CYLINDER, Iowa (KCAU) — Welcome to Cylinder, Iowa. Mayor Harry Borman says it’s a great community. The population of Cylinder? 82.

“We have 5 – 6 operating businesses. It’s been a nice place to live. We’ve been here 48 years, just love it,” Borman said.

Spoken just like you would expect the town’s mayor to do, but the truth is, like many rural Iowa towns, Cylinder is a shadow of what it once was.

Born in 1885, Cylinder is on the comeback, just not like what you might expect.

“Arnie Heng, the ex-mayor of Cylinder came to me and he says our old depot is about ready to fall down. Could you make me a copy of it before it does,” said Joe Joyce.

Joyce made a living in the grocery business. In the 70s, he owned and operated five grocery stores and always made sure that the meat and produce made the cut.

At 81 years old Joe is now retired, but he continues to cut away. His work now, however, is priceless and takes place in his woodshop. That deteriorating Milwaukee Railroad Depot was the start of something.

“We had a community event December 17 and 18 and people came and couldn’t believe it looked so detailed,” said Borman. “A year later, Joe came in and said I’m going to make more of those buildings.”

“I got reading through that and it got so interesting. I said, ‘By God, I’m going to make some more of those buildings,'” Joyce added.

Since completing the depot in 2018, Joyce has replicated 19 of the town of Cylinder’s original business buildings. He uses the town’s centennial book as a guide.

“Here’s the livery and stables that I built. Martini gas station, I built. There’s First Bank, the original bank. Tilford Egland has come up with a lot of images,” said Joyce. “Most of these buildings I’ll get them done in a week or a week and a half.”

Along with walnut harvest off the family farm, Joyce uses floor underlayment for the walls and floors, cutting strips of wood to a sixteenth of an inch for shingles.

“I tip the blade 4 degrees and that makes a nice shingle and siding. When I started this, I couldn’t believe all the businesses in that town.” Joyce said.

Of the buildings now on display, including the depot moved to the city park in the 70s, five are still standing. Some like what’s now known as the Haacks Nest, reborn several times over.

“A lot of people don’t remember how vibrant turn of the century communities were. That’s probably the high point for our population in rural Iowa,” said Borman. “Been the hardware store, the grocery store and now a bar and restaurant. People remember the post office, the telephone company.”

“There was a jail in town and supposedly it got moved to a farm and if I get a picture I’m going to build it,” said Joe. “I think life was a lot better when the small towns were alive and going. I’m not a Walmart man. I’d rather go to the corner store.”

Thanks to Joe Joyce, the small town of Cylinder and the businesses that once lined the streets won’t soon be forgotten.

“I think it’s getting some notoriety. It’s been a great way to remember our city,” Borman said.

Joe said there is more building to be done.

“If I live long enough. I enjoy it and what I really enjoy is people looking at it and giving me a compliment. Getting a compliment out of people this day and age is hard to do. It’s been a fun project for me,” Joyce said.

And for all those who now know a bit more about the town of Cylinder.