Five Scarce Cities


By Tanya Silverman

Photo courtesy of TravelingOtter.

The United States is the world’s third largest country in terms of both land and population. The 316 million Americans live spread throughout the states in an interesting array of different settings, including major metropolises, sprawling suburbias, college towns, and rural outposts.

While large American cities are world-famous, a great portion of the country is comprised of tiny towns that remain commonly unacknowledged. From one-woman, one-bar towns to condemned scorched mining spots, the US sure has its fair share of strange small places–from sea to shining sea.

Red House, New York

If you say you’re from New York, outsiders often immediately think you hail from the big, bustling city. That common assumption disregards the remainder of the less-populated state–especially Red House, the smallest town that exists within its borders.

Located in a far-western part of New York State and close to the Pennsylvania line, Red House has a total of 38 residents. An actual red house used to stand within its premises, but sadly, the ruby structure was demolished.

Most of Red House’s land has been incorporated into the surrounding Allegany State Park. Visitors tend to rave about this park’s beautiful nature. The area might not be home to a substantial number of human beings, however, the noted population scarcity doesn’t account for the other thriving species. Allegany State Park’s website warns visitors to watch out for the fervent wildlife.

Monowi, Nebraska

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Elsie Eiler is the lone resident of Monowi, Nebraska. She also serves as the mayor and manages the town budget of $500 per year. In addition, Eiler works as a bartender of the local (and only) bar, Monowi Tavern.

Apparently it’s not as lonely in Monowi as you may predict, since there are a number of regulars who frequent the single tavern. Apart from cooking, entertaining, and serving brews at the establishment, Eiler also operates the local literary resource, Rudy’s Library, a structure that she built in honor of her deceased husband.

Tortilla Flat, Arizona

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Located in the Superstition Mountain area, Tortilla Flat is a tiny town that exhibits a residual old-west feel. Its population? Six.

During the 1900s, a number of stagecoach stops were set up along the Apache Trail, but today, Tortilla Flat is the only surviving town. As such, it’s a strong survivor; a fire in 1987 burned down the entire town, except for the remaining post office/motel, one-room schoolhouse, and store/restaurant.

That’s why those who remain in Tortilla Flat dub it as “The Town Too Tough To Die”. They try to attract tourists to sit down in the saloon where the seats are actually saddles and the beers are named Superstition Mule Oil or Snake Venom. If that doesn’t sound gritty enough, you can also try the local desert dessert, prickly pear gelato.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Lyndi & Jason.

Centralia was, in its height, a coal-mining spot where almost 3,000 people lived. It was a functioning town until 1962, when some workers made the fateful, unfortunate choice to burn trash at an abandoned mine.

The trash flames spread until they reached an exposed vein of anthracite coal, which then caused a number of other underground mines to catch on fire. People attempted to put out the ongoing fire for two decades. In 1981, there was a rupture in the ground that killed a 12-year-old boy. The state of Pennsylvania therefore condemned the town.

The fire still burns today in the (ghost) town of 10. As of 2013, it was agreed that the remaining residents of Centralia will be allowed to stay in their homes, but upon their death, their property rights are to be absorbed by eminent domain.

PhinDeli Town Buford, Wyoming

Photo courtesy of Mark Brennan.

Formerly just Buford, the more recently added “PhinDeli” title translates from Vietnamese as “delicious filter”.

Why? The town was purchased last year by Vietnamese entrepreneur Pham Dinh Nguyen as an American base to sell his imported coffee.

Buford was auctioned off by its single resident and former mayor/owner, Don Sammons. Nguyen bid and bought the town for $900,000. Now, he’s the mayor on a charged mission for us to “use coffee powder filtered technology,” “add the can-do attitude,” and, “turn the US town into a Vietnamese coffee hub.”

The inspiration doesn’t stop there. Sammons wrote a book called Buford One, marketed as an “amazing TRUE story of how one man developed a town and then sold it to the world.”

Regardless of whether these small towns are auctioned, condemned, hyped up, coffee-crazed, too tough, or ridden with critters, the existences of each portray quirky elements of America’s diverse culture.