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Category: Moorhead Area

The Oldest Home in Moorhead

The Oldest Home in Moorhead

To be clear, the Bergquist Cabin is described by the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County as the oldest home in Moorhead still on its original site. (There is another cabin, built in 1860, which has been moved a number of times, even disassembled and put in storage at one time, which now stands in Memorial Park at the Hjemkomst Center) At any rate, it’s fascinating to stand before this little, one-room log shack and imagine what it must have been like to live here.

Swedish immigrant John Bergquist was a man with perfect timing. He emigrated to America and began construction on this cabin in February of 1871. Minnesota had only been a state for 13 years at that time, and the Red River boundary with the still-wild Dakota Territory was just a quarter mile to the west, but the region was about to boom. Just a few months after Bergquist completed this cabin, the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived and began construction on the first railroad bridge to span the Red River, just a few miles to the south.

Bergquist Cabin

Fargo and Moorhead boomed after the construction of the bridge, and John Bergquist saw an opportunity. He started a brickyard using clay gathered from a site nearby, and many of John Bergquist’s bricks were used to build the early structures in Moorhead.

Bergquist lived in this cabin until 1884, when he sold the site. Over the decades, three more families lived in this cabin — the Houcks, the Petersons, and the Shambergers. With each successive family, this cabin was expanded until it was quite literally a log room inside a house which had been built around it. The Shamberger family moved out in 1967 and the house sat abandoned until the Bergquist family launched an effort to restore it in the late-70s.

Bergquist Cabin

The additions to the cabin were torn down, the logs were numbered, then the cabin was disassembled, restored, and reassembled on its original site. Judging by the information I’ve seen on the HCSCC website, the Bergquist Cabin is open once or twice a year for visitors to see the inside, but anyone can go see this cabin from the outside at any time. It’s in a little park, not far from the river, at 1008 7th Street North.

Bergquist Cabin

This is one of those places where you stumble across it by accident, then you feel dumb not knowing about it for so long. I was on my way to pick up dinner with my son when I took a wrong turn in north Moorhead and just happened to drive right by this place. It’s just down the street from the home where I’ve lived for over a decade, and I never knew about it.

Bergquist Cabin

Are these original John Bergquist bricks?

Bergquist Cabin

There are several information panels on site.

Bergquist Cabin

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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Who Wants a Free Church?

Who Wants a Free Church?

I became aware of this church this morning when someone posted a photo of a newspaper ad which read, “For Give Away: A Rural Church near Moorhead, MN. Must be moved.”

I called the number in the ad and talked to a gentleman named Alvin Swanson who gave me directions, and fifteen minutes later I was standing in front of this place — Oak Mound Congregational Church, just a few miles from Kragnes, Minnesota, a tiny town near the Red River, on the border with North Dakota.

Oakmound Congregational Church

Oak Mound once had a school, an impressive one, right down the road from this church, but it is long gone.  Only the sign remains.

Oakmound Congregational Church

I asked Mr. Swanson for some background on why they’re trying to give this church away, and he replied in a somewhat melancholy manner that they had their last services here about two years ago and the church has since been flooded.  It can’t stay here.

Oakmound Congregational Church

Mr. Swanson said he’s a former member of the congregation and that most of the former church members would like to see this church moved and reused as a church again, but interest in the place has not been strong, which, in my opinion, is due to an extensive series of renovations which have masked the charm of the original church.

Oakmound Congregational Church

This church started out as a small church on the prairie, but it was moved to this spot after two years.  The church you see here came into existence in three stages — the original church was moved here, then a basement and an addition were added later.

Oakmound Congregational Church

Oakmound Congregational Church

In my non-expert opinion, this church could still be moved and repurposed but it would be best used if restored to its original form, with the additions simply scrapped. It could be beautiful again.

Oakmound Congregational Church

Oakmound Congregational Church

The coat room.

Oakmound Congregational Church

There are a series of photos on display inside the church which illustrate the history of this place quite nicely.

Oakmound Congregational Church

Mr. Swanson gave me permission to give his phone number out, but I would personally request that you only call it if you’re serious, because he’s an elderly gentleman and we don’t want to blow up his phone too much for no reason.  He also said they are still determining what to do with all the pews and fixtures.  Interested parties can leave their number and he will get back to them when they decide what to do with it all.  Alvin Swanson: 218-233-4226

Oakmound Congregational Church

The basement was covered with black mold everywhere… on the floor, the ceiling tiles, the walls.

Oakmound Congregational Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Downtown Moorhead

Downtown Moorhead

In 1965, downtown Moorhead still existed, as you can see from the postcard shown here — a view from the Center Avenue Bridge looking east.  But the popularity of West Acres Mall in Fargo instigated some developments that were of questionable judgement.  In the postcard shown here, you see dozens of buildings that no longer exist — the bulk of downtown Moorhead.  In an ill-advised urban renewal project, most of downtown Moorhead was razed to make way for the Moorhead Center Mall and the new Moorhead City Hall.  The new development was wholly inadequate to compete with West Acres and quickly declined into an urban ghost town.

Although the Moorhead Center Mall has been going through a mild resurgence over the last few years, there aren’t many who would defend its existence.  One block to the south, Main Avenue has gone through an extensive renovation in an attempt to recapture some of the history and downtown feel that was lost when this area was demolished.   In the postcard below, all the structures on the left side of the street, and a few on the right, are now gone.  The former FM Hotel is the primary remaining landmark.

Today, there are more neighborhoods on the fringe of downtown Moorhead which are suffering from blight and absentee landlords, and a vocal group of local residents are pushing to have the properties demolished.  Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.  Moorhead has already lost enough of their history.

center-ave-1965

The same scene in 2011 is shown below.

center-ave-2011

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Return to Comstock

Return to Comstock

On our way back to Moorhead in July of 2012, we stopped in Comstock to photograph the former Comstock Public School.  We had visited this place once before in 2011, and we found the school much the same as it was then, except someone had put up a fence all the way around the perimeter.

Comstock, Minnesota

Somewhere inside Comstock Public School, a radio perpetually plays.

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock Public School was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 17th, 1980.

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock, Minnesota

Apparently, the irony of spray painting moral messages on the side of a building was lost on at least one vandal.

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock, Minnesota

Comstock, Minnesota

When Terry approached the school, the pigeons got alarmed and flocked overhead.

Comstock, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2012 Sonic Tremor Media

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Georgetown, Minnesota

Georgetown, Minnesota

Georgetown is about 20 minutes north of Moorhead on the Red River.  I took a drive out there to photograph this bridge which crosses the Red River from Minnesota into North Dakota, and ended up on a mini-adventure.

Some kind of strange alien carcass.
Under the bridge.
Plainsmen Black Powder Club, Members & Guests. Sounds inviting.

The abandoned Georgetown school. One empty space in a small agricultural town.

Driving around near Georgetown, Minnesota, I stumbled into a seldom used road with this little one-lane bridge.

Beautiful
The bridge deck clatters charmingly as you drive across.

Photos by Troy, Copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Wolverton Public School

Wolverton Public School

Wolverton Public School, on north First Street in Wolverton was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 17th, 1980.  It’s a beautiful school and it’s still in great shape.

Photos by Troy
Copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Moorhead Flood 2009

Moorhead Flood 2009

These photos taken on March 28th, 2009.  They originally predicted the crest for the the 29th, but I think this ended up being the day the Red actually crested.  These photos taken from the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Main Avenue in Moorhead.