Arena in 1992

Arena was only the second true ghost town we ever visited, back in 2004.  At that time, the school had already been torn down and we were never able to locate some large photos of it, until now.

Thanks to these photos contributed by Dale Fisher, we can now see Arena as it looked in 1992.  There are a few interesting comparisons to be made with our photos from 2004:

In the photo above, we can see a small home which was not standing when we visited in 2004. The church still stands, as does the yellow house behind the two pine trees. But there was no trace of the little house in between. On the left side, the light brown structure (just above the car) was also gone by the time of our visit. And at the far left, partially cut off, is the little white building which we photographed and also still stands.

This was the Arena school — a place we really regret missing out on.  You can see the school looks remarkably better in this 1992 image as versus the image contributed by Stephen Berg in our Arena gallery… the windows are still intact in this image, and the structure just looks more stable.  Someone did a real number on this school in the twelve years between ’92 and ’04.

A question we’d still like to answer… what year did the last full-time resident move out of Arena?

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27 Comments on “Arena in 1992

  1. The last known full time resident that I am aware of was Mike Forth. He rented the yellow house from my family. However, he only lived there for a short time, possibly one year. Prior to him renting the home, nobody had lived there for quite a while. I believe it was a family by the name of Deere? I can check with my grandmother, who would be sure to know. She was the owner of the post office/general store until it was robbed and burnt down.

    • Hey im doing stuff for a North Dakota studies class would you possibly have any more information or events that happened while arena was still a town

  2. In 1992 my wife and I stumbled onto Arena while returning to southeast Oklahoma from a Canadian fishing trip and, as best I remember, there were no obvious signs (cars, dogs, children’s toys, mown grass, etc.) of anyone living in any of the buildings. My wife, Julie Fisher, deserves the credit for the photographs since she took them. She died last December and I happened upon the photographs while going through some things. I Googled Arena and got to your site and saw your request for photographs.
    Oklahoma’s state song has a line ‘while the wind goes sweeping down the plains.’ The day we stopped in Arena the wind was blowing so hard that we had to exit the car on the leeward side. You can see the grass laying in the photographs especially in the town panorama.

  3. My friend Alex was from Arena. Alex and I went ot school in the next twn when our school closed due to lack of students

  4. I have been going through some old letters that belonged to my (I think) maternal great grandfather that are postmarked May 5, 1924. They are addressed to Mr. Helmer Helgeson, Arena, North Dakota with RR No. 1 on the bottom of the envelope. They are from someone named Susan (no one in our family that I know of had that name). I also have a land lease from 1931 and 1932 with the Arena address.

  5. We have kin dating back from 1930s from Arena. I miss the town and people from here. I wish I cuold move back but there’s no point.

  6. Mr. Fisher’s photos are lovely. Idyllic in a sad sort of way.

  7. I grew up near Wing and our bus route would drive by Arena every day. I remember someone taking down the school, but I can’t remember why. Was it to salvage the bricks, maybe?? Does anyone know? I have classmates that claim they remember the general store being open, but I can not.

  8. I was a student at the Arena school 1960/61 for my first grade. After that time Arena was consolidated with Wing. we were allowed to go down to the Arena store where Selma would take our orders for penny candy before and during our lunch break! the swing set picture was special for me, as a first grader we worked those swings very hard !

    Some special events included roller skating in the basement gymnasium with roller skates that used “keys”, having a “cold room” to store your lunch pail until it was time to eat lunch. (Some not so fortunate kids used a lard pail). Sometimes the teachers would allow us to bring potatoes to cook in the furnace room. That was our idea of “hot lunch”!

    Some residents of Arena were the Rice family, Fred, Verna, Monte & Marlin Leno (grain elevator operator), their parents Christ & Mrs. Leno.

    Some of my favorite childhood memories.

  9. My uncle, Terry Deehr, and his family lived in Arena around 1981, for a year or so. They were the only family in town apart from the lady that ran the store. I enjoyed playing in the abandoned school with my cousins.

  10. I was born in 1950 when my family lived in Arena. Shortly thereafter we moved to nearby Wing where we lived for several years. We moved back to Arena in 1953 I believe. I attended gades 1 – 5 at the Arena. The school was closed in 1961 as were a number of other rural schools under a consolidation plan and we were all then bused to school in Wing.

    We continued to live in Arena until after I graduated high school in 1968. During those years Arena’s population was 9 people: my parents Fred and Verna Leno, my brother Monte and myself, my grandparents Christ and Rose Wetzel, our elderly neighbors Dallas and Hattie Barkman, and Selma Rice. My father worked initially as the “second man” at the Peavey grain elevators in town while my grandfather was manager. My father took over as manager after my grandfather retired. Selma Rice owned the combination store/gas station/post office and lived with the Barkmans. In later years Rose Eide managed the store until it was burned down.

    My grandparents lived in the yellow house in the picture (it was white while they lived in it) until moving to Bismarck in 1980 or 1981. My family lived in a little 3 room house next door. The Barkmans lived in a small house next toi the store. In the ’70’s a bullding was moved into town to be used for voting. I believe It is still there across the “Main Street” from the site of the store.

    The grain elevators and the store were the only two businesses in Arena during the years I lived there. Of course there was the two story brick school house on the hill and there also was the church, St. Johns Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod. My parents were married in that church and my brother and I were both baptized and confirmed there. I would estimate that 15 – 20 families were members of the church. Over the decades the church and school slowly deteriorated to the point they became a hazard. My cousin George Pehl demolished the school maybe 10 – 15 years ago and then called the county school district to tell them what he did. They said “Thanks”! Somehow the church is still standing I believe.

    A lot of memories still linger for me in that little abandoned town of Arena.

  11. Pingback: Arena, ND :

    • My Aunt and Uncle lived in Arena and managed the elevator. My Grandfather ran a butcher shop/meat market there in the early 1900’s

      • I remember going to Arena frequently when I was a kid. In fact, I still have a little kitchen set bought from the Arena store when I was very little. It stayed upstairs at the Landenberger farm for years, entertaining lots of small guests. My daughter now plays with it daily.
        I also remember carefully walking around the school in the early 1980s, with my mom and uncle. It’s a shame it was so heavily vandalised, those old schools were lovely buildings.

        • My newly married Grandfather John Hanson was listed as a clerk in a store in Arena owned by George B——-. (Illegible) according to his WW One draft registration dated June 7, 1917. He listed his address as Arena also but may have been living with his wife Hattie Eissinger and Heinrich Eissinger (his Father in law) a couple of miles east of Arena and may have just listed Arena. The church where they were married is listed “Tuttle ND” but I think may have been that church in Arena. We went out and looked over the townsite in 2012 and there was one house and the old church left. Does anyone have any knowledge of who George B. may have been and what was his store that my Grandfather clerked at ?

          • Mr. Hanson: could that name of the store clerk
            be either “Balch” or “Boelter”? My mother recalls families by those names living in Arena back in those bygone days.

          • Yes.. Thank You. It was Boelter as in George Boelter whom he worked for. Thanks again.

  12. A little more information…It was my grandparents Christ and Rose Wetzel who sold the yellow house and adjacent acreage to the Deehr family in 1980 or ’81. I think Lori Agnew is correct that Mike Forth was the last resident of Arena, probably living there for a short while in the ’80s. The little house my family lived in was burned to the ground I heard. My daughter and son-in-law visited Arena in 2000 or 2001 and brought me a brick from the school house they found in the tall grass. I am looking at it as I write this.

  13. I have fond memories of Arena. My great grandma lived there and it was always a treat to visit her in the home beside the store. My grandfather George Pehl was the mailman for many years and its true that he delivered mail in every type of weather. Selma was the Store owner and postmistress(?) I loved visiting with Rose and Christ Wetzel…. Wow….. Good memories of that sweet little town. Nothing ghostly about it….

  14. My family lived on the first farm south of Arena. My brother Chris and I attended Wing School. We lived there in the Early 70’s and the Christ Wetzel family still lived in the house in Arena. We bought most of our groceries and birthday and Christmas gifts from the store in Arena which was owned and operated by Rose Eide. We also got our gas there most of the time using one of those old pumps that you had to actually pump the gas into the glass bowl at the top. The school had been vandalized somewhat but wasn’t in bad condition. Mr. and Mrs. Wetzel moved out begween 1972 and 1975 I think. They were the last residents I knew that lived there and they had lived there for many years.
    My fondest childhood memories are of living in Arena and my Dad is also buried there. Sure miss it!!

  15. What a nice way for people to share memories. Your site is not only a great place to see photos, it’s a way to keep the memory of these places alive. Thank you so much!!

  16. So sad……makes a person wish they could create new reasons for these towns to exist and thrive…..:(

  17. I was born in Arena in January 1935 to Ralph and Edna Leach. When I was little the store and post office were operated by my grandpa Frank Lambert. We left there in 1939. My grandmothers maiden name was Ruth Heaton. FRANK LEACH. ST. GEORGE UTAH. 435-656-0950

    • Mr. Leach: my mother was born on a farm near Arena in ’27 and remembers your family. Her maiden name is Verna Wetzel. She recalls that your mother’s maiden name was Josephson (?) and she was from the Wing area. My mother remembers that your family called your brother “Baby Boy”! She believes your family lived in a house on the hill next to the road leading west out of Arena. Also she recalls your sister Beverly. This was a long time ago so I hope she is correct!

  18. My husbands great aunt was Marion Hanson Hagstrom. Marion Hanson was born in Arena in 1908. Marion taught school in the old schoolhouse, I think before the brick one was built? Marion married Oscar Hagstrom from Wilton North Dakota. They had one son, Jerry Hagstrom, who lives in Washington DC. The family farm is in Reagan North Dakota and is still in the Hagstrom name.
    Marion passed away April 23, 2007 at the age of 99, in Bismarck ND and is buried with her husband, Oscar Hagstrom, in the Sunne Lutheran cemetery in Wilton.
    I don’t know how many brothers or sisters Marion had but I do know her sister Ann Hanson is buried in the Arena church cemetery, The one that is pictured on the website. I believe some
    My husband Blaine (Gary Hagstroms son) and I, live in Washington state but we still own our farm in Wilton.
    Barbara & Blaine Hagstrom

  19. I was born in rural Arena in 1939 and have many memories of the Arena Store and the Peavey Elevators. My father, George Deckert and 2 of his brothers bought the elevator when Peavey moved out and had Chris Wetzel continue on as the manager. Chris was always full of fun and we enjoyed his puns immensely. Verna Wetzel Leno was my grade school teacher for one year in Harriet # 3 which was 3 miles south of Arena. Her and her husband lived in the school during the winter behind a curtain drawn across the back of the school. There was no water or electricity in the school so water had to be brought from Arena.

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