Alliance, Nebraska


Alliance was a bit out of my way, but like most visitors, I was drawn here by Carhenge, the replica of Stonehenge made with some of Detroit’s finest products, just north of town.  Even though Carhenge was my destination, Alliance made for a nice stop.

Alliance’s core business district lines up along Box Butte Avenue, just north of Nebraska Route 2.

Alliance has several neat and tidy downtown blocks, which is exactly what I had come to expect in Nebraska’s small towns. It’s obvious that downtown’s old anchor store was the imposing Newberry’s Hardware.  The store even had its own water tower, which still bears the company name.  The Newberry building now sits vacant (as of 2008), but it has been granted historical status by the state of Nebraska, and a nonprofit organization now owns it, along with three other old buildings on Box Butte Avenue.  Exactly what will be done with the old buildings is still up in the air, but at least it seems they are in good hands.

Next to the old Newberry store, the stylish Alliance Theater is still showing movies.

Alliance’s alleys are fun to walk down, too.  In fact, alleys are where I take some of my most interesting small-town pictures.

Redmans Shoes is still open for business.

It’s good to have options, when you can only go one way.

Once I emerged from the alley, I crossed Box Butte Avenue for a look at the Box Butte County Courthouse.

You’ll be able to know if other cars on the road are from Box Butte County, if you watch for plates that begin with the number 65.  When Nebraska began its license plate program in 1922, Box Butte County ranked 65th in registered automobiles.  So now, plates assigned to cars in the county all begin with that number.

By far, my favorite place in Alliance is Patty’s Zesto, a burger and ice cream stand on 3rd Street (Nebraska Route 2 — the main east-west road through town).  At first, I stopped to take a picture of the shop’s neat neon sign, but when I saw the woman behind the counter watching me, I felt obligated to check out the selection.  The Zesto shop has dozens of flavors of milkshakes, and the woman (was it Patty? I’m not sure…) recommended blueberry.  It was, by far, the best milkshake I had tasted since my experience with a huckleberry milkshake outside of Glacier National Park.

I had never seen one before, but it turns out, Zesto restaurants used to be a chain of drive-in’s with locations across the country.  The first one opened in Indiana in 1949.  Although the franchise eventually failed, many individually-owned restaurants still operate under the Zesto name, and some still feature a similar neon sign.

As you pass through Alliance, there are plenty of signs pointing to our next stop, Carhenge.  Either watch for those signs, or follow Rte. 2 to Rte. 87, and head north.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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