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Random Points of Interest

Oldest Standing Structures in North Dakota: Gingras Trading Post

Oldest Standing Structures in North Dakota: Gingras Trading Post

Long before the arrival of the settlers brought by the Homestead Act of 1862, this part of North Dakota was a center of commerce in the fur trade. The Metis people, a mixed-race culture of Native Americans and French, English, and Scottish explorers, lived and traded in this area throughout the 18th and 19th centuries (French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, arrived in what is now North Dakota in 1738).

GhostsofNorthDakota.com

Gingras (pronounced Zhin Graw) Trading Post is in Pembina County, northeast of Walhalla, about four miles from the Canadian border.  The buildings shown here are more than 170 years old, the oldest standing structures in North Dakota. (Note: The Kittson Trading Post store in Walhalla was built about the same time, but was moved from its original site, so technically, these are the oldest structures still on their original foundations.) The store shown here was built in 1843 (the State Historical Society says 1844) by Antoine Gingras. At that time, this settlement, known as St. Joseph, was considered part of Pembina, a pre-Dakota Territory settlement of Native American, Metis, and European Settlers. It would later be renamed Walhalla.

Gingras Trading Post

The log structure shown above was the store, and doubled as a dwelling until the house was completed. Much later, after the Trading Post had fallen out of use, this building was converted to a barn. It was later restored to its original appearance, and that is how it looks today.

Gingras Trading Post

According to the State Historical Society:

The restoration project was partially funded by a National Park Service historic preservation grant. Historic and archeological research was conducted by Nick G. Franke of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and Nancy Woolworth of the Minnesota Historical Society. Foss, Englestad, and Foss of Fargo served as architects, and Grant Braaten of Walhalla was the general contractor.

Gingras Trading Post

Inside the Gingras Trading Post. Behind the pelts hanging on the wall you can see a few of the lighter-colored new logs that were used when the trading post was restored.

Gingras Trading Post

Trade through this area was primarily via the Red River Ox Cart Trails, a network of trails that facilitated trade between British North America (later Canada) and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Gingras Trading Post

Gingras Trading Post

Gingras Trading Post

In the attic of the trading post. Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba, was exiled from Canada in 1870, and reportedly hid out in this attic for a time.

Gingras Trading Post

Gingras Trading Post

The building shown above was the home built on the site shortly after the store. It has also been restored to it’s former appearance.

Gingras Trading Post

Under those blue walls is a wood-lath construction, assembled from split saplings, nailed to underlying logs with square, iron nails, and plastered with clay which was then troweled smooth.

Gingras Trading Post

In my personal opinion, this part of North Dakota is the anti-Medora. It is rich in history but virtually unknown, undeveloped, and under-promoted. Pembina Gorge, just west of this trading post, is an absolute treasure that most know nothing about. What do you know about Gingras Trading Post? Please leave a comment below.

Click Here to visit the State Historical Society’s page on the Gingras Trading Post.

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Haunting Lignite Church

Haunting Lignite Church

For years, this church has been marked on one of my maps as “Haunting Lignite Church,” a descriptor I pasted on it due to its weathered exterior, devoid of paint, and the tall steeple that stands high above the prairie. I found out about it a long time ago, and knowing nothing about it, marked it as a place I wanted to photograph the next time I was in the area.

Haunting Lignite Church

In July of 2016 I finally found myself passing by and stopped to get a few photos. The church is in Burke County, just a mile southwest of Lignite, at the end of a long road into a farmer’s pasture. I posted some of my phone photos on our Facebook page, and visitors Jade Feldner and Lisa Knutson both commented to say this church is in their family’s pasture. It originally stood in Lignite, and was a Norwegian Lutheran Church. It was moved here at some point in the past and was used as a barn for a time.

Haunting Lignite Church

Haunting Lignite Church

What do you know about this church? Please leave a comment below.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church is in Pierce County, about five miles west of Rugby, North Dakota, or ten miles west of another place we recently visited, Meyer Township School #1.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

This church is particularly beautiful, and you can see it from US Highway 2 if you find yourself traveling in the area. I’ve driven by it a dozen times and always said “I’ll stop next time.” This time, I finally did.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

There is surprisingly little information available about this church, so if you know any of its history, please leave a comment.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

There is a small cemetery out back, and the Pierce County Tribune ran a story in 2010 about a gentleman who was working to catalog all the graves. The old pump remains behind the church, too.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

What a pleasant change of pace this was. I approached the door to see what the sign said, and I was very surprised to find it read:

“Welcome to Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church. This church was built in 1915 by Norwegian settlers to this area. No regular services were held after 1988. You are welcome to enter the church and look around. PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL. Secure the door when you leave. Thank you.”

I was very grateful that the property owner took the time to make this sign, and that I was able to go inside and look around.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

I pushed through the double swinging doors which led to the sanctuary and my jaw dropped. Aside from a thick coating of dust, it looked like the parishioners just walked out of this place yesterday.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Of all the pews in the church, this one in front of the piano appears to be a favorite sitting spot. I couldn’t resist the urge to plunk out the opening bars of “Let It Be.”

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Like prairie churches? Check out our hardcover book, Churches of the High Plains.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

This church is still in such good condition, I really hope someone takes up the cause before it begins to deteriorate. The inside is largely dry, the windows are intact, and a new roof would go a long way toward extending the life of this place by decades.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

After I finished photographing the main floor, I headed for the basement. The door at the bottom of the steps was unlocked, but it required a firm shove to open.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

On the other side of the door, the darkened dining room. It was considerably darker than it appears in these photos, and I had to stand there for a moment to let my eyes adjust.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The fact that these items were still present and largely unbroken is emblematic of the respect with which previous visitors have treated this church. Let’s hope future visitors continue to treat this place with the same reverence.

Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Nielsville Bridge Drone Flyover Video

Nielsville Bridge Drone Flyover Video

A while back we posted a blog about the Nielsville/Cummings bridge over the Red River between Cummings, North Dakota and Nielsville, Minnesota. The bridge has deteriorated significantly and is presently closed pending replacement by a new bridge.

Max Schumacher (YouTube Channel here) recently visited and sent us an email to share the drone video he captured. It’s amazing footage of this historic Red River crossing, and it’s available in HD too, so if you have the capability, stream it to your largest TV for full effect.

Video by Max Schumacher. Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Short Creek Church & Cemetery

Short Creek Church & Cemetery

Short Creek Church is in northern Burke County, a short drive southwest of Portal, North Dakota, and just over three miles from the US/Canada border. If I’m not mistaken, it was a Lutheran Church for its entire active life, and served a congregation of many Scandinavian immigrants, and settlers of German ancestry as well.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

I’m not sure when they stopped holding regular services in Short Creek Church. If you know, please leave a comment below.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The Short Creek Church sign shown above was donated by Susan Kay Swenson.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

In a time when most historic places like this are locked up tight to deter vandals, it was something of a surprise to find this church open for visitors. Let’s hope Short Creek Church can continue to be free from troublemakers so future generations can enjoy it, inside and out.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

I went up the stairway toward the bell tower, but the belfry was not easily accessible, so I settled for a photo looking down from the stairs, below.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The plaque on the wall left me a little curious for more details on this church. It says the church was organized in 1904 and completed in 1916, but the sign outside says the church was established in 1908. Who can clarify the details? Please leave a comment.

It was also interesting that another Swenson, Reuben, organized a restoration and re-dedication of this church in 1981. 35 years later, Short Creek Church is in need of another freshening. It’s a reminder of how quickly things can deteriorate without human intervention.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

In the sanctuary, a tattered American flag hung behind the altar, with several of the stars missing. It wasn’t clear to me how they were removed or why they were missing, but at risk of sounding dramatic, it reminded me of postapocalypse movies in which a worn American flag is meant to insinuate midnight in America.

I sat quietly in one of the pews for a moment and soaked in the ambience before taking the photo above.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Short Creek Lutheran Church

The small cemetery behind the church has a surprising number of internments. See the full list on the Rootsweb page for Short Creek Cemetery.

Short Creek Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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The Derelict Beauty of Meyer Township School Number 1

The Derelict Beauty of Meyer Township School Number 1

It’s been closed since 1959, but Meyer Township School Number 1 still stands, right off US Highway 2, just a couple miles east of Rugby, North Dakota. It’s a frequently photographed place due to its highly visible location right next to the highway–just as I was leaving, someone else was pulling in to get some photos of their own.

Meyer Township School Number 1

Meyer Township School Number 1

This school, built in 1897, is one of the more unique ones we’ve seen with its asymmetrical layout, but the birds seem to love it.

Meyer Township School Number 1

A visitor to our Facebook page, Peggy Heise, says her grandfather was in charge of hiring the teachers for this school back in the day, and they lived together on a farm just west of the school.

Meyer Township School Number 1

With all the traffic that this place gets, it’s a little surprising that someone hasn’t fixed it up and used it as some kind of summer roadside attraction… I would definitely stop here to buy a postcard and a cold soda on a drive across the prairie.

Meyer Township School Number 1

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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What Will Become of This Historic Bridge?

What Will Become of This Historic Bridge?

In May of 2014, I took a trip along the Red River to photograph a bunch of historic bridges for a potential future book, and found this place, a bridge I had never visited before.

Officially it is Traill County and North Dakota Highway Departments Project No. FAS 71A. Locals refer to it as the Nielsville Bridge, after Nielsville, Minnesota, the closest community to the bridge (Cummings, North Dakota is a few miles west).

Built in 1939, the bridge was in pretty bad shape when I visited in 2014–it had been repaired a number of times, and asphalt patches were visible in the road deck in several places. In 2015, a hole opened up in the deck and the bridge was closed. It has been closed ever since, and the question remains–What will become of this historic bridge?

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

This bridge was completed in 1939. For historical context, it was the same year Lou Gehrig retired due to the illness that would later bear his name. World War II was just about to begin, and the sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt’s head was dedicated on Mount Rushmore.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

I paid particular attention to this bridge and several others on this trip because they are becoming more rare all the time. As the years pass, these steel truss bridges are being torn down in favor of modern highway bridges, which is good for transportation purposes, but bad for nostalgics who get a thrill from driving under the romantic arches of these relics from the industrial revolution.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Last I heard, locals were trying to raise awareness about the need for funding to restore this river crossing, whether that be through a new bridge, or a restoration of this beautiful span. As it is, local farmers are forced to drive 8 miles one direction or 7 miles in the other direction to cross the Red River on the next available bridge.

Update: Plans are moving forward for a new bridge, which is not a good sign for this bridge.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Just around the corner from this bridge, on the North Dakota side of the Red River, is this rural church.

Nielsville Bridge, Project FAS 71A

Do you enjoy old bridges? Check these out: Historic Bridges of the Sheyenne Valley, More Historic Automobile Bridges, and the Rusting and Abandoned Klondike Bridge, on the South Dakota/Iowa border.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Is Minot’s Derelict Oak Park Theater Coming to Life?

Is Minot’s Derelict Oak Park Theater Coming to Life?

Oak Park Theater in Minot has been vacant almost as long as I can remember. I was born and raised in Minot, and I attended quite a few movies in this theater as a kid. I saw Jaws here (through my fingers, because my hands were clasped over my face every time that music started…. duuuuuuh duh), the forgettable ensemble movie Earthquake, Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and most notably, Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, in 1977. By the time The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in 1980, Oak Park Theater had fallen out of favor and Cine 5 at Dakota Square Mall was the new place to see a movie. For most of my young adult life, I remember this theater, and the strip mall in the same parking lot, as a vacant, derelict facility in somewhat sad condition.

The building has been used off and on over the years since then (as a church, a pool hall, and a discount theater), but has stood largely unused of late with only the memories of locals to color the tale — remembrances of the sparkling, lighted star atop the pole out front, and lines of people stretching across the parking lot, waiting to get in. After a showing, moviegoers in the balcony could exit out the door on the south side of the building, and it was always a shock to push open the door and emerge on the metal staircase into the cool night air.

Oak Park Theater

The era of the multiplex called an end to Oak Park Theater, but unlike the Empire Theater in downtown Minot (which was a paradise paved to put up a parking lot), the Oak Park Theater has managed to avoid the wrecking ball all these years, and now, nearly four decades later, this old lady might be poised for a comeback.

Oak Park Theater

According to the Minot Daily News, a Minot businessman has plans to re-open the Oak Park Theater in June of 2016 after a sizeable renovation and expansion. Plans include adding a second screen, and the renovated Oak Park Theater will become a theater for discount movies, indie features, film festivals, and onscreen gaming.

Oak Park Theater

Do you have memories of Oak Park Theater? Please leave a comment below.

Oak Park Theater

These photos were taken in November of 2014.

Oak Park Theater

Photos by Troy Larson, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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