Back to Balfour

Back to Balfour

We visited Balfour in November of 2014, nine years after our first visit, to get some photos of all the things we missed the first time. We actually tried to revisit Balfour in 2012, but a road construction crew had traffic at a complete stop on Highway 52, complicating our travel schedule, and we decided to wait until another time, so it was nice to finally get back there.

Balfour, North Dakota

Most notably, Balfour has this abandoned church standing right along Highway 52. If you drive the stretch between Minot and Harvey, you’ll see it.

Balfour, North Dakota

We’re told this church was originally in Verendrye, North Dakota, a near ghost-town where only a farm and the facade of the old school remain standing.

Balfour, North Dakota

On this particular weekend, winter was about two minutes away, and the skies had been flat, gray, overcast the whole time. Balfour was our last stop before heading for home.

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This church, several derelict homes, along with several inhabited ones, stand on the south side of Highway 52.

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

On the north side of the highway, some familiar sights… like the former Post Office and Community Hall, covered in gorgeously rusted tin siding.

Balfour, North Dakota

The sunset was approaching and the street light was on.

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Right across the street, the former bank.

Balfour, North Dakota

As we were photographing this area, we ran into the Mayor of Balfour who informed us there are now about 20 residents in town. He also told us about the former fire station and jail, and gave us permission to shoot it as long as we promised to be careful.

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This little non-descript building once functioned as the fire station and jail in Balfour.

Balfour, North Dakota

Inside, the firefighters’ jackets still hang on the wall. The years they’ve been hanging here can be seen demonstrated in jacket number four. The original red wall paint remains on the wood where the jacket has shielded it from the elements that have been pouring in through the open roof for years. Winds have blown the jacket back and forth on the hook, wearing a fan shape on the wood, and the silhouette of jackets that have fallen on the floor can still be seen on the wall.

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

The siren still rests on top of a tower outside.

Balfour, North Dakota

This is in the room on the other side of the wall from where the jackets are hanging.

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

The door on the left leads to the Balfour town jail. Seeing this chair with the ashtray on the floor made me imagine a jailer, sitting here smoking cigarettes, waiting for a county deputy to arrive and take custody of a prisoner.

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

The jail cell is made from two by fours, and when the door is closed, it is pitch black inside.

Balfour, North Dakota

These two abandoned homes stand on the west side of town.

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

The clouds had been around all day, but just as we were finishing up shooting this school, the sun ducked below the cloud cover and illuminated Balfour in a beautiful golden light that would only last about twenty minutes before sundown.

Balfour, North Dakota

There was another school in Balfour before this one.

Balfour, North Dakota

Part of the wall has collapsed on the south side of the school.

Balfour, North Dakota

Trees have sprouted between the slabs that once served as the basketball court.

Balfour, North Dakota

Just north of the school, this building with a collapsed roof hides in the trees. We intended to get a closer shot, but the changing light conditions made us adjust our priorities. Perhaps next time.Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

There’s something hidden in the photo above. Can you spot it? (Click the image, then again on the next page to see it full size.)

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

We have featured Balfour in several of our hardcover coffee table books.

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Balfour, North Dakota

Photographer Ria Cabral sent us some photos of Balfour in winter you can see here.

Balfour, North Dakota

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.

20 thoughts on “Back to Balfour

  1. Visited Balfour once and did some UrbEx missions there. I have several photos from the inside of one of the houses you visited (the one where you show the stairway with its large railing). You should have gone all the way to the attic; there’s a nice surprise up there. Specifically, a huge trunk-like box that had been sent to that house like a piece of mail. The name of the person who lived there was still written on the lid.

  2. Our family owned the school and lived on the grounds years after it closed. My dad put in the large garage door for his shop (the old gym) and he cemented the basketball court for my brother and I when we were kids. I love the pics. Great memories!

    1. Tammy Schiele…that name sounds familiar. Did you ever work at the Choice Hotels International call center in Minot when it was open?

  3. I think this latest visit of yours is now my favorite. Magnificent. I wish I could spend the day there tomorrow with my wife. The last vestiges of both the fall season and of the day are depicted for us in a place that is so barren yet beautiful and alluring. Thank you.

      1. I was wondering if there were some animals in there. I think I am seeing the outline of a deer and an eye between the two tree trunks on the extreme right. Thank you. : )

  4. This is a great site and I really love coming.back and looking at the pictures. So sad but so many memories. I look at the buildings but also the spaces in between and remember what had been there.
    The little house in the trees north of the school was always a mystery. Even back in the seventies it looked like it had been abandoned many years before. From what little we could see through the dirty, dusty windows, it looked like someone had just left one day and never returned. It still had some furnishings but was a mess from not being cared for in years. I have always wondered what it’s story was. Hope you can get some close ups of it sometime.

    1. Hi Melinda,
      I was a classmate of your older sister. I used to sneak back to that house and wondered what it’s story was. Maybe Tami knows more?
      Brenda (Locker) Duchscherer

  5. My grandparents were Laura and Nels C. Bille who lived in Balfour for many years. They had two daughters, Gladys Bille (my mom) and Amelia Bille. My grandfather owned a lot of businesses and land in Balfour, including a hotel and gopher poison company. He was a butcher, stock broker, lawyer, auctioneer, etc. He use to play an accordion (which I still have) at barn dances. His only surviving grandchildren are me (Carol Tiffin) and my cousin (Roland Graham). I just wonder if anyone out there remembers any of the Bille family.

    1. My mother would mention a Bille, but I remember it sounding like Yan C. Bille. I believe she went to the attorney to have a letter written up because the person who employed her did not want to pay her personally, he only wanted to pay my mother’s father. My mother was very feisty. She warned the guy that he could pay her father and that he would still be paying her later.
      My mother also spoke of a healer who lived in the Balfour area I believe, but I can’t remember the man’s name.

  6. Hope my comment doesn’t get interrupted again. Right in the middle it went to another page and I lost everything I was trying to say. Balfour — so beautiful and yet so sad. How I would LOVE to see the insides of these buildings to hear, and see, and smell the things there of the past — to learn and experience things that happened there……..and yes, one CAN experience those things — with your heart, with your soul, with the very things with which you grew up. I am very curious as to what happened here. There seems to be so much which could still be done here. Was there a major catastrophe of some sort? Hope I get to find out more. On the picture of the church I am still having difficulty finding what is hidden. Can someone help me with this? I love this. Thank you.

  7. Just found this site. My wife and I will be going to ND first part of June 2016. She has never been to ND, so she is in for culture shock! I grew up in Velva and Voltaire, ND. Balfour was a few miles east of Voltaire on HWY 52. My family move in the fall of 1955 to Idaho and I have resided in Washington since 1976. There were a few people around in Balfour and Voltaire when we left. Velva- in comparison- still has 240 + people. A regular thriving metropolis, huh?

  8. My mother, Gladys L. (Bille) Ruemke was born in Balfour February 1, 1904. During the early 1900’s my grandfather, Nels Christian Bille, owned the majority of Balfour. He was a jack of all trades including butcher, lawyer, owner of a gopher poisoning company, auctioneer, hotel owner, and owned a lot of farm land which he leased out. He use to play the accordion at barn dances and I still own that accordion. He was married to, Laura (Larson) Bille and they had another daughter, Amelia (Bille) Graham. I’m the daughter of Gladys, age 79 and lives in Rancho Mirage, CA. and Roland Graham is the son of Amelia, age 86 and lives in Helena, MT. We discovered that we have Bille relatives in Denmark whom we keep in touch with.

  9. Did you take a look inside the building that used to be a restaurant? It has a bunch of pickups parked there.
    In the ’70’s, we would beg our parents to stop there.
    I found out that some of my friends, who traveled Hwy 52, also went to the restaurant.

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