Another Tiny Rural Town for Sale by Owner
|July 30, 2014||Posted by Staff under Inequality / Concentration|
This 2014 excerpt of Gillette News Record, Jly 20, is by Greg Johnson.
“Town For Sale,” the sign reads. “30 acres, store, house and bar, trailer park, post office.” Asking price? $1.5 million.
Located on Wyoming Highway 24 between Belle Fourche South Dakota and Devils Tower National Monument, Aladdin is the lowest settlement in Wyoming at 3,740 feet elevation. A basin just to the north is the lowest point in Wyoming at 3,125 feet. The area is rich in fossil remains, from petrified tree trunks to lizard footprints.
Four miles west of Aladdin may be seen ruts from Lt. Col. George A. Custer’s 1874 expedition into the Black Hills.
Aladdin’s owners for the past 28 years, Rick and Judy Brengle, live on a ranch seven miles down the road and operate another store in South Dakota.
“All our kids had gone to college,” that was in 1986, “so my husband bought me a town.” The ranch wife has served as Aladdin’s mayor, postmistress, chief of police, and more. With striking white hair and piercing blue eyes, she’s no-nonsense but fashionable in a skirt and boots.
Of the 15 buildings that make up Aladdin (it also has a population of 15), the big prize is the 118-year-old General Store, one of the five oldest in Wyoming. It has never had running water and boasts two of the last functioning outhouses around.
“The bar has always just been a liquor store, but you can drink on the porch or anywhere on these 30 acres,” Brengle says cheerfully.
The town’s busiest time of year will arrive in early August with the boisterous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally of well-to-do bikers.
Coal had first been discovered in the area in 1882 and was hauled by ox team to Belle Fourche to be loaded on rail and sent to the gold mines of the Black Hills.
Coal mining and shipment slowed drastically by 1910. In 1922, the mines and railroad were sold to local interests and by 1928 the railroad closed down. Three coal-mining towns just east of Aladdin didn’t survive (Bakertown, Barrett Town, and Hay Creek).
Aladdin isn’t the only small town to have been sold lock, stock and barrel. In 2012, two others were sold.
Buford – also in Wyoming – was sold at auction. The 10-acre spread with a store and fuel station, cell tower, three-bedroom house, and historic schoolhouse, was expected to bring less than $300,000. A Vietnamese businessman bought it with a bid of $900,000.
Bankersmith Texas, a tiny railroad town, was bought by Doug Guller, who changed the name to Bikinis Texas, in honor of his “breastaurant” chain.
Ed. Notes: What feels odd about buying an entire town to me is not just everyone living there having the same landlord but the public spaces — streets, sidewalks, utilities — having a private owner. Should public spaces be owned by the public? Or even be part of a commons?
Also, when places get so tiny and nobody any longer wants to live there, should they die a natural death and become a ghost town as so many in the American West have? The towns only existed for exploiting the earth. When that’s no longer possible, the town is not viable, and loses its raison d’etre.
The only thing that could save it would be its location — enjoying proximity to somewhere that people want to be — coupled with geonomic revenue policy.