The “City” of Leal, North Dakota

Leal is a small town in Barnes county, an hour northeast of Jamestown, or 73 miles northwest of Fargo. It was founded in 1892, and incorporated as a village in 1917, but in 1967, North Dakota eliminated the “village” and “town” incorporations in the state, making all incorporated places “cities.” So, today, Leal is a “city” with a population density of 142 residents per square mile. Sounds like a hoppin’ place, right? Not really. The population density figure is a mathematical quirk of a city with an area of .14 square miles and a population of 20 in the 2010 census.

Our stop in Leal was quick and we found just a little to photograph… a few select buildings and an abandoned farmstead outside of town.

Continue reading “The “City” of Leal, North Dakota”

Historic Bridges of the Sheyenne Valley, part one

If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you know we occasionally like to photograph bridges, for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s for their historic significance (like Caledonia and Romness Township bridges), and other times it’s because the bridge is huge and awe-inspiring, as is the case with the High Line, Karnak, and Gassman Coulee railroad trestles.

In this case, we’ve decided to photograph most of the historic automobile bridges of the Sheyenne River Valley, some abandoned but many still in use, while they still exist. Just like the structures of prairie ghost towns, these bridges are endangered by time and natural events. Floods, weather cycles, and normal wear and tear take a toll on these bridges, and without restoration, they will be gone someday. Also, it’s hard to resist the urge to go out and shoot photos when it’s sixty-some degrees in November.

Continue reading “Historic Bridges of the Sheyenne Valley, part one”

Defining what exactly constitutes a “ghost town” can sometimes be tricky.  In our years of exploring North Dakota’s abandoned places, we’ve often encountered former towns where the townsite itself is empty, but there’s a farm about half a mile down the road.  Sometimes a former town like Sims, North Dakota has an active church, but nobody actually lives on the town site.  And still other times, we will hear objections from people who feel as though we’ve misrepresented their town, or somehow labeled it a ghost town because it appears on this website, in which case we clarify that this site is about ghost towns and abandoned places, like the former First National Bank and Barber Auditorium in Marmarth, North Dakota, a town with a population numbering more than a hundred.

Continue reading “20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero”

20 True Ghost Towns: Population Zero

This is an abandoned farmstead right along the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway, just a few minutes south of Valley City, North Dakota.

People have occasionally asked us, “What’s the fascination with abandoned places like this?” and it’s a hard question to answer, but there’s a hint in places like this. When you see it for the first time, you’re struck by the contradiction of a beautiful setting in a rolling river valley marked by an abandoned home like this. Your mind conjures the questions soon after… “What was life like when a family called this home? Why did they leave?” Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour pondering it in your mind’s eye. 

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Abandoned in the Sheyenne River Valley

Ten More Lost North Dakota Places

Sometimes we photograph a place and find out years later that it’s gone, sometimes the place is gone by the time we get there.  But the one constant is that the list of places is growing all the time.

Here’s another list of ten more significant North Dakota places that have unfortunately lost their battle with time. When you’re done with this one, check out 10 Lost North Dakota Places, and 8 More Lost North Dakota Places.

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We found a couple of vintage Nome postcards at an antique store not too long ago, including a postcard of the now-abandoned Nome School in Barnes County which we snapped on a whim while passing through Nome in 2005.

We had to make some guesses on this card due to the handwriting — This postcard was sent on September 24th, 1919 from Laura Sigurdson to Miss Signe Bratt (who was a teacher herself in Northfield) in Lawton, North Dakota.  It reads as follows:

Dear Signe,

Did you think I had forgotten you entirely?  Oh no.  Am teaching here at Nome, 1st grade, and like it fine.  How are you anyway?  Do you hear from [name illegible]?  Where is she?  Send me her address will you?  Please write me [illegible] soon and tell me all about yourself.  Yours forever, Laura Sigurdson.


You can see what this school looked like in 2005, here.


In the same box of postcards, we also found this unmailed, undated postcard of Farmers State Bank in Nome.


Some dapper looking gentlemen right there.

See the rest of our Nome, North Dakota material here.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media

Vintage Nome Postcards