The Magic City, Fall 1940

The Magic City, Fall 1940

For those of us who are history buffs, the 1930s and 40s are a golden age of documentary photography. Government photographers from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information traveled the country, photographing American cities big and small. They left behind a photographic treasure trove of places that no longer exist. It was photos like those, largely the work of Arthur Rothstein, that allowed us to do our book on North Dakota’s largest city, Fargo Moorhead Lost and…

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The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

This is a former Nordic ski jump, in Benson County, about 10 miles south of Devils Lake, or three miles east of Fort Totten, at the ski resort once known as Skyline Skiway. According to the December 1982 issue of Ski Magazine, this ski jump opened in 1928 and closed in 1936. The ski hill continued to operate on and off into the early eighties, and was home to the Lake Region Ski Club. Update: A visitor to our Facebook page…

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Bergen, North Dakota: Population 7

Bergen, North Dakota: Population 7

Bergen is a near-ghost town in McHenry county, just off Highway 52, about 30 miles southeast of Minot. The town was founded with a post office in 1905, and the railroad arrived in 1907. Bergen’s peak population was reportedly 98 residents. Like most of the little railroad towns we’ve photographed, the population began to dwindle during the Depression and Dust Bowl years, partly due to hardship, and partly due to changing transportation and agricultural practices. According to the 2010 Census,…

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Abandoned Maza School

Abandoned Maza School

This former schoolhouse is virtually all that remains of a town that was once Maza in southern Towner county, a short drive south of Cando.  In 2000, the population of Maza was listed as 5.  In 2002, the city was dissolved.  Today, there are some scattered buildings in the area and a farm or two. We ran across this building in 2008, sitting right beside the highway. Terry snapped a few quick photos, and we promptly forgot all about them. We…

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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).

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. In July of 2016 I finally found myself passing…

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The Old West Charm of Appam, North Dakota

The Old West Charm of Appam, North Dakota

Appam, North Dakota is in Williams County, in the extreme northwestern part of the state, about 25 miles north of Williston. The terrain around Appam is a rugged grassland, quite dry, with chalky, alkaline soil, and gently rolling hills. We first visited this tiny unincorporated settlement in May of 2010, and found a place that is a shell of its former self. North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick says Appam was founded in 1916 as a Great Northern Railroad town….

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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. 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. There is surprisingly little information available about this…

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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…

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

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

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Visiting the Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Visiting the Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Years ago, Wylora Christianson sent us a photo of a grain elevator, the only remaining structure from a town that never was: Rival, North Dakota. She was under the impression that the elevator was to be torn down soon, so she felt compelled to photograph it. The Rival Elevator is so named because, as a Soo Line townsite, it was intended to rival the nearby Great Northern Railroad town of Lignite, North Dakota. North Dakota Place Names by Douglas Wick…

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Six Years Gone in Larson

Six Years Gone in Larson

We first visited Larson, a near-ghost town in Burke County about 85 miles northwest of Minot, on a stormy day in May of 2010. According to the Census that same year, Larson had a population of 12. As I recently planned a trip to photograph some Saskatchewan places, I decided to stop in Larson before I crossed the border to check on things and see how much had changed in six years. We had been told there was more activity…

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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…

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International Peace Garden: Promise of Peace

International Peace Garden: Promise of Peace

The International Peace Garden, first opened in 1932, is a hidden treasure within the United States and Canada. Photographer Kari Barchenger brings her 35 years experience of capturing unique subjects to a new height in this journey through the International Peace Garden. Take a walk with her through the gardens and observe the beauty and splendor of it all. Experience through her lens the butterflies and bees and lush gardens. Roam the cacti and tropical gardens in the conservatory. Wander…

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Abandoned Nuclear Antiballistic Missile Base

Abandoned Nuclear Antiballistic Missile Base

For almost half a century, from the end of World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union, our world existed on the precipice of nuclear annihilation. The threat of an instant and irreversible descent into nuclear war hung constant over our heads, the pendulum of power sometimes swinging our way and sometimes back toward the Soviets. It was this race for superiority that led to the creation of this place, the most advanced nuclear antiballistic missile facility ever…

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5th Avenue in Cleveland, North Dakota

5th Avenue in Cleveland, North Dakota

Cleveland, North Dakota was founded in 1882 by settlers who came from Cleveland, Ohio. It is in Stutsman County, right along Interstate 94, about 20 minutes west of Jamestown. Cleveland once had over 300 residents, but like many small rural communities, declined with the railroad transportation culture. In the 2000 Census, Cleveland had 112 residents in 52 households. By 2010, the number had dropped to 83 residents from 40 households. These buildings along 5th Avenue tell the tale of a…

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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….

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A Sleepy Saturday in McGregor, North Dakota

A Sleepy Saturday in McGregor, North Dakota

The McGregor town site was established in 1910 and assumed the name of a nearby rural post office which had been established five years earlier. We visited McGregor, in Williams County about 45 miles northeast of Williston, in 2010, and we were somewhat surprised by the large number of vacant buildings. Although McGregor does not appear in the Census records (it’s an unincorporated community) a population of 250 was reported for 1920. We we roughly estimated the population at around 20…

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The Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

The Town That Never Was: Rival, North Dakota

Rival, ND is a town that never was. It was established with the intent of being a “rival” to nearby Lignite, hence the name. However, no development of significance ever took place. Rival’s post office opened in 1907 and closed only two years later in 1909. Wylora Christianson contributed this photo with the following comments: All that is left of Rival is the elevator which is to be torn down soon, so went and got a picture of it. It…

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Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Elbowoods Memorial Congregational Church

Officially, this church is now known as Susan Webb Hall Memorial Congregational Church. It once served Elbowoods, North Dakota, a town now-submerged under Lake Sakakawea, as part of the Fort Berthold Indian Mission which dates back to the 1870s. The church was organized in 1899 and this building was erected in Elbowoods in 1926.  It was relocated in 1953 to a spot on high ground, nearly eight miles north-northeast of Elbowoods, to escape the rising waters of Lake Sakakawea behind…

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The Legends of Tagus, North Dakota

The Legends of Tagus, North Dakota

Tagus was founded in 1900, on a rolling spot on the prairie, forty miles west of Minot, just off Highway 2. A railroad settlement town, it reached a peak population of 140 in 1940. It was originally named Wallace, but was later renamed Tagus to avoid confusion with the town of Wallace, Idaho. The origin of the name “Tagus” is still in dispute. It is now primarily abandoned with a handful of residents and numerous vacant structures. The Minot Daily…

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Vanishing Bremen, North Dakota

Vanishing Bremen, North Dakota

Bremen is a small, unincorporated town near Fessenden in Wells County.  This central part of the state is very sparsely populated and dotted with abandoned places like the Remains of Munster School and Hamberg.  These photos were taken in 2008, and we hope to revisit the area sometime soon for an update. Bremen supposedly had a population of 200 at one time, but it hasn’t had nearly that many for a very long time. Most of Bremen’s residents (there aren’t…

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8 More Lost North Dakota Places

8 More Lost North Dakota Places

Unfortunately, we have to do a post like this from time to time. As the years pass, many of the places we’ve photographed also pass… into history. Whether it be the wrecking ball, weathering, or disaster, many of the places we’ve photographed since 2003 are now gone. We documented some of the losses in 10 Lost North Dakota Places and 10 More Lost North Dakota Places, now, unfortunately, here are 8 More Lost North Dakota Places. Maza School A visitor…

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Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found Has Arrived

Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found Has Arrived

Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found, the latest book from Troy Larson, co-author of the Ghosts of North Dakota series, and Churches of the High Plains, has arrived! The book, and the website, are an in-depth look at the visual landscape of the Fargo-Moorhead metro, yesterday and today, through the use of vintage photographs and postcards juxtaposed with contemporary photographs from the same locations. (Grab the slider in the photo above and drag it back and forth!) What was the first…

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How to Find Places No Longer on the Map

How to Find Places No Longer on the Map

In our quest to find lonely, out-of-the-way places to photograph, we often get recommendations from people, and many times, the coordinates of those places are just a search away. However, we’ll occasionally run across the name of a place, and when we enter the name into mapping software, the search turns up zero results. Here’s one way to find places no longer on the map. Banks, North Dakota is shown above on a Rand McNally railroad map from 1942, not…

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Lonely and Abandoned Wolf Butte Church

Lonely and Abandoned Wolf Butte Church

The Wolf Butte Lutheran Church is in a remote part of Adams County, North Dakota, about 45 miles south of Dickinson. It was once part of a Lutheran Parish that also included another abandoned church we’ve photographed, the North Grand Lutheran Church, south of Bucyrus. Regular services ended at the Wolf Butte location in 1988. The Wolf Butte church was unusual for its finish. The exterior appeared to be stucco, or some other kind of applied finish over a wood…

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6 More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

6 More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love

We got an email request from someone not too long ago to do another “More North Dakota Sites You’ll Love” post (the original is here), so we’ve gathered up another handful of North Dakota-related sites you should check out. Border Marker Project — We just discovered this one ourselves and it is really cool. The description of the Border Marker Project from their “About” page: In 1891 and 1892 the North and South Dakota state line was surveyed and marked with quartzite state…

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Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota is just off US Highway 2, not quite forty miles west of Grand Forks. It was founded in 1882 by settlers from Niagara County, New York. According to the 2010 Census, Niagara has 53 residents. Niagara, North Dakota is the former home of a serial killer, a man named Eugene Butler, a recluse who lived on the edge of town. Butler was committed to the State Asylum in Jamestown in 1904, and he died there in 1911….

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North Dakota Before the Interstates and Garrison Dam

North Dakota Before the Interstates and Garrison Dam

One of the more helpful techniques we’ve used in finding abandoned and out-of-the-way places to photograph is examining old maps. Abandonment frequently happens in the name of “progress.” When a highway was expanded, it frequently left places to wither. Similarly, the Garrison Dam project forced the abandonment of numerous places, like Sanish and Elbowoods (to name a few), and prompted the demolition of bridges and the abandonment of highways. We recently found this Rand McNally World Atlas page that shows North…

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