everyone in CHARITON who welcomed us and made our stay unforgettable. Until we meet again...