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This aerial view of Brodhead was taken sometime in the late 1930s.

It's easy to find your bearings because of the mill race, the waterway in the upper left-hand corner of the photo.

The mill race was an early example of economic development.

The city fathers wanted to get the operators of a flour and feed mill in Decatur, Illinois, to set up in Brodhead, according to a history of the area on the Brodhead Historical Society's website.

But they didn't have a source for water power, so they decided to dig a mill race 3.5 miles long and 80 feet wide. Keep in mind that this was in the early 1860s, and much of that work was done by hand.

Money for the project was raised by subscription, with "many citizens contributing a day's labor," according to the history.

In 1862, with the work only two-thirds done, the city ran out of money.

Two brother then invested money in the project. Instead of using tax-increment financing districts or government loans, the city raised the rest through benefit dinners and dances, according to the history.

The flour mill opened in 1863.

The northern end of the mill race is now home to the municipal pool and a quiet park filled with old oaks.

The buildings on Exchange Street, which starts at the water tower and runs east, are still intact.

The church in the lower right-hand corner of the photo is now the Church of the Nazarene. The building started its life as a Methodist church, according to the Brodhead Historical Society.


An aerial view of downtown Brodhead believed to have been taken in the late 1930s.


An aerial view of downtown Brodhead taken on July 6, 2018.


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