An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate is a fascinating near-ghost town right on the Canadian border, about 70 miles northwest of Minot. It was originally founded one mile to the north, but moved one mile south to its present site. While the original town site retained the name North Gate (with a space) this town was renamed North Gate South, and then re-dubbed Northgate (without the space) when the post office was established in 1914.

Northgate, North Dakota

Above: The former Northgate Port of Entry building. The road to the east of Northgate is the highway which formerly functioned as the port of entry, but it is now closed and well-posted by US Customs and Immigration. The new border crossing is about a half mile west.

Not wanting to attract the attention of US Customs and Immigration by driving toward the border on a farm road, we took a long walk down the road to get pictures of the former Port of Entry building. We got within twenty feet of the Canadian border.

Northgate, North Dakota

As mentioned by a site visitor in the comments section below, the building in the background of the photo above is the former Canadian Port of Entry building, on the Canadian side of the international border. The road to the right of the building shown above was gated when the former border crossing was closed.

We visited another former border crossing in Noyes, Minnesota.

Northgate, North Dakota

Update: we’ve been told this building has now been demolished. The old Port of Entry is now gone.

Northgate, North Dakota

This is the view from inside the Port of Entry building.  The town outside is the original North Gate.

Northgate, North Dakota

The town in the background of the above photo is North Gate, on the site of the original town platted in 1910.  It is now in Canada.  It’s unclear how may people live there. We did not see any activity. We’ve been told the Canadian government was planning to demolish what’s left of North Gate, if they haven’t already.

Northgate, North Dakota

To get quite specific, in the photo above, the asphalt road in the foreground is US territory.   The grassy ditch just beyond the road (where the railroad crossbuck is planted, just on the other side of a barely visible barb-wire fence) is the US-Canadian border.  The dirt road and homes at the rear are in Canada.

Northgate, North Dakota

A couple years later, we visited another impressive abandoned border crossing in Noyes, Minnesota.

Northgate, North Dakota

Terry ventured onto the road to take this photo, but we escaped without any customs and immigration entanglements.

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

These elevators are along the now closed highway which originally crossed the border.

Northgate, North Dakota

There were a lot of places built in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century that were affected by changing policies at the international border. One of them, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Caribou, Minnesota, was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains.

Northgate, North Dakota

We met a not-so-tactful Northgate resident who first asked if we were lost, and then informed us they didn’t like strangers poking around in their town. All in all, an eventful visit.

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Northgate, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

73 thoughts on “An Abandoned Port of Entry in Northgate, North Dakota

  1. Our family went through this port about a million (it seems) times on the way to Lake Kenosee in Saskatchewan. The red brick port was always a welcome sight. Sorry to see it’s in such a sad state but if it were not, you wouldn’t have these pictures. Thanks.

    1. I recall a gas station “in town” where we’d get gas a inside a cold bottle of pop. I think it was a red brick building back in the 60’s and seemed up and going at that time. I don’t see any picture like this. Anyone else know what I am talking about?

      1. There is a picture of that station above. It is below the private road pics (2 buildings together one is covered in brick paper and was the repair bay, the other was used as the store front. I remember that the owner coached the baseball team when I was in grade school (about 1960). We played against a team from North Northgate.

        1. Larry says this was definitely a Lutheran church, as he was confirmed in this church. It remained a Lutheran church until it closed.

      2. Oh the best cafe in town…a little white building out along the hightway…Rawn’s had a gas pump at one time and they could serve up the best food ever. It was a real hub for everyone on the north side of the border and in the US. Hank and Leona were the owners and in the later years even supplied the Potash haulers with sandwiches and goodies while they unloaded the potash. We called it the truckstop and we loved going there.
        They had a house like building converted to cafe and a portion of the old wood framed custom building as their storage.

  2. Excellent site! Here are links to my two WordPress blog posts about my experiences in North Dakota last year:

    http://jimmyboi2.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/a-posting-from-north-dakota/

    http://jimmyboi2.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/north-dakota-the-final-chapter/

    Feel free to pass these along to all and sundry, okay? I love the state and have had many good times there. My buddys family helped settle (or unsettle) Arena. Also Bluegrass, and another tiny spot near Arena.

  3. Beautiful pictures, thanks for posting. Good reply for resident is, “I’m not a stranger, I’m a fellow North Dakotan.”

    1. I like that ! Had a great time there– everyone was so friendly. I loved walking to Mass in downtown Bismarck from the hotel on the south edge of town.

  4. Thanks for the pictures. I grew up a couple miles west of Northgate, and my parents still farm there. There is still 1 family that lives on the Canadian side of Northgate. And in the pic where you say “the house in the background is in Canada,” that building is actually the old Canadian Port of Entry building. The nice paved road that runs through the deserted townsite was built by a company that was importing Potash from a mine in Saskatchewan. They trucked it down to Northgate where it was loaded onto the railroad and shipped off to be processed into fertilizer. They stopped doing that several years ago. Love your web site, and thanks for all your hard work on this.

  5. My dad worked as the Immigration officer at this port for 4 years (’68 – ’72). We lived in a house to the left of the port of entry and the custom officer’s house was to the left of that. Great times growing up there – wonderful memories.

    1. I also lived in the government house to the left of the port. We lived there while my dad was stationed at Northgate Border Station from 78-80. Even though it was an out of the way place to live, there was always something to do. I had friends that lived two miles west, and also east of Northgate, and I rode my bike up to visit friends on the Canadian side too. Our dog would always get out and run up the road into Canada, and the Port of Entry guy on the Canadian side would always laugh and wave us through so we could retrieve our dog. It was a good two years we spent there. Just about the only downside is having to ride the bus to school in Bowbells.

      1. I worked at the border port in 1989 as Customs and Immigration. Had a couple of pretty good guys to work along side of. Was lazy days of summer back then. All that came across was bar from the bar and these trucks that were empty and hauled something. Can’t remember the company but it was constant.

  6. I was out walking that morning and wondering what those vehicles were doing. I wished I would have come and talked to you . I live in the trailer there. I have lived in Northgate off and on all my life. Who is KOni Ritch cuz I do not recognize the name and I lived there then. There are four families on the north side and three on the south side. The bar is still in operation. Really enjoyed this site. thanks

    1. Hi I enjoyed the pics as I graduated from high school in Northgate it was a thriving toun then our class was 2 boys and 2 girls and the whole class are still alive and well pretty good for graduating in43

      1. I was born in Northgate in1927, and lived there until 1945 when I joined the Navy. It was a wonderful place to grow up as a boy. The pictures brought back many memories. Hard to believe that a town that vibrant in the past is now a ghost town.

    2. Hi I am doing my family tree and I was wondering if anyone may have known about Patrick Walsh or James Walsh. Residing in the 1930s and 40s. Patrick was the father and James was his son who was in his 40’s according to the 1940 census. Patrick was 75 approx. Is there a cemetery there? Where are the town’s records now located?

      Karen

  7. I was the best man at a wedding at the church in Northgate not that many years ago. I also remember my sister and brother-in-law crossing that border after it was closed and dragging a cone several miles under their Datsun. I too have gotten drunk at the bar in Northgate several times along with my father , uncles and cousins. .Lots of good times in the town of Northgate.

  8. My grandparents, Jim and Maude Burke, lived in town during the 40’s and early 50’s, and had a farm southwest of town a few miles, where it eventually became their sons farm, Dwight and Evelyn Burke. I used to work on the farm. But most memorable as a kid when I’d visit grandma and grandpa Burke, I would go down to the store and buy a pack of Wings cigarettes, hahah. I did once anyhow. The store was right along the old entrance to Canada. I remember it well.. Good memories. I was back there in June, 08, and drove along the border east, looking at land I have mineral rights to for oil wells, but none then, wonder if any today.

    Eugene Brumfield
    Kennewick, WA

    1. Jim & Maude Burke were my great-grandparents and Dwight (Dan) & Evelyn Burke were my grandparents. My mother’s name is Carol. I remember spending summer days in Northgate & Flaxton with my grandparents. My great-aunt & uncle, Leora & Hank Rawn, owned & operated the cafe & gas station in Northgate. My great-grandmother, Gertrude Jensen, lived nearby in Flaxton. I loved spending summer days at the Northgate cafe & gas station; some of my favorite childhood memeries!

    2. Jim & Maude Burke are my great-grandparents. Dwight (Dan) & Evelyn Burke are my grandparents. My mother is Carol. I spent many childhood summer days with my grandparents in Northgate & Flaxton. My great-aunt & uncle, Leora & Hank Rawn, ran the cafe & gas station in Northgate and my great-grandmother, Gertrude Jensen, lived in Flaxton. So many great memories! I remember having hamburgers for lunch at the cafe and then if we helped do the dishes Aunt Leora would let us pick candy from behind the counter. What a treat! My older brother, Brian, still has one of the swivel stools from the cafe.

      1. The cafe in Northgate was one of my favorite destinations to bike to in the summer. It was only a little over a mile in from my place. Your aunt and uncle always welcomed us kids coming into buy some penny candy or a pop! I remember the first time I drove past where the cafe stood and just saw the empty lot. It was so sad!

  9. It was so interesting to see the pictures and try to identify them. I was born and raised in Northgate, graduating in 1942. After 1 year of college I came back to Northgate to teach for 2 years, then my parents and I moved away. My father, George Leslie, owned the General Store. My uncle, Sidney Bennett and family, lived on the Canadian side in Northgate, Sask. Does anyone have current pictures of the old main street of Northgate? Thanks for all the comments.

  10. This is Lois (Mellom) Miller And I still live on my farm north of Northgate in Sask. And was glad to see Eldre wrote on this . I come doun to Minot every so often to visit my high school friends Betty and Richard Frick; Her and I still work at the Hostfest. Thanks for putting the pics. of Northgate we do enjoy them .

  11. Just discovered this site and the pictures of Northgate took me home! I grew up just west of Northgate. The old custom house was “new” when I was in high school. The land that it sits on was bought from my father Oliver Tveit. I actually made a quick trip to the farm and Northgate back in September of this year. You will find pictures posted at my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dakotaimpressions/sets/72157625599675290/

    Nice to recognize some of the names posted in the comments section.

    1. The building in the pictures is the one that was replaced by the “new” one you talk about. During the time that we were in high school and college, this building was used as a home and office by the agent for IMC – the company that ran the potash loading faciliy.

    2. Hey Sue, so nice to see your response. So long since I have been in touch. Recently heard from Nancy. Nice to get in touch with people you grew up with.

    3. My grandmother lived in Northgate for several years. Her name is Florence Anderson. I recognize the name Tveit but not exactly sure who you are. I am Merlaine Barnett’s daughter Brenda. Do you know my grandma Anderson or my mom and dad, Merlaine & George Barnett? Loved seeing these photo’s, brought back so many memories….

      1. My Grandpa was Paul Tafelmyer. Your grandmother was his niece. I bought my first car from your uncle Wesley when he went into the Navy. I didn’t know your mother very well but did spend time with all of your uncles.

  12. I lived in NorthGate on the Canadian side in the late 50’s and early 60’s, went to school there, Mrs O. Black was our teacher ,she taught grades 1-7. My dad worked for the CNR railway and for a time we lived in the CNR bunkhouse which was near the steam engine water tower and the remains of the old NWMP detachment outpost.

    Francis LaRoche

  13. I remember the fruit trucks that always came to the gas station in Northgate ND. Mom would always get peaches or apricots and make jam. I thank God everyday for the childhood I had and the experiences that helped make me who I am. Anyone remember Mouse River Park? And the rollerskating rink/barn?

    1. Hmmm…..Needham…..related to Alex and Doris, by any chance….??…I visited Northgate in ’86 and found the old house Maude and Jim Burke lived in at one time…My Mom, Lillian Burke Esse told me to look up Doris, but couldn’t find her up around Oxbow. They were good friends that kept in touch for years after we moved west. I spent some good time with Jarl Mellom, who took me around and showed me some family history. When I went again in ’88, the old house was gone and a trailer parked alongside the foundation…being filled in with rubbish. I don’t know if Doris was still alive or gone, back then. I had spent two small vacations in Northgate growing up….I do remember the gas station,,and getting the treat of ice cold soda pop there. The town was dwindling then, in the 50s…most of the old houses being moved one by one elsewhere. I was born in Oxbow, Sask in 1938….my Mom, Lillian was born and raised in Northgate, married Sever Esse, a Canadian. They moved west in 1939 to Montana, Idaho, and settled in Spokane, Wa in 1941. Growing up, I heard the name ‘Needham’ mentioned many, many times. I believe Alex and Doris were considered my folks best of friends in their lifetimes….as was Jarl Mellom.

    1. Yes there was a gas station on the Canadian side in the 50’s and 60’s, the proprietor was
      Delbert Fredrick if I remember correct, this gas station sold a little bit of everthing from groceries to gasoline, I think we even got haircuts there for a while. I still have good memories of growing up in Northgate Sask, even though our family was pretty much dirt poor at the time.

      1. My favorite memory of that store is the GREAT English toffee they sold. A package cost a dime, so whenever we saved up that much, we would make the long trip there (1 mile) to buy one. I took my wife and young kids there in the early 80’s and bought some for them. I understand that the store closed shortly after that.

  14. I lived in Northgate my father was an agent there on the U.S. side. We lived in the house with the truck parked in front. I miss the town I will go back and take some pics to show my kids were I grew up.

  15. We lived in Northgate from 1975-1978. My husband was the Immigration Agent there during that time. We loved our time there and the wonderful friends we made. Our youngest son was born in Kenmare and we figured that he made the 51st resident of Northgate! We ate at Hank and Leora’s cafe and bought our gas there. Our kids went to school in Bowbells. We haven’t been back in many years, but ocassionally still hear from dear friends. Sad to see the Port of Entry looking so abondoned. Suzanne Alotta

  16. The Canadian townsite has literally been taken over “lock, stock and barrell” by Corus Land Holding Corp. You won’t have heard a word about it in the public media; and beyond pure speculation; all that is known is that “a non Canadian entity has purchased more than 10 acres of Canadian farm land (actually “all” of section 6 Tsp1 Rge2 W2nd and the option to acquire up to another section) and the same entity has paid $30,000 to $50,000 for numerous individual lots within Northgate, SK”. The RM had literally a few hundred lots but they were disposed of Apr. 4/2012 to the same buyer without any public advertisement. My guess is that you better get your pictures; because the streets and lanes are all slated for closure; and Nothgate will soon only remain in your memories. There are facilities promised; but no one local will be a part of any of that development.
    The townsite was seen as an ongoing “liability of negative value”. It was however one of three north-south rail connections in Western Canada; and I have wagered was indeed really prime real estate which will be developed into potash, oil and grain transloading; inland terminals; possible refinery; oilseed crushing and processing facilities and maybe even a steel mill . I mean what can be done on two sections of land and 60 acres of property divided into individual lots on the 49th parallell. The BNSF rail goes right to the front door; and the CNR still owns the rail bed to the heart of the richest potash bed in the world only a hundred miles to the north west.
    Anyway, the fix was in; and the deal has been done. History will be updated further, later.

    1. I remember that this was not a Lutheran church, but either Methodist or Prespriterian. It was restored in the late 70’s or early 80’s by the local historic preservation society. It’s sad that there aren’t enough people left there to carry on the upkeep.

  17. Does anyone remember a family by the name of LARSON with 9 children on the Canadian side? Said “children” have long ago moved away to other provinces. They played baseball against their American counterparts. I worked for one of the 9 “children” who ran a sailing magazine in Toronto, GAM on Yachint, for 50 years, and is now retired after selling the magazine.

  18. Thanks for the pictures. My dad, Trygve Sunde, was a vacation relief U.S.Customs Officer between 1933 and 1936. One of the stations he served was Northgate. The red-brick Customs/Immigration House was great to see.

  19. I’m trying to put together a history of Northgate – does anyone have anything to add? Please let me know.
    Thanks.

    1. Watch out for the international boundary! You will be contacted by phone in the morning. I trust you will be recieving an additional email or two as well. Feel free to call the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Portal or the R.C.M.P. IBET with any questions.

    2. Northgate was one of the last towns to be wired up before REA got started and began bringing electricity to towns that had otherwise been passed over by the power companies. As it is, Montana-Dakota Utilities came into town in 1936.

  20. I grew up south of Northgate about 5 miles. Was wonderful to take a tour back. Loved going to the café of Rawns. My husband managed the elevator there for a period of time, and would eat at the café every day for lunch. Lenora would always have something he liked made up for him. Remember when the fruit truck would stop?

  21. I Michael Kummer and my late brother Jeff, lived in the old customs border house shown from 1973-1975. My step father Jack Edwards was the chief of the IMC operations at the time loading potash that was driven down from Canada and loaded onto BN rail cars at Northgate. It was the big operation in such a little town. Jack married my mother Darlene (Kummer) Edwards in 1973 and we join my mother that year and moved to Northgate from Minot. Spencer Edwards was born in 1974 and lived there until Jack’s death in 1986. Beverly Sosala, then ran the operation until the mid-90’s when it was then cheaper to transport the potash another way. It was my understanding that the old customs house is railroad property.

    1. was Beverly Sosala married to Jim and I were buddies in the 50’s in Baker ND I was sponsor for his first kid Peggy Jim taught school I believe in Bowbels

  22. My grandparents Nick and Elizabeth Schweyen were longtime residents of Northgate. As kids we spent many days there each summer staying with them. The gas station and small store talked about in these posts was owned and run by them until their retirement when they moved to Florida. My grandmother was the postmistress at that time. I still have an Uncle and Aunt who remain residents of the town. The gas station was moved to Lignite after my grandparents left. There were many interesting people that lived there at that time that I still have memories of. Thanks for the posts on this small town. L. T

    1. Hey Larry! I did a rotation with you and Dr Hughes in 1990-91, and Dad, Cal Myers, was a patient of yours. He died in 2012. I went to work with him in Northgate a couple times when he filled in a shift with the US Customs at the old Customs and Immigration house pictured. My grandma used to talk about going to see Satchel Paige play baseball there in Northgate.

  23. My husband and I were travelling North from Icelandic State Park, weren’t paying attention, just enjoying the rural drive when we accidentally crossed the border, realized what it was and got out pronto. Had a good laugh!

  24. i lived a mile south of Northgate until I started high school in Bowbells so went to the school there plus was confirmed with Virginia Knutson in the Luthern Church there. Maybe after Rev Petreson quit it was turned into another denomination. Had a good friend named Karen Burke that lived a few miles to the SE. Many trips up into Canada also as we had a cabin six miles from Kenosee. Many good times and friends there.

  25. Many good memories from living in Northgate. My grandpa was Ed McIntee, he was sheriff there for years, also served in the Legislature from that district. My classmates were Karen Burke and Sharon Freed. We went to Bowbells in 1951 and then out by Westby Montana in later years. Lois Mellom I believe was my 2nd grade teacher. My sister Shirley babysat for the Fricks and the Petersons. Our cousin Margret McIntee taught there also. My mother Stella McIntee taught there in 40’s and some in late 50’s. Our dad had a ranch down south of Ross so the interim years were spent there. Northgate was a pretty thriving little town when we were there. I remember some of the kids from Northgate, SK came over to our school as I don’t believe they had a school at that time or for some reason they wersn’t able to use it. I also remember going to the store in Canada to get that good “canned Jam” nothing artificial about that. We would go many summer days over to the “Canadian Dam” to swim. What a tragedy when the Tweit boy drowned there. I think that put a stop to kids swimming over there.
    It seemed so different when we were up there last with the Helicopters patrolling the border. So different from the sleepy quiet little area. Me and Rose Tafelmeyer had many a picnic “over in Canada just North of their farm. Those were good times and good memories. Patty(Larson) Robbins

  26. Would anyone be interested in talking to me about the border crossing here in the late 1970’s? I just have few specific questions about it. I’m writing a novel about a road trip, and I would like for my characters to spend a morning in Canada. I promise I’m not asking anything intrusive, just a few details about the actual process of border crossing in a small town in 1979. I would appreciate it so very much!

  27. Hello. I need help solving a Northgate mystery and perhaps a “long-lost” family connection. My mother was born in 1945; raised in Portal, ND. Her father was Elgin Kellington – mother Kathleen Kellington. My mom is Eileen Joyce Kellington. Sometime in the year 2000 or 2001, my Grandma received a phone call in Rochester, MN – but my mother was visiting so she answered. It was a woman from Northgate who had questions about Elgin Kellington. She had discovered her mother’s birth certificate. Elgin Kellington was listed as her mother’s father. My mother was shocked and surprised and ended the conversation before learning the details. Despite my mother’s unfortunate response to the initial (and only) attempt to contact us, my brother and I would very much like to have an opportunity to know this family. We understand my mother asked the family not to contact her “ever again” during the brief phone conversation – however – I have since convinced my mom that whatever happened so many years ago (somewhere between 1935 -1945, I am guessing) shouldn’t prevent us from knowing the truth and seeking a chance to meet.

    Here is what I know. The details are sketchy because they are based upon a brief telephone conversation.

    The woman listed as Elgin’s daughter had been hospitalized, or somehow incapacitated, and her children came across her birth certificate.

    One of the children was resourceful enough to discover Elgin died in Portal 1971 but found his widow – my grandma – in Rochester.

    During the phone call, the caller intimated that her siblings and she had always wondered about their mother’s father but that their mother was reluctant to discuss the situation. Unfortunately, my mother was also extremely reluctant to discuss the situation at that moment. I believe she confirmed with the caller a fact she inquired about: Elgin was a life-long alcoholic. My mom ended the conversation soon after she confirmed Elgin’s alcoholism.

    My mother told me about this in confidence. She was very concerned my grandma would find out Elgin fathered a child “out of wedlock” – probably during their marriage. She felt grandma suffered enough humiliation because of him and didn’t need to be upset by this information in her old age. Okay. I understood… But I wondered – and I continue to wonder.

    Is there anyone reading this who recalls a young girl who grew up in Northgate in the 30’s and 40’s who may not have known her “real” father? Or knows of a family who searched for Elgin Kellingtom only to be “shut down” by his daughter?

    I know this is a long-shot. I live in the southwestern US. I cannot travrl to the county courthouse and search old birth certificates to look for Elgin’s name. I don’t know the names of any of the folks involved.

    When my mother calmed down, we discussed this situation. She remembered being told by more than a few people: “There is a girl in Northgate who looks so much like you, she could be your sister!” Of course, my mom never thought another thing about it at the time. I am convinced everyone knew about it; Northgate, Portal, Bowbells, Lignite. My mom was spared the details but she had many aunts and uncles living in the area and surrounding small towns. If a child was fathered outside of marriage it would have been a scandal. (I am referring to the way it was likely treated 80 years ago – not how I feel at all). Of course my heart goes out to the family who tried to get in touch with us. I am sorry they weren’t offered a warm embrace.

    I want to meet and know the family my grandpa and mom never knew. (My grandpa and grandma probably did know about the situation, but due to a completely different mindset from that era, they kept it quiet). I was not allowed to ask Grandma before she died – her mind was fragile.

    I know the details are few and the story is sad. But if anyone can help me, please let me know.

    Thank you.

    Penny Allen

  28. This is Penny Allen. I am happy to report I have been contacted by the family. I do appreciate the kind assistance. Thank you and God Bless.

  29. Love the site, and all the comments. And to cousins Kristie and Tom, love your entries. I grew up summers since 1945 in the Northgate area, at the Ganskop farm. Was just emailed by cousin Alice that the elevators are now gone. Sad time in history to see a town very slowly die and disappear. But the memories never will fade away. Take care all. Mike Bondzin

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