Rialto. It’s a name that has graced the fronts of hotels from Venice to Victoria, Barcelona to Warsaw, and, for a time, a hotel in Eads. Aside from referencing an ancient island in Venice, the word itself means “a place of trade or exchange, a theater district”. It’s difficult to believe that such a worldly, almost timeless name would be attached to the modest two story building on Maine Street. But what The Rialto is now is not what it once was when graceful porches looked down on the street below, and its halls were filled with the conversations of oil men and cowboys, lawyers and teachers and a variety of travelers caught by dust storms or snow storms or both.
For several years, there was a consensus among Kiowa County Commissioners that economic development is best left to the private sector. Decisions were guided by the principle that the role of county government is to reduce spending and free market principles should determine the local economy.
For the past 15 years, people traveling on Highway 287 north of Eads have passed the turquoise and yellow building on the east side of the road with a wooden, unassuming sign that reads Artists of the Plains. The name itself conjures up images of iconic scenes depicting windswept prairies, farmhouses, barns and windmills against broad blue skies captured on a canvas or through a photographer’s lens.
As a person walks down Maine Street in “Eads, America”, he will see a scene that is repeated in hundreds of small towns across the country. A once prosperous business district with stores, cafes and places of entertainment has become diminished over the years. Now, a handful of established, well run businesses are the only anchors holding Maine Street in place as the rest of the buildings stand dilapidated beyond repair, vacant or are used for personal storage. More and more, this is a picture of small towns facing real challenges.