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Reasons to Move There: Depot Plaza, where Amish shoppers park their horses and buggies, is a downtown meeting place and festival site. Nice mix of old and new: John's Butcher Shop uses 500 meat lockers to store food for the Amish, who shun electricity at home; sports agent Mark Simpson, who lives here, shows his clients the money via fax or modem.

Reason to Have Second Thoughts: A devout town. Hell-raisers need not apply.


Population: 11,500

Median Housing Price: $72,000

Why It Didn't Die: It has been called Pontiac's Second Rebellion (the first began in 1763, when the eponymous Indian chief made war against the English). People here rose up against high-volume discounters draining the life from downtown. The old city hall was turned into a low-rent "business incubator" for successful niche shops that went on to colonize Main Street.

Reasons to Move There: Brick-paved streets, canoes in the Vermilion River beneath a swinging wooden bridge that leads to the town park. And gooseberry pie at the Appletree Restaurant.

Reason to Have Second Thoughts: 1,600-inmate, maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center.


Population: 13,000

Median Housing Price: $65,000

Why It Didn't Die: Once home to one of the world's largest sawmills, the town moved from wood chips to microchips, attracting supercomputer maker Cray Research.

Reasons to Move There: It's Annie Hall's hometown. After hours, computer mavens snowmobile across Lake Wisotta and drink Leinenkugel Beer, a small regional brand founded in 1867. Want to live downtown? An old shoe factory is now a sparkling, affordable apartment building.

Reason to Have Second Thoughts: If you're not a Packers fan, you'll be awfully lonely on Sundays.


Population: 18,000

Median Housing Price: $70,000

Why It Didn't Die: Mark Twain's "white town drowsing" on the banks of the Mississippi was regularly swamped by floods until a breakwater was built in 1992. When it held during the Great Flood of 1993, downtown's comeback was assured.

Reasons to Move There: Twain Memorial lighthouse anchors a grand riverfront park; next to the bronze Tom and Huck statue is the Twainland Cheesecake Co., a booming business (producing 110 varieties) run by a formerly homeless woman and staffed by onetime welfare moms. Requisite latte bar just opened downtown.

Reason to Have Second Thoughts: That big river could jump its banks again.


Population: 13,500

Median Housing Price: $60,000

Why It Didn't Die: When the oil refinery closed down in 1982, this boomtown went bust--22,000 of its 30,000 residents moved away, J.C. Penney and other retailers shut down, and arsonists torched parts of downtown. But in 1986 it joined the Main Street program, began renovating 200 buildings and cashed in on the "heritage tourism" craze (Okmulgee is the capital of the Muskogee Indian Nation).

Reasons to Move There: Trophy bass in Dripping Springs Lake, trophy pies at the Pecan Festival. The town is watching The Grapes of Wrath in reverse as Okies from California--whose families left here in the Dust Bowl '30s--come streaming home.

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