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Category: Fillmore, ND

Benson County
Inhabited as of 4/06

Ten Lost North Dakota Places

Ten Lost North Dakota Places

It’s always a thrill to see enthusiastic residents get involved in saving historically and culturally significant places in their communities, but in North Dakota’s vanishing small towns, the losses frequently outnumber the wins by a significant margin. It’s something we’ve seen time and again in over ten years of photographing North Dakota.

What follows is our personal list, by no means exhaustive, of ten significant North Dakota places that have unfortunately lost their battle with time.

1. The Opp House

This home stood in a field outside Lincoln Valley, North Dakota until the early-2000’s when it was razed due to safety and infestation concerns. It was the former home of the Opp family, who just packed up and left one day, leaving most of their belongings behind. It became a very early icon of our website and we’re saddened to see it go.

2. Hamberg School

A fire claimed this Hamberg School on April 1st, 2012. It was a beautiful place.

3. Stardust 17

We took these photos in August of 2011 and in the fall of 2012, they took down what remains of the screen at Stardust 17, the drive-in theater outside of Grafton, North Dakota.

Fillmore, North Dakota

4. Fillmore

The incredible near-ghost town we visited in 2006 is no more, most of it destroyed by fires of suspicious origin according to some local residents.

Sanger, North Dakota

5. Sanger County House

The Sanger County House, a former boarding house for travelers, and perhaps the most significant original remaining structure in Sanger, North Dakota, has collapsed.

6. Deisem

This church is all that remains of the rural outpost that was once Deisem. This former Seventh Day Adventist Church is severely structurally compromised. When it finally collapses, the above-ground remains of Deisem will pass into history.

7. Bentley Church

Less than two years after we photographed this church in Bentley, the steeple had collapsed. We’re told the church is today just a pile of lumber.

Temple, North Dakota

8. Temple School

Contributor Mark Johnson visited Temple, a true ghost town, in 2004 and photographed this school. In the years since, the school has been moved and re-purposed as an addition to a home.

9. Fargo College

Fargo College opened in 1890 and blossomed into a sizable campus over the next few decades, including the Jones Hall building shown above, and later Dill Hall and a Carnegie Library. Finances took a nosedive however beginning with the Great Depression, and by 1964 all but one remaining original structure had been torn down. The only remaining structure is the former Watson Hall Conservatory of Music at 601 Fourth Street South, which is now the home of the Fargo Fine Arts Club.

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10. Moody’s Department Store

Moody’s was  a landmark department store in Fargo at the gateway to the west. This store stood on the corner of a city block in Fargo with the Waldorf Hotel one block away and the Northern Pacific Depot across the street — it was frequently the first stop for any traveler headed west on the railroad through North Dakota. The Moody’s store was a character in the drama that played out in the Great Fargo Fire of 1893 — home to a fire alarm box for which nobody could find a key. The city bought the building for so-called urban renewal in 1966, and the site is now home to the Bank of the West building, completed in 1973. Many of these Fargo places were featured in our book, Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found.

Bonus Place: Sanish, North Dakota

Upon completion of the Garrison Dam and the subsequent flooding of the Missouri River Valley to create the Lake Sakakawea reservoir, Sanish was abandoned in 1953 and the residents moved to higher ground. We photographed the remaining foundations when the lake was at extremely low-levels in 2005.

If you enjoy posts like this, please check out our hardcover coffee table books in our online store, or pick them up in a store near you.

See also: Building Four Bears Bridge

See also: Ten More Lost North Dakota Places

Fillmore’s Lost Legacy

Fillmore’s Lost Legacy

A half dozen structures or more have been lost to fires of questionable origin in Fillmore in recent years, a story which we addressed here.  As a result, we went back into our photo archive and chose to add to the site these photos, which we’ve never before posted. Most of what you see here is now gone.

 

Fillmore

This building is now gone.

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Fillmore

The rail line which once ran past Fillmore went right through this cut in the ridgeline.

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Fillmore

Order the Book

Fillmore

Fillmore

Fillmore

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Both of these buildings are now gone.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Return to Fillmore

Return to Fillmore

We first visited Fillmore in 2006 and we were completely blown away. Fillmore was one of the most impressive near-ghost towns we had ever been to. At the time, there just a couple of part-time residents, and more than a dozen abandoned structures including a bar, a store, a community hall/gymnasium, an auto shop, and numerous homes.

For some time, we had known the gymnasium had been listed for sale. In summer of 2012, we started hearing from people who said something had happened in Fillmore. A centennial celebration had taken place, and in the process of cleanup before the celebration, a number of structures had been burned. We heard rumors of lawsuits, and got emails from people who told us stories about angry property owners. In an effort to get a little clarity on it, I emailed and spoke with several people on both sides of the conflict over what happened in Fillmore, and this is what I was told:

  • Organizers of the centennial had concerns about the safety of attendees due to the large number of abandoned properties, and attempted to contact property owners about remedying the situation.
  • Property owners gave me varying accounts of whether they were contacted, and whether they were given enough time to comply with requests to secure their properties.
  • Prior to the celebration, a number of properties were cleaned out and valuables removed.
  • The bar, the store, the gymnasium, and the auto shop, all burned.  Numerous houses are all gone from the Fillmore town site since our last visit too.
  • Fire investigators determined the fires which took down the gymnasium and neighboring structures were intentionally set, but nobody can prove who did it.

These are conclusions I was able to draw based solely on conversations and correspondence with people involved.  And it brings several things to mind.  The importance of respecting property owners’ rights, for instance, regardless of whether the property owners are local residents.  On the flip-side, if a property owner lives in a distant location and purchases a property for a song with the intention of ‘doing something with it, someday,’ what responsibility do they have to visit their property regularly and maintain it? And how can these disputes be resolved respectfully?

In a state like North Dakota where properties in remote locations are frequently forfeited to the county for back taxes, then purchased by someone else for a dirt cheap price, these are not easy questions to answer.  But what we can say for sure is that Fillmore, North Dakota will never be the same.  We left with heavy hearts after seeing that fifty percent of the town is now gone.

Here’s a photo from 2006 on the sidewalk in front of the bar and store.

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

And here’s a photo we took in 2012 looking down the same sidewalk.  Both buildings gone.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s a photo of the gymnasium/community center in 2006.

Fillmore, North Dakota

And here’s what remains today.  Just the front steps.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s another view of the bar and store in 2006, note the position of the double pine trees behind the building.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s a photo from 2012.  The double pine trees are still there, but both buildings are gone.

Fillmore, North Dakota

A Fillmore home in 2012.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Here’s the same home in 2006.

Fillmore, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Fillmore, ND

Fillmore, ND

Benson County
Abandoned as of 4/06

Fillmore, ND is in Benson County, about 20 miles SE of Rugby, the geographical center of North America. Fillmore reportedly had 150 citizens in 1920, but that declined to 74 by 1960 and today Fillmore is home to only two part-time residents.  When we arrived, we were surprised to find Fillmore was one fo the best North Dakota ghost towns we’d run across so far.

There is a defined Main Street in town with vacant buildings staring each other down from opposite sides of the street. There are many vacant homes too, not to mention two vacant churches.

The townsite pictured here is actually the second townsite to bear the name Fillmore. The original townsite several miles southeast is now wiped from the prairie.

Like most ghost towns in North Dakota, Fillmore was another casualty of the decline of the train and the rise of the automobile.

CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota

Fillmore, North Dakota

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Fillmore, North Dakota, 2006

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

See also: Fillmore’s Lost Legacy
See also: Return to Fillmore