The end always comes. As we’ve documented here, here, and here, our historic places are frequently losing the battle with time and the elements. The places shown here, two churches, a school, an Air Force installation, and a Nordic ski jump, were all photographed in the last decade or so, and now — in the blink of an eye really — they are gone. This is why we shoot ’em… because too many of them share this fate. Here are five more lost North Dakota places.
We visited Brantford in 2013 and found a near-ghost town (we’ve since been told it’s officially a ghost town these days) with a crumbling public school and this derelict church inhabiting a shady spot in the grass behind a shelter belt of trees. The bell tower had been removed and placed in the grass alongside, and it occurred to me that the pose — steeple in the front and sanctuary behind — conjures the image of a shepherd leading one of his flock, into the afterlife perhaps.
A follower sent us an update on Twitter to let us know the Brantford Church was nowhere to be found when he last visited.
Update: Nancy Ludwig reports the church and farm burned in March of 2016. (See comments)
The Gascoyne school was not in great shape when we first visited in 2007, and it had deteriorated significantly by the time we visited again in 2015. About two dozen of the former students’ desks were stacked inside, but a site visitor informed us the school was burned and/or razed in 2016, desks and all. We’re told the school was structurally deficient to the degree that the desks would have been dangerous to salvage. What a shame.
When we first visited this place in 2012, we incorrectly identified it as a ski jump at Sully’s Hill, near Devils Lake, but it’s actually a short drive east of Sully’s Hill. This is the ski jump at the former Skyline Skiway, and it had a colorful history. The collective comments on this place include reports of serious injuries that landed a few brave (or foolish) jumpers in the hospital, tales of Olympians who jumped on this hill, and hundreds of memories from former kids who spent their formative years enjoying this place. In 2016, a visitor reported the remains of the ski jump blew down in a windstorm and just a small portion of it remained standing.
Ghost town Temple, North Dakota lost its schoolhouse a few years ago when the owner moved it to a new location to be used as a residence, and a site visitor has informed us the former Temple Church is gone now, too. With the few structures there were still standing in this true ghost town, the loss of the school and church takes Temple a significant step beyond ghost town, toward archaeological ruin.
Fortuna Air Force Station
Fortuna Air Force Station was perhaps the largest of the abandoned military facilities we’ve photographed, a collection which has grown to include the Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (the pyramid), Minot Air Force Station, and Finley Air Force Station. It was a radar facility designed to track incoming aerial threats — Soviet bombers — in the days that preceded the advent of the ICBM. As missiles became the norm, the mission of this station evolved, but it couldn’t beat the pace of change. It was partially deactivated in 1979, and closed for good in 1984. In the last couple of years, all of the remaining structures have been razed with the exception of the main concrete tower which once held a large radar dish. We’ve been told it will be maintained as a communications tower for civilian purposes.
What do you know about any of these places? Have a memory? Are there any other places we’ve photographed which no longer stand that we should know about? Please share it in the comments below.
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy