Return to Crystal Springs: A Town Cut in Two by the Interstate

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

We first visited Crystal Springs in 2005, primarily to photograph the abandoned school which is quite visible from the Interstate.  We didn’t find out until later that we had neglected to photograph a portion of Crystal Springs which waits just north of the highway.  So, on Memorial Weekend of 2013, we returned to Crystal Springs.

While many towns suffered when they were bypassed by an interstate, Crystal Springs’ decline was hastened when it was bisected by the interstate, effectively cutting the town in two.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

The roof of the school has collapsed in places and the elements pour in.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Crystal Springs’ church and school are featured in our hardcover coffee table book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 3.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

The re-painting that someone began on the old church was never finished, and now the church is deteriorating again, the boarded-up front door kicked-in by vandals.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

On the north side of the Interstate rests the former spring — a stopping off point for tourists in the pre-interstate era.  We’ve heard many accounts from travelers who enjoyed a drink of cold water from the spring on a family trip through Crystal Springs.

UPDATE: A visitor to our Facebook page reported the spring had been restored with a grant and was running once again, but a more recent visitor in the summer of 2015 told us the spring is again dormant.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

This abandoned house sits across the road from the fountain.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

This is a former service station near the fountain.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

Crystal Springs, ND

Near the green house shown further up the page lies this collapsed wreckage of another home.

Crystal Springs, North Dakota

A close examination of this photo shows what happened to Crystal Springs. The road I stood on when taking this photo once connected to the road in the distance, just above the detour sign. Today, the interstate cuts through the middle.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media


40 Comments on “Return to Crystal Springs: A Town Cut in Two by the Interstate

  1. It sort of makes one wonder if progress really IS progress. The school building is beautiful in my opinion, what a waste, as well as the other buildings going to waste, it breaks my heart.

    • Jan – this would be the longest shot in the world – but is your family from ND? If so, what part?

  2. One only has to close their eyes to imagine how beautiful the house was that was across from the spring. The old school is eerily similar to the school I attended as a child. Love your FB posts.

  3. Our family used to be one of those that stopped for a drink of that cool water. It was always so refreshing since those were the days before air conditioning. Hot summer trips in a sedan filled with 8 and sometimes 9 people could get uncomfortable. I love the stories your pictures tell.

  4. It´s so sad to see all the buildings that are going back to nature! So many people moving from so beautiful places and buildings. What I know is that USA has millions of unemployed people, and almost no farmers back. Just BIG cooperations… Why not let those who want a farm, want to live in small villages or towns, want to teach at a small school, want to write books, do internet home work, live quite lives, get a new home if they do the work to build the house up again when they get the building materials from the goverment ( however they are the owner of the house when its ready to move in there) ? And why not instead of have so much people in prison, jsut for a small mistake in life, get the opportunity to work on these small towns, and make them liveable again? People are wasting away so many opportunities for people just becasue of the bureaucrazy and no new way to think and make changes there. What about all the agreculture areas? USA citizense need to get rid of GMO and the big cooperasian to get healthy food back, WHy can`t people start organic food producing here? These areas have been laying there for years ..I think the farmer areas are clean enough to do that now? For me this looks really strange. We have some small farms in norway too where people are moving from, its too small to make a living from…a few of them have been sold to people from Netherland and they get a LIFE instead of a small apartment in a BIG city where they see people every single meter they walk… Take the small cities back and the small farmers, create small villages and towns instead of people wating their time on living on the streets 🙂
    Greetingsfrom Bodil in Norway 🙂

    • Bodil, the family farm is alive and well in ND. My brother is the 4th generation to run his farm and my husband is the 3rd. Our way of life is so different than that of people in more densely populated areas. They only see corporate farms and see progress in modern farming practices as evil. You asked about organic farming. We can’t do it on a large scale (our family’s farm is 6000 acres) because it isn’t sustainable. We would be wiped out by bugs, disease, and due to our location in the Devils Lake Basin, fungus.
      ND’s economy is growing and our population is growing! We aren’t suffering the effects of the economic depression like California and Minnesota. I think you need to visit us in ND!!!

        • Well Julie, that depends on what you do and where you live in Minnesota. After 28 years, horrific business taxes etc., we’re moving back to North Dakota.

    • I agree Bodil. North Dakota is really cold and windy, however….so it would be a real adjustment for most people. USA used to have a “Homestead Act”, where if a person lived on a piece of property and farmed it for 7 years, it would belong to them. Too bad we still don’t have this Act.

    • What fabulous and easily implemented ideas!! I too think along these lines.. But- seems the ‘powers the be’ have no desire to resurrect, reuse, or let someone have them to make a better life.

  5. Bodil, I am sure many Americans ask themselves the same questions, I know I do. However, you have answered most of those questions yourself: all of this hinges on money and what you suggest is not economically sound. The small American family farm is a thing of our past; the small farmer simply cannot compete in the marketplace with the mega-corporate farm industry. You mention that this same thing is happening in your own country, so you get the problem. And I agree, it is too bad, as what we have have traded is quality of life. Jan states it most astutely: is progress really progress? Sometimes it is not.

    North Dakota is a beautiful state with a demanding environment. I hope it never becomes completely urbanized although I fear for it everyday. The gas/oil industry is a powerful motivational force for development, but I hope that the good people of North Dakota realize that their land, their beautiful state, their quality of life is worth more than money any day of the week. There is something admirable about rural life, hard as it may be at times. Those wide open plains, unobstructed views, watching the sun sink into the horizon is something city folk never get to see. Keep that, it is the most important thing.

    • “Those wide open plains, unobstructed views, watching the sun sink into the horizon is something city folk never get to see.” Plus REAL darkness at night and being able to see the stars, which you cannot see in big cities.

  6. I have had the opportunity to drive past Crystal Springs several times over the past month, always curious about that beautiful school and trying to come up with an idea to revitalize it. I think it would make a lovely Bed and Breakfast, with your choice of sunrise or sunset view. Next time I drive by I will stop and explore.

  7. I used to travel between our family farm just east of Hawknest (SW of Carrington) to Bismarck and would always take the back roads and stop at Crystal Springs for a drink of the best tasting water in North Dakota. It’s a shame it’s gone dry.

  8. I grew up going to Crystal Springs Baptist Camp down the road from here. We would often times go exploring around there at all the old buildings and that spring. I’d love to see what this town looked like in it’s “glory days”

    David Herrmann
    Los Angeles, CA

  9. Has anyone been inside that beautiful green house? I stopped by and took some pictures of the smaller service station that is across from the that house. I also climbed inside of that brick structer — wasnt sure what it was at the time until I seen your posts about it!

    • We have! The inside was in better condition a few years ago until some teens
      found it. The spring that feeds the fountain originates behind that house. It’s lovely!

    • My family is from a farm 10 miles north. My father had a friend who worked at the station there. I have been in all the builds there and there also more a few miles off the old highway 10 there. As kids we would drink from there and swim there almost daily. The state shut down the well there it did not dry up. The inside of the school has no floors and pretty bad shape. There is a old station there too by dad lived behind it. That area has so much around it from GOOD OLD DAYS. I live in MPLS now but go back when ever I can. There also a few sad stories about the curve there too and people seeing ghost etc.

  10. I used to live in Tappen back when I was a young child in the late 80s and remember going with my mom to get water out of the spring there so seeing these pictures brings back childhood memories

  11. I rented the house across from the spring from 1978-95. We used it for hunting waterfowl in the fall. Ray Heitimeyer from Bismarck owned the house. This was the last time that it was inhabited. Mice moved in and we decided it time to give up the place that was very special in all our hearts. Lots of memories…

  12. Love seeing all these photos on the Facebook page, but doing some research back through the family brought up the name Crystal Springs for me. You have mentioned a second church in the area and that it might still be used, but I can’t find any info on it. Anyone know of any details around this church:

    • There is still a active Church at Crystal Springs. It’s not even a 1/4 mile south of these pictures. There are two homes and a church. It’s Faith Evangelical Church.

  13. We almost bought that Crystal Springs house and land in the 70’s. Remember going to look at the house when Dowd Burton lived there. Instead we decided to settle on the family farm north of Tappen and are still living here
    Definitely a 4 generation family farm but just have to get bigger and bigger to keep up with production and expenses. Sad to see the rural and family life disappearing….

  14. My family lived out there for years. Newbury township was named after my great grandfather John Price Newbury. MY grandmother taught school out there. Edna Newbury. My mother grew up on a farm north of town. Eleanore Brost. My Dad farmed close to town . Theodore Warren Newbury. My Grandfather died in 1924. John Reuben Newbury his brother Charles owned a store in Tappen. My moms dad Emil Brost farmed there. My uncle John and his wife Anne farmed and lived there for years. My Mothers mom was a Guthmiller .

    • Hi Ted, I too am a relative of John Price Newbury. My father was born in Crystal Springs to Charles Newbury & Hazel Mae Sites Newbury. My sister and I visited the area in 2015, and while the abandonment felt sad, I also felt somewhat at home. Knowing that my father ran and played in that area before they moved west to Washington State. Do you have photos of John Price or Charles?

    • I am related to John Price Newbury also. Ted is my uncle. Yes I have pictures of John and Charles and other documents

  15. My grandparents used to live in that schoolhouse many, many years ago. It was sort of scary to me as a child and I wish I could see inside it again, although it is in a terrible condition now. I’d love to see it restored to its former glory.

    • Chrissy, your grandfather Emil was my grandfather’s brother. I remember when they lived in the school house.

      • I am Emil’s great granddaughter. I am planning another trip back to Crystal Springs, Tappen and Medina again in 2020. Thank you for all comments that were provided. I will keep them in mind when I stop to look at the buildings and towns.

  16. This is the area where I grew up… I grew up in Tappen but spend alot of weekend camping right by the spring.

  17. We have many old schools like that here in the U.P. Of Mi. What a shame to see those buildings go to waste.

  18. I visited with some local residents a few years ago as a salesman and we talked about the towns history while I was there. They told me that the town burned down almost completely at one time. They gave me a copy of a couple of old newspaper clippings. However, I’m not sure I still have them. One was about the doctor/doctors who were going to invest in the town and market it as a health spa because of the spring water. Apparently, this is not well known, as an internet search turns up nothing about the town’s history.
    Next time you are there you should talk to some folks. I don’t remember their names, but they lived in a modular home in the southwest part of the town site.

  19. Wow i think its awesome the history in the building itself it would be quite the undertaking but i would love to see it restored we loose to much in letting a beautifull building with so much character be destroyed

  20. My mother went to school in Crystal Springs. We drove past that school nearly every weekend on our way to visit our Grandmother’s farm and sometimes stopped for a drink from the fountain. I hope someone will rescue that beautiful building. North Dakota is a special place…I miss it.

  21. I have many fond memories of this little town, as my Grandfolks ran the post office and service station in Crystal Springs for years. I remember as a young girl many people would stop fill gas, get something to eat and drink and engage in a conversation with my Grandfolks. Many people came in search of the “Crystal Springs Fountain” I specifically remeber a man who came all the way from Washinton State. He was told about the spring from someone near where we lived. This person had shared their experience with him telling him they beleived the water had healing ability. I remember him showing my
    Grandfather all the hugs and bottles he brought with him and he needed directions to the fountain. He stopped again the next day with jugs filled to the top. And I never saw someone so happy. This was not the only time I had heard stories of the water from the spring in Crystal Springs this is just one that had come to mind. My Grandfolks would have made a bundle there answering two questions that were asked of them repeatedly in a day. First was how far is it to the next service station? And can you tell me how to get to the Crystal Springs Fountain? It is bittersweet to drive by the little town now, so many good memories, such sadness to see the place in dispare. On another note I do believe it isstill unique in its own right. One of the few towns without a post office, bank or bar… But a THRIVING church that has been faithful for over a hundred years. Such as the hymn goes. There’s A Church In The Valley By The Wildwoods… so Lovely a Church…… Is in Crystal Springs, North Dakota. God is good!

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