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 © Sonic Tremor Media

30 Comments on “Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church

  1. This is fantastic! I can’t believe they’ll let you do an urbex through here now. The last time I stopped at this church, the place was locked up so tight, a double-jointed mosquito couldn’t get in. If I’d realized this, I’d have stopped and gone inside a month ago when I drove by it!

  2. There used to be an organization that restored prairie churches, but I don’t know if it still exists. They restored the Ladbury church in Barnes County.

  3. Very happy about your report. I visited and photographed the church in 2010 and again in September 2016. When I first visited the interior was in great shape. A little dusting and tuning the piano and they would have been ready for a service. Last September the sanctuary was locked but I am glad to see it is still in great shape.

    Last September there were concerns that the costs of maintaining/preserving the church might cause them to knock it down. That would be a tragedy. Hopefully this means that there are some resources to at least maintain it.

    I’ve following your “Ghosts of ND” since 2010 and love what you do.

    Regards …

    Rip Smith

  4. always breaks my heart to see the country church like this..it seems lonesome, calling out for people to come and yet peaceful..all the lives it has touched though the years

  5. I hope that folks will respect this beautiful little church so that it can continue to be enjoyed by many. it would be a shame to tear it down. Hopefully money will come through for new roof. I will be sure to stop and see it the next time I travel through.

  6. Great job as always Troy. I salute you and your great shooting.
    I could smell the church thru your photography.
    Lee Ellison

  7. Gorgeous. It seems that there are a lot of churches scattered across NoDak. Does it just seem that way bc you post a lot of them, or are there really a lot of churches? Ya know, when I was visiting your state, I really wanted to see that blue North Dakota sky everyone talked about and wouldn’t you know, it rained or was cloudy the whole time I was there. Next time. While there everyone told me that I needed to go to the Pingree Cafe for lunch. I asked what time they opened. The answer was, who ever gets there first. What???? What does this mean? I never heard such a thing. Businesses have hours. No, no, whoever gets there first. Then the rest of the explanation: every one knows where the keys are hidden so whoever gets there first opens up and gets coffee going. OK…and even if this is just a regular customer, not an owner/employee. Yep. I will tell you. That would not happen where I am from. I was so impressed with the attitude of honesty and integrity. This sign on the church supports my experience. Just as a note: someone also told me that I needed to go to McHenry for a rhubarb milkshake. I don’t like rhubarb, but I was willing to give it a shot anyway. How far away. 80 miles. Round trip? No, one way. You drive 160 miles for a milkshake? Yea…if I want one. I learned early on that time and distance are regional concepts. I can’t name one person I know here in Michigan who would drive 160 miles RT for a milkshake. And we don’t leave signs on the doors inviting people into an empty building and asking them to close the door behind them when they leave. If our whole country could adopt these ethics we would be in a much, much better place. Thank God for North Dakota. Never lose your sanity, your ethics or your open spaces. Keep it coming, Troy. s.

  8. So nostalgic!! Feels like I want to go in a worship. Hope someone is maintaining it. Thank you.

  9. Thanks Troy. Been following you for years and never disappointed with your work. Keep it up!
    Larry M. Fargo ND

  10. This is absolutely amazing! I’ve never seen an abandoned church in this kind of condition. Thanks for all you do.

  11. The inside of the church is like a time capsule. Aside from the dust, everything is real good shape.

  12. This church has 2 living members yet and a number of former members (my husband being one of them) that are involved with decisions pertaining to this church. Funding of course is a big issue and it has deteriorated alot since these photos where taken. If anyone has ideas on how to get funding for this kind of project I’d appreciate the info.

    • Hey Paula, do you think the owners of the church would be willing to sale it? We are looking for a church to buy and to move to Rock Lake, where we could restore it and open it to the public.

  13. I stopped last October and there wasn’t a Welcome sign, but the plywood door was unlocked. I went in for a few pictures and was impressed at how good a condition it was in.

  14. Does anyone know if this is currently open to view? I would like to take a day trip, but the drive is over 3 hours. Any info is appreciated! 😊

    • It was locked up when we went there on May 5th 2017. Sad because we really wanted to see it.

  15. I, too, cannot believe this church is open to the public for viewing. It is very beautiful sanctuary. Would be nice to see someone purchase it and upkeep it. The altar is beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing this and the great work you do in presenting this to us.

  16. The square piano is a real treasure. I don’t think it’s a Steinway but would love for someone to lift the top and look for serial numbers and other markings. Then you can research history on when made, who was original owner and how it ended up there.

  17. We stopped here today and learned that this church is going to be restored, there is a new metal roof. Inside is in great condition considering how old this church is…

Leave a Reply