We first visited Arena in May of 2004. Nine years later, we returned to this rolling spot on the prairie in Burleigh County and found things much the same, if somewhat weathered.
St. John’s Lutheran church still stands, though the white paint has weathered considerably over the last nine years. The cinderblock foundation on the east side of the church has continued to crumble, and will likely cause the church to topple into its own basement eventually. The outhouse out back has also crumbled in the last nine years.
The yellow house last occupied by the grandparents of Marlon Leno (his account is in the comments section, here) is obviously visited by vandals and party-hounds from time to time — the devastated window frames tell the story. The small white school house which was moved to the Arena town site from somewhere else still looks solid.
On the trip that led us to Arena on Memorial Weekend of 2013, we were plagued by terrible weather all morning. Flat gray, overcast skies, fog and rain. When we arrived in Arena, we expected more of the same. But something incredible happened the moment we got close to the church — the sun peeked out and some blue sky started to show. We couldn’t help but smile and start snapping.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy