The Other Oldest Standing Structure in North Dakota

We’ve previously posted about Gingras Trading Post, which holds a share of the claim to “the oldest standing structure in North Dakota,” dating back to the days of the fur trade, before the homesteading era brought European settlers en masse.

That place, Gingras Trading Post, is reportedly the oldest standing structure in the state *still on its original foundation. This place, Kittson Trading Post, is reportedly older by a smidge, but it was moved to this location in Walhalla at a later date. The inscription on the monument tells the rest of the story.

This warehouse is the oldest building in North Dakota having been built about 1851 by Norman Kittson, agent for the American Fur Company. This building was originally built on the townsite of Walhalla, then called St. Joseph, adjoining Father Belcourt’s chapel. It was moved to this site to better preserve it.

At various times it has served as a warehouse for the American Fur Company, as a residence for the D.B. Spencer family before they moved to the Gingras area where Mrs. Spencer was killed by Indians in August 1854, and as a stable for the Belview Hotel.

Much of the early history of this area was centered around this fur warehouse being the terminal for the trappers and for those in need of supplies furnished by the post. The only other station was the Gingras Post some miles east of here which was operated by Antoine Gingras, Kittson and Joe Rolette who were in the cart transportation business on a route between Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and St. Paul, from about 1851 to 1870.

North Dakota Historical Society

We’re told the location, which may have been conducive to “better preserve” the structure at one time, is now a seldom-visited site, and as the photos show, previous measures taken to create a travel spot have fallen into disuse.

Let’s hope somebody takes action to save North Dakota’s oldest building.

What do you know about Kittson Trading Post? Let us know in the comments.

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp

2 thoughts on “The Other Oldest Standing Structure in North Dakota

  1. Norman Kittson was one of the most successful early settlers of Minnesota, having made his considerable fortune in trading and transportation. You can visit a variety of sites of his other not-so-modest structures since they were built in choice locations throughout the city of St. Paul.
    His large and somewhat spooky looking French Empire mansion was torn down to accommodate the Cathedral of St. Paul.
    He also built a speedway for his thoroughbred horses where the new home of the Minnesota United UFC soccer stadium is.
    And as a specialist in breeding thoroughbreds he was recognized throughout the nation and had another beautiful structure set up in Pennsylvania to breed his legendary horses (known as Erdenheim Farms).
    But while you can visit some of these storied sites, you can not visit any actual structures. Those can only be viewed digitally or on paper in a photo morgue. (With the exception of Erdenheim Farms, which is still operational in Pennsylvania).
    Jolly Joe Rolette factored even larger in Minnesota’s history. Working for American Fur Company in Pembina he created that post …and the wood carts necessary to send commerce into a fledgling St. Paul via the Canadian Trail.
    As a Territorial Representative he rode 18 days by dog sled to the St. Paul Capitol site. His dogs and sled came inside the building with him.
    He famously prevented the State Capitol from being moved from St. Paul proper to St. Peter Minnesota by disappearing with the bill awaiting the governor’s signature. He is said to have hid out in a high-end hotel until the session was out, forever altering the identity of the city. Officially the other politicians were “angry
    with him” but legend has it that they gave him a torchlight parade. Once Minnesota’s final boundaries were drawn Pembina was no longer a part of the state. And still Joe was re-elected to serve as a Senator. Afterwards, he remained in Pembina with his wife and many children where he worked as a post master.
    So yeah, you undisputedly have a unique piece of history there. Do what you can to preserve and feature it!


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