Located in a picturesque and narrow valley just off the river, tiny North Buena Vista—“Buenie” to locals—is best known for its grotto, access to the Mississippi River, and homemade wine.
Visitor information is available through the Clayton County Development Group (563.245.2201) in Elkader.
North Buena Vista is another community bypassed by the folks who write local histories. Here’s what I have so far: The hills were once rife with lead, which attracted large numbers of miners; as early as 1848, hundreds of miners lived in camps in the area. Charles Meuth, a moderately successful 19th century artist who painted portraits of federal government officials, lived in town when he wasn’t in Washington. Annie Row gained fame as a 19th century mail carrier for her dedication to her duties. She reportedly covered rural routes that others (men) wouldn’t and rarely missed a day at work.
The Blessed Mother Shrine Grotto (info through Immaculate Conception Church, 218 Main St.; 563.252.1247) is a hillside monument to the Virgin Mary that was conceived, planned, and built under the supervision of Monsignor Anthony Sigwarth, who was pastor at the town’s Immaculate Conception Church from 1937–1945. The 700-pound statue of Mary was made in Germany and installed in the grotto in 1938.
Immaculate Conception Church has been hosting a very popular picnic since 1929 (Sunday of Labor Day weekend; 563.252.1247). Bingo and gambling were popular activities, which led to a 1971 raid by state officials; gambling was illegal under state law, even for a church picnic. The attention from that raid led to a change in Iowa law, so bingo-playing nuns no longer live in fear of arrest.
Heading upriver? Check out Millville.
Heading downriver? Check out Balltown.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009,2018
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