Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

When we ran our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of our first book, we offered supporters the opportunity to name a location they would like us to photograph in exchange for their support.  One of our supporters asked us to visit and photograph the former Minot Air Force Station, about 14 miles south of Minot.

Minot Air Force Station was the first major Air Force installation in North Dakota, predating the other Minot and Grand Forks bases.  It was originally a radar base intended to detect and identify unidentified aircraft in American airspace — a relic of the age before ballistic missiles, when the Soviet threat was from long-range bombers.  Several dozen workers were stationed at the base at any given time from 1952 to 1979 — enlisted, officers and families.  There were also civilian contractors who worked on the base every day.  The base was closed in 1979, but after five years of inactivity, a portion of the base was reactivated in 1984 and used as the Minot Communication Site.  It was deactivated for good in 1997 and subsequently sold to a private owner.

I was excited by the opportunity to photograph Minot AFS since I grew up in Minot, in a military family, and I had spent considerable time on the base in the mid-70′s when it was still active.  My primary memories of the base were of spending a night at a babysitter’s house watching “Planet of the Apes” on TV, and on a separate occasion, I had a bad bike accident because my kid brain didn’t comprehend that going downhill on a bike with no chain meant I also had no brakes (no handbrakes on most bikes in those days). Formative memories for me, so I was interested to revisit a place I had not been since about 1975-76.

Terry and I arrived at the end of a long day of ghost towning and we were somewhat taken aback by what we found.  After the station closed for good in 1997, there was talk of redevelopment of the site.  When you hear “housing development” you imagine something other than what actually happened at Minot AFS.  I struggle to describe the conditions of Minot Air Force Station without sounding insulting to those who live there, but in the interest of accuracy, I’ll just be straightforward about what we saw.

No “redevelopment” of any substance has occurred at Minot AFS.  After years of abandonment, the former family housing units on the base appear to have have been simply rented or sold to low-income families with very little in upgrades or improvements.  Most of the homes on the south side are badly in need of a coat of paint.  With nobody to maintain the streets, potholes have opened up in many places.  Every home appears to be occupied.

Meanwhile, at the crest of the hill on the north side of the base, there are several inhabited housing units sprinkled among a dozen abandoned military buildings.  Demolition debris and broken glass litter the streets. There are travel trailers parked in close proximity to one another in one section of the base — possibly housing for workers traveling to the oil patch.  We saw multiple groups of children playing in what most would consider a distressing environment.

As we photographed some of the obviously abandoned structures, like the former barracks for the single men who were once stationed on the base, we were surprised to see people occasionally come out of these buildings — places you wouldn’t expect people to be.  One woman exited a very rundown structure and came walking down the hill, stumbling a little bit, clearly intoxicated.  Her silhouette is barely visible near the left edge of the third photo from the bottom below.  Click it, then click it again on the ensuing page to view it full-size.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

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Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

This building was an interdenominational church which formerly served the base staff.  It’s now used for storage.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Quite a few softball games happened here over the years.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Terry gets a photo from the top of the site.

Minot Air Force Station

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Minot Air Force Station

The government constructed homes on the site all looked pretty much like this one. This one was a little nicer than some of the others.

Minot Air Force Station

This little guy pulled his leash free and came over to say hello.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Writers/Bloggers: Ghosts of North Dakota intellectual property and photo use guidelines can be found here.

Comments
8 Responses to “Minot Air Force Station”
  1. ruby says:

    It was nice to read the commentary on the pictures from someone who spent time here when it was active. Some of the old base housing from Minot AFB was bought by a private party and relocated out there semi-recently. There is a small part of this area at the top of the hill that is still in use by Minot AFB, fyi. I went there once and thought the whole place was very “The Hills Have Eyes.” Since I’d never been there, my colleague drove us around, and people literally came out of the houses and buildings to look at us. It was … quite the experience. But your pictures are beautiful!

  2. Dean Orvik says:

    Here’s a link to a website about the unit stationed at this base, it has pics from people who were stationed there (shots of holiday parties, the base, people in their rooms etc.) as well as some cool history, like the itinerary for their armed forces day event where they would show the people of Minot what they do. As a retired Air Force man, I spent most of my time overseas (over 13 of my 20 years), but it is interesting to look at this site and still feel a connection to how the AF was before I joined. I’m from Mandan, and we used to drive past this site going to visit relatives in Rugby back in the 70′s when it was still open, and I remember always having been curious about the place. There was a detachment of the same radar network just outside of Bismarck which gave my Cub Scout troop a tour in probably around 1978 (very cool, very high tech), so after that I had a much better idea. Anyway, here is the link:
    http://minotafs.org/

  3. Shirley Wallace says:

    My late husband Bob Wallace was stationed here twice during his 26 year career in the A.F. I met him while on his 1st tour. We lived in Housing from 71 to 74 and enjoyed our time here. Our girls roamed the housing area many times along with all the other “Rug Rats” ,”Curtain Climbers” as the children of military were called back then!! Glad to see this place included in the Ghosts of North Dakota. All my family is from the Benedict area.

  4. Kelley says:

    I just want to clear something about the buildings and residents who live there. For the most part all good people, not all are low income, we definitely weren’t. The housing in Minot was crazy when we moved there, we thought it would just be a temporary place to live for a few months till we found something in town, then the flood hit in 2011. We couldn’t find anything, we were stuck, with some painting and work inside one of the duplex it was liveable, but the outside was a different story. All those houses and old duplexes are owned by a man who lives in Max, he doesn’t care for anything out there, the wind rips the siding off and the shingles off the house, no painting is done, lucky if the grass is mowed in the summer and the snow is plowed in the winter. He charges some people 400 a month for rent, last I heard it up near 1,200 a month for those decrepit places, clearly taking advantage of the oil situation. Anyway, I think the blame needs to be placed on him and not on the decent people living there, who try their best to keep that place decent with no help.

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  1. [...] Finley, North Dakota.  Closed in 1979, the site now functions as a landfill.  Similar to the Minot and Fortuna Air Force Stations, Finley AFS was a ground control intercept facility tasked with [...]

  2. [...] notable former base in North Dakota is a former Early Warning Radar base just south of Minot. At last check, that base had been bought by a developer and turned into a housing [...]

  3. […] Minot AFS is a former radar base about ten minutes south of Minot. It was the first major Air Force installation in North Dakota, predating the other Minot and Grand Forks bases. It was originally a radar base intended to detect and identify unidentified aircraft in American airspace — a relic of the age before ballistic missiles, when the Soviet threat was from long-range bombers. The former administrative and radar structures are now abandoned with the former housing units functioning as private residences. […]

  4. […] in Divide County, North Dakota, about 6 1/2 miles from Canada and 8 miles from Montana.  Like the Minot Air Force Station, Fortuna AFS was a GCI (Ground Control Intercept) base designed to detect unidentified aircraft and […]



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