Trying to Revitalize a Dying Small Town

In a corner of Illinois with a turbulent history and a grim future, a punk-rock impresario is trying to make a difference. Bringing a town back to life, one cup of coffee at a time

Nathan Kirkman for TIME

Ace of Cups, in Cairo's decaying downtown, once housed an unemployment office

Cairo, Ill., sits on a narrow peninsula at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, in the heart of a region called Little Egypt for the resemblance it bears to the flat, loamy landscape of the Nile River Delta. Charles Dickens, after a visit in 1842, dubbed Cairo a "dismal swamp ... uncheered by any gleam of promise," although Mark Twain rehabilitated its image 40 years later, making it the destination of Huck and Jim's river voyage in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At its 1920s peak, Cairo was a boomtown of 15,000 people. But as river trade declined, so did...

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