Town Sign Project: Hardin County

Last weekend the weather finally cooperated enough for me to get out on the open road and doing some good old fashioned town sign harvesting. On Saturday. The weather immediately went back to being terrible on Sunday. But on Saturday, it didn’t snow and the temperature was above -30 degrees wind chill. Some of the back roads were still a little rough and the ditches were definitely overflowing with snow, but it was good enough for me to get out there and harvest some signs!

Here are some facts about Hardin County:

+ Population: 17,534 (2010)
+ County Seat is Eldora.
+ Largest town is Iowa Falls.
+ Hardin County was formed in 1851. It was named after Colonel John J. Hardin, who died in the Mexican–American War.

I’ve recently decided to share a picture of the County Courthouse and the Freedom Rock for each county, if I find both. I decided to do that AFTER I returned home, so the pictures of both are not as good as they will be in the future:

Hardin County Courthouse
Hardin County Courthouse

Hardin County Freedom Rock
Hardin County Freedom Rock

I have shown the photo map of several counties, but not of the whole state of Iowa, so here is the Iowa Photo Map:

Iowa Photo Map - Post Hardin County
Iowa Photo Map as of February 24, 2021

Here is the Hardin County Photo Map:

Hardin County Photo Map
Hardin County Photo Map – Boundaries Probably not even close.

With Hardin County knocked out, here is the updated Photography 139 Conquest Map:

Town Sign Project - 13 Counties

13 counties completed. 13.1% of the Cyclone State conquered!

Here are the Hardin County Signs:

Iowa Falls, Iowa
Iowa Falls, Iowa
Welcome to the Scenic City – Iowa Falls – Home of Ellsworth Community College
Population: 5,238

Eldora, Iowa
Eldora, Iowa
Iowa River Greenbelt Community – Eldora
Population: 2,732

Ackley, Iowa
Ackley, Iowa (Partially in Franklin County)
Population: 1,589

Hubbard, Iowa
Hubbard, Iowa
Population: 845

Alden, Iowa
Alden, Iowa
Welcome to Alden – Best Town by a Dam Site
Population: 787

Radcliffe, Iowa
Radcliffe, Iowa
Welcome to Radcliffe – Farms, Families, & Friends
Population: 545

Union, Iowa
Union, Iowa
Welcome to Union – Est. 1872
Population: 347

Steamboat Rock, Iowa
Steamboat Rock, Iowa
Steamboat Rock – The Valley of Friendliness
Population: 310

New Providence, Iowa
New Providence, Iowa
Welcome to New Providence – Est. 1855
Population: 228

Whitten, Iowa
Whitten, Iowa
Welcome to Whitten Iowa – Since 1882
Population: 149

Buckeye, Iowa
Buckeye, Iowa
Welcome to Buckeye – The End of the Line on 359
Population: 108

Garden City, Iowa
Garden City, Iowa
Welcome to Rebel Country
Population: 89

Owasa, Iowa
Owasa, Iowa
Welcome to Owasa
Population: 43

Gifford, Iowa
Gifford, Iowa
Welcome to Gifford – Established in 1875
Unincorporated Community

I was recently told that my picks for best town signs was controversial. That this person was holding back, but they wouldn’t be holding back any longer. I also will not hold back on my opinions.

Hardin County has maybe the strongest collection of town signs to date. There aren’t any that I would consider bad. But the worst town sign in Hardin County is Eldora. While it isn’t a conventionally terrible sign, it isn’t even a real town sign. Union has almost an identical sign in front of their town hall. Owasa’s sign is a little weak. Garden City’s sign isn’t even a town sign. It is a sign for the school district. It shouldn’t even be on this list.

Who has Best in Show for Hardin County? Now normally, this might be a battle. There are some really good signs in there. Then Ackley shows up with a bull statue as part of their sign. Checkmate Hardin County!

Ackley, Iowa
Ackley – Best in Show – Hardin County

There were a couple towns with alternate town signs:

Ackley, Iowa
Ackley – Alternate

Alden, Iowa
Alden – Alternate

New Providence, Iowa
New Providence – Alternate

The Union town sign is the sign I think about the most. I don’t understand the picture of the tar heel on their sign. My research as only found that Union holds a Tar Heel Days town festival, but I don’t know why. If somebody knows, let me know and then I’ll let the people know.

Here is the current list of Best in Shows:

Moingona, Iowa
Best in Show – Boone County

Coon Rapids, Iowa
Best in Show – Carroll County

Ricketts, Iowa
Best in Show – Crawford County

Dexter, Iowa
Best in Show – Dallas County

Scranton, Iowa
Best in Show – Greene County

Stanhope, Iowa
Best in Show – Hamilton County

Ackley, Iowa
Best in Show – Hardin County

Lynnville, Iowa
Best in Show – Jasper County

Haverhill, Iowa
Best in Show – Marshall County

Bondurant, Iowa
Best in Show – Polk County

Collins, Iowa
Best in Show – Story County

Badger, Iowa
Best in Show – Webster County

Woolstock, Iowa
Best in Show – Wright County


Scranton, Iowa
#10. Scranton

Ricketts, Iowa
#9. Ricketts

Dexter, Iowa
#8. Dexter

Templeton, Iowa
#7. Templeton

Farnhamville, Iowa #3 - East Side
#6. Farnhamville

Haverhill, Iowa
#5. Haverhill

Pilot Mound, Iowa
#4. Pilot Mound

Moingona, Iowa
#3. Moingona

Coon Rapids, Iowa
#2. Coon Rapids

Ackley, Iowa
#1. Ackley

That’s right! A new number 1! I now stand and wait for the opinions on my rankings to be brought!

I think Alden’s sign is close to breaking into the rankings. Steamboat Rock and Buckeye also have great signs!

I’m not sure what county I will visit next, but I’m hoping to get out on the road again this weekend!

5 thoughts on “Town Sign Project: Hardin County”

  1. Alden would be my #1 if it weren’t for Ackley. That’s pretty amazing.

    Garden City’s is depressing, but I’m going to (with literally no research put into this, so I’m probably wrong) guessing the school left the town, so why bother keeping up the sign? Owasa’s is a little weak, but at least it’s not a corporate sign.

  2. Alden’s sign is really good.

    The more I think about it, the Garden City sign isn’t even really a town sign. It more represents the school district.

    It has lots of things I love though. It has clearly been forgotten. It tributes high school sports accomplishments from a long time. It has a cartoonish figure on it. Unfortunately that cartoonish figure looks to be a Confederate soldier, so that erases everything else I love about it.

    A town as small as Owasa, I was surprised they even had a town sign at all. Especially cause it is literally on Highway 20. There is a church and a bar in that town, so they do have the essentials. But I didn’t see a town hall or post office. But I possibly missed them. The roads in that town were not in very good shape. This is where a RAV4 would have been handy.

    But overall, I really like Hardin County. Lots of cool small towns.

    There is a giant quarry next to Gifford that I’d like to photograph with Rodan139 at some point.

  3. Ah, if they are/were the Rebels, I bet that IS a Confederate soldier. I hadn’t made that out originally.

    I think I tried to stop in Owasa once for a bathroom break once on my way to Waterloo to visit my bio dad before he passed. I did not find a bathroom in which I can stop. I don’t know that there was even a gas station – I think they might have had one of those waystation things where you can go pay by card at the machine, but there’s no attendant or anything?

    A quarry would be really interesting with a drone! A unique subject, for sure.

  4. Glade to see Moingona remains best of show. But the more I see the Kate Shelley part of the sign, the more embarrassed I am. That sign needs to be cleaned up. Do I hear the early sounds of a fundraiser? The sign would have to improve its appearance just to be called pitifull.
    Alden the best town by a dam sight. You go man.
    Richettes, a town or a health problem. Possibly both. Can’t say for sure cause I’m not familiar with either.
    Question. When you look quickly at the bull sign, does it look like a hunchback man with his arms out stretched possibly in a stockade with his back to us? Or it could be just the medication I’m taking.
    As one of the journalists I admire Linda Ellerbe would say, “And so it goes”.

  5. Angie,

    I had an issue where I kept trying to spell Owasa, Osawa. But either way, there isn’t much there. But still more there than there is in Beaver. I can imagine somebody pulling of 20 being disappointed.

    The quarry doesn’t look that impressive from Google Maps, but it is deep enough from the road you can’t see the bottom. There are actually a few places in Hardin County that I’d like to visit again. Eldora, Alden, and Ackley are all cool towns. So is Iowa Falls. The Iowa Falls river valley looks to be beautiful. I might look into renting a cabin at Pine Lake State Park this summer or fall.


    Don’t be badmouthing the Ackley bull. It is one of the greatest pieces of art in this state. Well, better than anything we have in Boone anyways..

    It will be exciting when we get through this pandemic and you can join me on one of these town sign hunting trips.

    If you think the Kate Shelley sign looks bad… don’t even think about going down to the actual depot. It is very sad.

    Alden would clearly be the winner if they weren’t in the same county as Ackley, but it is awful close to breaking the Top 10.

    Ricketts isn’t much of a town, but they do have a great sign.

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