Park your car, take a walk downtown and imagine Sterling’s early majesty as Queen City on the Plains.
Main Street is now a mix of grand historical buildings and vibrant shops for myriad tastes. Start with the stately and historically preserved Logan County Courthouse and enjoy the paintings of early life by local artist Eugene Carara and framed original linen blueprints by architect John J. Huddart which adorn the walls.
Across the street you can see the old Andrew Carnegie Library which was restored and remodeled as a bed and breakfast and is now a private residence.
Just to the north is the First Presbyterian Church, built in 1918 and still in use with an unaltered exterior and original stained glass windows.
Stroll a couple blocks to check out the restored Union Pacific Depot, now home to the Logan County Chamber of Commerce, which has seen visits by Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover (who was noted to have a hole in his shoe), and Thomas Dewey.
Browse the variety of specialty shops and antique stores before enjoying a break at the Old Town Bistro (former Bill’s Motors building built in 1926 with a touch of Spanish colonial style).
For a free art fix, visit the galleries at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling. Not only is the two-year educational institution one of the best in the nation, it’s also chock full of works by local and guest artists.
The Peter L. Youngers Fine Arts Gallery hosts several notable exhibits each year, including the Facility Exhibit in December and the NJC Student Exhibit at the end of the spring semester.
Tennant Art Gallery in the Zane Hays Student Center features an impressive collection of western art, and the E.S. French Lounge is home to the William Sanderson Collection. William Sanderson taught for many years at the University of Denver and was an artist-in-residence at NJC during the ‘70s.
Home on the Range
While not technically in Sterling, the town of Merino is close enough to be included in the list of local “must see” places.
Located just 15 miles southwest of Sterling, this interesting burg of under 300 people is not only the home of sculptor Bradford Rhea and the former home of legendary radio and television host Ralph Edwards, it is also the locale for Wisdom Rides which for over four decades has specialized in manufacturing portable amusement rides such as Dragon Wagon, Alien Abduction (Gravitron-Starship), Sizzler, and Tornado.
But, this small town’s pièce de résistance is the block-long, Merino mural painted to resemble original Merino businesses, with other bits of community history worked in. After several dilapidated buildings had been demolished, aluminum store fronts were made and painted according to a model created by Rhea. The result is a colorful row of clever depictions of Merino’s past. A life-like rendition of Wisdom Rides’ founder, the late Jerry Wisdom, stands in one of the painted doorways, waving to passers-by.
Merino’s characteristics are worth the short drive, and don’t miss the great herd of American bison grazing at the McEndaffer Cattle Company along the way!