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Hamberg Flashback

Hamberg Flashback

We visited Hamberg, North Dakota, a near ghost town in Wells County, about 18 miles east of Harvey, for the first time in 2008, to photograph an old school which has since burned in an accidental fire.

Thanks to Heidi Ermer, we can now take a brief look at Hamberg as it appeared in yesteryear when there were residents numbering in the hundreds, as versus the approximate 20 residents who live there today. Heidi sent us the following postcards. The exact year of these photos is unknown.

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy
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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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy
Vintage Views of Devils Lake

Vintage Views of Devils Lake

We’ve been collecting postcards and vintage photos for years with the intention of doing a book one day. Today, I discovered a couple postcards depicting vintage views of Devils Lake, and thought we should share these on the site.  The quality of the first postcard was so good, we were able to zoom and bring out some interesting details.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

This street scene depicts Fourth Street in Devils Lake, circa 1937.  There was no postmark on the card, but I was able to date the photo based on the movie listed on the theater marquee.  “Captains Courageous,” a movie based on the Rudyard Kipling novel, starring Freddie Bartholomew and Spencer Tracy, was released in 1937.  The movie would be remade in 1977, and again in 1996.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

The opposite side of the street is home to a Red Owl grocery store and Montgomery Wards.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

Look at the beautiful art deco marquee on the Hollywood Theater.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

In addition to the Fourth Street scene, I found this vintage postcard showing the State Deaf School in Devils Lake. Year of this view is unknown, but construction of this building began in 1892.

Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1937

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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. @NorthDakotaTroy
Return to Marmarth

Return to Marmarth

Marmarth is in the far southwest corner of North Dakota, in the Badlands of Slope County, about seventy miles as the crow flies southwest of Dickinson. It’s a town we fell in love with the first time we visited in 2007, because, although there are still over 100 residents there (136 in the 2010 census), there are also a number of very impressive abandoned structures to photograph.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Unfortunately, Marmarth is also a town where we have not had very good luck. In 2007, we were photographing the town when we discovered there was something wrong with the brakes in my Jeep (Jeep stands for “Just Empty Every Pocket” in case you didn’t know) and we were forced to make a side trip to Bowman for repairs. Upon returning home, we posted our photos and discovered there was one quite vocal and rude Marmarth resident who took serious offense that we had the nerve to photograph her town and “brand it a ghost town.” She made her opinion known with comments and emails with LOTS OF CAPS.

Marmarth, North Dakota

This time, we had hoped to have better luck, and to make it clear that we have not ever, nor ever would, brand Marmarth a ghost town. We commonly photograph fading structures in lots of places where people still live. On this trip however, we had a different kind of difficulty — we spent a lot of time talking with local residents and didn’t have as much time to shoot.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Our attraction to Marmarth has a lot to do with the old west ambience — the chalky Badlands landscape, the remote location, and the tendency of local business owners to embrace that role with enthusiasm and a sense of humor. The sign on the front door at Geezer’s illustrates the point. When the door is closed, the store is also closed.

Marmarth, North Dakota

A powerful thunderstorm had moved through the night before we visited Marmarth, and the evidence was visible on the floor of a former service station on Main Street. The rainwater flowed to the hole in the middle of the sagging roof, and poured in torrents onto the floor. This kind of weathering will lead to a collapse of this old service station, if a fire or the bulldozer doesn’t get it first.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Since our last visit, the property owner has thoroughly boarded-up the former 1st National Bank and Barber Auditorium buildings.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The Mystic Theatre, which we’re told is still occasionally used, has been nicely renovated since we last saw it.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The small building next to Marmarth’s Pastime Bar and Steakhouse had a scaffold set up along one wall, like someone had planned to make renovations, but when we looked inside, it looks like the only thing going on is beer consumption.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The Pastime is where we ate last time we were in Marmarth. Their food is excellent, and we tell people about it whenever Marmarth comes up in conversation. If you find yourself there, highly recommended.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The patio outside the Pastime is the kind of place I could sit for a week with some adult beverages and just enjoy the outdoors.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The former railroad bunkhouse has been nicely painted and seemed to be doing more business since the last time we were there. Truthfully, all of Marmarth seemed to be more active since the last time we were there. Although the population is (a little) smaller than it was previously, it seemed like oil and tourist traffic were making it a little more lively place.

Marmarth, North Dakota

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

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy
The Old West of Medora, North Dakota

The Old West of Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota is the leading tourist attraction in the state, so perhaps it’s apropos the population is only 112.  This is the biggest, most diverse little town you’ll ever visit — the hotel rooms outnumber the bedrooms in this town, and the streets are chock full — complete with antique and gift shops, saloons, museums, wildlife, scenery… the list is endless.  But don’t expect the typical, there’s not a McDonalds or any other franchise joint for miles.

Medora is the epicenter of North Dakota Old West lore, boasting historic figures from Theodore Roosevelt, who came to Medora in 1883 to hunt bison, to General Custer, who spent some of his final days here.  Painted Canyon is just down the Interstate.  The badlands scenery in Medora is incredible, and there’s a little something for everyone, from the musical to the pitchfork steak fondue.  There’s another gallery of badlands photos here.  We will likely visit many more times, because there is waaaayyyy more to see.

Medora, North Dakota

Above: The Rough Riders (spelled with a space, like the sign above the door) Hotel in 2013. Below: that’s the same hotel, on the left, 99 years earlier in 1914.

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, 1914

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt once rented the room upstairs.

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota

Board sidewalks in Medora.

Medora, North Dakota

St. Mary’s

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota

Medora, North Dakota

Marquis de Mores

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. @NorthDakotaTroy
Passing Through Fordville

Passing Through Fordville

Fordville just happened to be on our route as we explored a few towns in Walsh and Ramsey counties.  It is not a ghost town or a near-ghost town… more like Pleasantville.  According to the 2000 Census, Fordville had 266 residents, shrinking to 212 in 2010.

The most prominent landmark was the Ford Theater, a beautiful brick building that’s been carefully tended, but in need of help with the roof.

The owner kindly posted a flyer which reads as follows:

FORD THEATRE

Est. 1948 by
Hub (Hulbert) and Richard Casement

Construction by: Martin Hustad, Peter and John Peterson.

Brickwork by Arnie Steen

First movie shown: “Little Mr. Jim” on March 19th, 1948.
Starring Butch Jenkins, James Craig, and Francis Clifford

Theatre was closed in the early 1960’s
Purchased by Donald and Jean Omdahl on Dec. 8th, 1970
Used for community plays and gospel services in the 1980’s
Purchased by DeLon Freije
from Don Omdahl on June 18th, 2010
Don went home to Jean on August 31st, 2010

Future plans: Restore theatre, display train collection for public display and offer tours of the theatre.
Popcorn sales on Thursday evenings through the summer
Any help with roof repairs would be much appreciated.

There were a few structures that looked ‘semi-vacant’– in that gray area between seldom used and used every day.  No real abandoned structures however.  So we just took a few shots that looked nice.

The clock struck noon while we were visiting and the air raid siren on top of this tower sounded.

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

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy
Stardust 17 Drive-In

Stardust 17 Drive-In

In the course of his travels, Terry stumbled upon the Stardust 17 Drive-In on the west side of Grafton.  The Stardust held 300 cars and hosted movie showings for decades. According to one online account, the Stardust 17’s screen blew down in a windstorm in October of 1991.  There were some initial discussions about getting the drive-in going again, but cost put the brakes on a recovery.  When we visited in 2011, the theater had been idle for years.

We found the place in a state of disrepair.  All of the window speakers were gone.  The concession stand’s roof was caving in, and the ticket booth had deteriorated significantly.

The marquee out front is from the Strand Twin Theater in Grafton.

The Lake Park Drive-In in Williston, which was the last operating Drive-In in the state, is now closed, leaving North Dakota with no more operating drive-ins. See this post for a list of operating Drive-In Theaters near North Dakota.

Update: we’re told the remains of the screen were taken down a couple years ago. The Stardust 17 is no more.

A couple years later, we visited another vacant Drive-In Theater, the Pineview Drive-In in Nebraska.

We were left with a nostalgic desire to attend a showing at a drive-in movie.  If anybody has more information on the history of this place, please leave your comments below.

Read more about the Stardust 17 and other Drive-In movie theaters here.

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

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

Marmarth, ND

Slope County
Inhabited as of 5-07

Marmarth, ND is a Badlands town in Slope County in the extreme southwest corner of the state.

Marmarth is one of the more populous towns we’ve photographed with 130 people according to the 2010 Census, but minimum conveniences. Marmarth has lost 190 residents since 1960.

There’s an exhilarating old west ambience in this part of the state… Montana is only five miles west and it’s just a three hour drive to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  The landscape is a harder, chalkier badland than the more pastoral lands to the east and radio signals sometimes elude the car radio as the highway winds past the occasional butte.  There’s a gas station, a bar/steakhouse (with excellent food), and a railroad bunkhouse where you can rent a room with a double bed for $15 per night.  At the time we visited, we were told they had dial-up internet in Marmarth, and satellite was the only way to get TV programming.

The most prominent abandoned structure in Marmarth is Barber Auditorium. It’s actually two buildings, Barber Auditorium and First National Bank of Marmarth.

The train depot has been cut in two pieces and relocated to a stretch of grass along the highway as you enter from the east.

CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

Marmarth, North Dakota

The 1st National Bank and Barber Auditorium in downtown Marmarth, built in 1918.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Order Ghosts of North Dakota Books

Marmarth, North Dakota

In the basement of Barber auditorium.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The red velvet theater seats still wait in the murky black.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The staircase on the main floor of the auditorium.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

A former storefront, now only storage.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

The former Mystic Theatre

Marmarth, North Dakota

These were the first two jail cells ever installed in Marmarth.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The Pastime Bar has cold drinks, and the food in the steakhouse at the rear is excellent.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

One former filling station.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Another former filling station.

Marmarth, North Dakota

The depot has been moved.

Marmarth, North Dakota

It now rests on blocks alongside the road in downtown Marmarth.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

A boarded-up school.

Marmarth, North Dakota

Marmarth, North Dakota

We rented rooms at this former railroad bunkhouse for $15 bucks a night.

Marmarth, North Dakota

See more photos of Marmarth here.

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

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