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Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

Donnelly School and an Abandoned Church

Donnelly is in Stevens County, Minnesota, about 10 minutes northwest of Morris, and home to about 241 people as of the 2010 census. It was founded in December 1871, and was originally known as “Douglas”, but was renamed Donnelly in honor of Minnesota Congressman Ignatius Donnelly. Congressman Donnelly is perhaps better known for his book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, a work which maintains Plato’s writings on Atlantis are factual. The book became the basis for many of the Atlantis legends of popular lore.

We went to Donnelly in 2012 with the intention of getting some shots of the very impressive former public school.

We’re told the owner of the school has (or had) a woodworking shop in the back of the school for a time.

The front of this school is completely overgrown.  Troy had to navigate through the bushes to get onto the front steps and take this photo.

For a town with as many people as Donnelly, we were surprised to find it still had quite a few derelict places to photograph, including this service station which looked like a place out of time.

This church had a notice of forfeiture posted on the door due to back taxes.  The notice had an expiration date of May, 2012 for the owners, a couple from Doylestown, Ohio, to pay more than $5,500 in back taxes, or forfeit the property to Stevens County. We have yet to hear how the situation turned out. Please post a comment below if you know.

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

Haunting Abandoned Border Station

Haunting Abandoned Border Station

The former Port of Entry in Noyes, Minnesota was a haunting abandoned relic when we visited in 2013. Check out our new video featuring some history and updates on the fate of this place after a government auction in 2014. This video was uploaded at high quality, so if you have the capability to stream it to your TV, definitely check it out on the big screen.

See also: A Haunting Abandoned Port of Entry in Noyes, Minnesota

Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley is in Big Stone County, in the “elbow” of Minnesota, where Lake Traverse, Big Stone Lake, and the Little Minnesota River carve into what would otherwise be South Dakota’s territory.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley had a population of 200-plus residents in the 2010 Census. Beardsley’s schools were consolidated with Graceville and Clinton, Minnesota long ago. In the photo above, the former High School is in the foreground, and behind it on the left, Beardsley’s other abandoned school, which now appears to be owned by a private party.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

The corner of Windom Avenue and Forest Street.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

If there’s any question how long this school has been left exposed to the elements, note the broken door in the lower left. We found a picture of this school online, taken in 2009, in which the door was in the same condition. Below, a look inside the doorway.

Beardsley, Minnesota

We did not see a single “No Trespassing” sign on this old school, but we did not have permission to enter, and we didn’t know who the owner was, so we stayed out. We would love to photograph the interior one day, before it’s too late.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

This school was built in 1908. For historical context, that same year, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were reportedly killed in Bolivia, Henry Ford produced the first Model-T, and Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in a plane crash. He was a passenger on a flight piloted by Orville Wright.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley’s other school was built in 1954, and only a year later, Beardsley’s public schools became the subject of some controversy with the Catholic Church. In his book, “Rooting Out Religion: Church-State Controversies in Minnesota Public Schools Since 1950,” author Bruce Dierenfield details a 1955 controversy in which the Pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Harvey Egan, wrote a letter objecting to baccalaureate services held in connection with graduation and holiday ceremonies on the grounds that the prayers may violate Catholic beliefs. “Upon receiving the letter, the school board canceled commencement and considered dropping its Christmas celebration. The board chairman, C. A. Hundeby, called for ‘a strictly academic year all year with no Christmas programs either.'”

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

The roof on this school was somewhat unique, and something we hadn’t seen before. It was sloped toward the center.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Do you know more about Beardsley, Minnesota and its schools? Please leave a comment.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Why Was This Structure Built as a Fortress?

Why Was This Structure Built as a Fortress?

As we were planning a shoot that would include some Minnesota and Iowa places, we decided to visit Johnson, Minnesota, in Big Stone County, not far from the South Dakota border, to investigate one structure.

The aerial view of the structure in our mapping software seemed to indicate a rectangular building with some kind of bell tower or steeple at one corner, so we marked it and made plans to visit under the assumption we would find an old fire station, or perhaps a school or church. When we arrived in April of 2016, we were very surprised to find something quite different.

Johnson, Minnesota

This abandoned structure stands on the northwest edge of Johnson, Minnesota, and it is the first structure of its kind that we’ve ever stumbled upon. From the front, the ground floor of this building looks like many of the other places we’ve photographed, like a pioneer-era store of some kind. The corner tower, however, appears to have been constructed to provide defense against unknown assailants. Reinforced rifle slots in the north and west walls hint at ominous intent.

Johnson, Minnesota

The name J. Luchsinger on the facade of the building, with the date 1912, might be a clue. Searches reveal two Luchsinger men, John and Jacob, fought in the Civil and Indian Wars of 1861-65 (Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota is not far away, and was besieged in 1862). Another search result revealed an ad from 1922 in the Ortonville Independent which lists Jacob Luchsinger as a merchant in nearby Correll, Minnesota.

Johnson, Minnesota

Was Jacob Luchsinger the namesake of this building? Why was it built as a fortress? If you know the history of this place, we would love to hear it in the comments below.

Update: There is also a genealogy search result that shows a Jacob Luchsinger who was born in Minnesota in 1848, and died in 1916, location unknown.

Johnson, Minnesota

Johnson, Minnesota

Looking at the windows, high on the west wall, Terry had another observation… maybe it was a jail? Another possibility.

Johnson, Minnesota

Johnson, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Effie’s Logging Legacy

Effie’s Logging Legacy

I stopped in Effie on a whim when I happened to drive by the boarded-up public school on my way home from Togo. Effie is a quiet little town in Itasca County with a population around 130 according to the 2010 Census. In 2000, however, the Census only listed about 91 residents. If anyone knows the reason for the influx of residents between 2000 and 2010, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Effie, like most of the settlements in this part of Northern Minnesota, is a community that exists largely due to the logging industry. According to Mimi Barzen at the Minnesota DNR, “By 1875 logging was big business, due to the abundance of trees, expanding rail system, and network of waterways extending all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

These photos were taken by FSA Photographer Russell Lee in 1937 at a logging camp on the outskirts of Effie.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Loading logs onto a railroad car.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Blowing the horn for dinner.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Effie, Minnesota School

Many Minnesota logging communities were left behind when the white pine logging industry moved on to the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s, and empty schools, like this one in Effie, or the one in Togo, are remnants of the exodus.  Effie clings to life, however, with outdoor recreation in warm and cold weather–hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling for instance–and they have a well-regarded rodeo, the North Star Stampede, held annually, rain or shine, in the last week of July.

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Black & White photos by Russell Lee, 1937. Color photos by Troy Larson, Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Abandoned Art Deco School in Norcross, Minnesota

Abandoned Art Deco School in Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross is a small town in Grant county, a short drive southeast of Breckenridge, directly west of Alexandria. The sign on the outskirts of Norcross proclaims a population in the sixties.  We decided to visit Norcross after seeing a photo of the beautiful art deco public school building.

Norcross, Minnesota

We spoke to a Norcross resident who told us this school is owned by a couple from Arizona who intended to fix it up, but haven’t been seen in about two years.

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

We spoke to a local man named Jerry who told us the home above was his mom’s house, and he suspected it might have been a store at one time as well. I thought it had a certain depot-type appearance too.

Norcross, Minnesota

This post office is still in use. Very picturesque.

Norcross, Minnesota

Jerry showed us some historic photos of Norcross, including this one which shows the same post office on the far left.

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

Norcross, Minnesota

This was the office for a lumberyard which no longer exists. Just to the left of this building there was once a large community center which is now gone too.

Norcross, Minnesota

If you build it……….. they will go?

Norcross, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

Williams is in Lake of the Woods county in northern Minnesota.  According to the 2010 Census, Williams has 191 residents.

On October 7th, 1910, Williams was decimated by the Baudette Fire–a wildfire that scorched over 300,000 acres and nearly a dozen communities in both the United States and Canada.  Varied sources report the death toll between 29 and 42.  Thousands were left homeless and The American Red Cross and The National Guard assisted in the recovery effort.

Today, Williams is a quiet little community with plentiful resort traffic.  Emma Katka contributed these photos of the Williams abandoned school, which was also used as the Williams Community Center for a time.

Photos by Emma Katka
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

Pioneer Remains in Strand Township

Pioneer Remains in Strand Township

In Strand Township, Norman County, not far from Gary, Minnesota and about twelve miles west of Mahnomen stand the remains of a pioneer community. I ran across this church and school by accident as I was returning from a trip to northeast Minnesota to photograph some spots in the forest, including Togo.

strand township church

This was Immanuel Lutheran Church, possibly built as early as 1910. If anyone knows the history of this church, please leave a comment. I poked my camera through a window to get a photo of the inside, disturbing the pigeons in the process. You can see them in flight near the ceiling.

strand township church

strand township church

We featured dozens of country churches like this in our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains, available now.

strand township church

strand township church

Just three miles west, this abandoned one room school stands crumbling at the intersection of Highways 200 and 32. This school predates the church by roughly thirty years, dating to the 1880s. This school and the church down the road are just a few miles from Gary, Minnesota, and not far from a few other places we’ve photographed, like Sundal and Lockhart, Minnesota.

strand township school

strand township school

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media

Timber Town: Hines, Minnesota

Timber Town: Hines, Minnesota

Just down the road from Blackduck, in Beltrami County, I found Hines, Minnesota, totally by accident. I glanced over my shoulder as I passed through a highway intersection and caught a glimpse of the weathered wood facade of the Pioneer Store, so I turned around and went back to snap a few photos.

Hines, Minnesota

Hines, Minnesota dates back to the 1890s and is named for William Hines, a lumberman. It was originally founded a short distance to the north, on the south shore of Blackduck lake, but moved to this location when the allure of the railroad and logging job opportunities offered by the old growth forest brought settlers and homesteaders to the area. The post office opened in 1904.

Hines, Minnesota

Hines, Minnesota

The sign on the door reads: Open by appointment or chance.

Hines, Minnesota

Hines, Minnesota

The sign in the window of the Studebaker asks $1000.00

Hines, Minnesota

If you enjoy photos of old buildings, abandoned places, and small, rural communities, check out our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

Hines, Minnesota

I found this old service station to be very photogenic. There was once a lot more of Hines. There are detailed histories here and here where you can read a lot more, and see photos of buildings which no longer exist.

Hines, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media

Bagley Lost Highway

Bagley Lost Highway

There’s an abandoned stretch of road sandwiched between US Highway 2 and Airport Drive on the outskirts of Bagley, Minnesota. A visitor to this website suggested this place to us after seeing our post on the lost highway in what was once McHugh, Minnesota, near Detroit Lakes.

Bagley Lost Highway
Image/Google Earth

Based on the map, it looks like US Highway 2 was realigned at some point, leaving this stretch of highway abandoned. If someone knows the details, please leave a comment.

Bagley Lost Highway

Bagley Lost Highway

This abandoned road stretches about six-tenths of a mile and parallels the railroad line.

Bagley Lost Highway

In North Dakota, we photographed another lost highway, created by a man-made flood.

Bagley Lost Highway

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media