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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

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

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church stands in the forest of the South Koochiching unorganized territory in Koochiching County, Minnesota, about 35 miles northwest of Hibbing. I made a five hour drive from the Red River Valley to photograph this place at peak fall color in October of 2015.

An autumn drive through the Iron Range to reach this place is a treat like few others I’ve ever experienced. The small communities along the drive have a particular character — adorned in the color of rust, it’s almost as if they’re carved into the landscape, and in some places, they are. Working-class neighborhoods line the streets, where men and women work largely blue-collar jobs, equally at home operating heavy machinery as they are working with their hands. A dugout on a local baseball field shows two shades of paint, one layer applied decades earlier, beneath a more recent application, and a banner reads “Spartans.”

I turned north off of Highway 169 between Grand Rapids and Hibbing, where the highway winds past granite outcrops, and aged piles of boulders and mine tailings dot the landscape, and it was very clear that this part of northern Minnesota is the home of can-do people. The unending wilderness was intimidating to a city-dweller like myself, and thoughts of what might happen in the event of a car breakdown or an adverse weather event were not easy to banish from my mind.

The last forty miles took nearly an hour as I drove on a winding, undulating, two-lane forest highway in a hard rainstorm that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. The drive took me through Togo, Minnesota, home to an abandoned public school, and finally I had arrived at this place.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

I was surprised first and foremost to discover this church in excellent condition. I had seen a photo of it on Google Earth, and it appeared to be in deteriorating condition. As it turns out, this church has undergone at least two restorations — one in 1995, and another in 2011-2012. There are two metal plaques on the front of the church listing donors for both projects. The restorations, in light of the remote location, are another example of the determination of the people who inhabit this part of Minnesota.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

The sign reads:

Built in 1917-18 by the Lucachick & Sorokie families and many other neighbors. The church land was donated by the Lucachicks and the cemetery land by the sorokies.

Work still to be done: window sills & frames, replace the front doors with original design wood panel doors, repair the dome, repair various interior features and foundation.

Please send your tax deductible donation to: St. Peter & St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Todd Lucachick
18469 Sugar Lake Trail
Cohasset, MN  55721

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches are fairly common in northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and across the border in Manitoba, too.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Technically, this church is located in Bramble, Minnesota, which is an unorganized community — really, more of a rural cluster of residences than a town.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

If you enjoy churches like this, please consider ordering our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media



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This Terrebonne Church is in Danger of Demolition

This Terrebonne Church is in Danger of Demolition

This is St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Terrebonne, Minnesota, and it is a place in danger of being demolished.

Update: This church was demolished in a controlled burn on April 29th, 2016. Some of the photos on this page are featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains, which you can order in our store, or ask for it at your favorite local book store or gift shop.

Terrebonne, Minnesota

According to the Star Tribune, the Crookston Diocese sent a letter to parishioners in March as notice of their intent to knock down St. Anthony’s by the end of 2015 due to maintenance costs and concerns over black mold and a sloping floor due to frost heaves.

Terrebonne, Minnesota

There is a local group, passionate about preserving this place, and they’ve done a fantastic job raising the funds to delay demolition thus far, but they need your help to save this church. Their Facebook page is here.

Terrebonne, Minnesota

There was a very friendly and pettable golden retriever who paid me a visit while I was at St. Anthony’s.

Terrebonne, Minnesota

Terrebonne, Minnesota

Terrebonne, Minnesota

Anybody know if there’s anything in this cornerstone? Hopefully, it will be another hundred years before we find out.

Terrebonne, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Caribou Church: Beautiful and Remote

Caribou Church: Beautiful and Remote

This is the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Caribou, in northwestern Minnesota just a little more than a mile from the Canadian border.

Caribou Church

Many of the parishioners at this church lived in Canada and crossed the border regularly without too much trouble, but US Customs began enforcing boundary laws in the thirties, and this church soon waned.

Caribou Church

When I arrived, I was blown away by the simple beauty of the site. The remote location, the huge white crosses in the cemetery… this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve photographed.

Caribou Church

This church was built in 1905 during a church boom that happened in this area (on both sides of the border) due to Ukrainian immigrants who were settling in the area. There are more on the other side of the border, including this one in Tolstoi, Manitoba, and the oldest Ukrainian Orthodox Church In Canada, in neighboring Gardenton, Manitoba.

Caribou Church

St. Nicholas was renovated in 1974, and they held a Divine Liturgy, the first in 30 years, in 1975.

Caribou Church

Don’t let the remote location fool you. This church is still well cared for. Somebody appears to be stripping the paint with a wire brush and scraper. Nobody was around, but these tools were still sitting on the picnic table, like the caretaker just walked away a few minutes earlier.

Caribou Church

Caribou Church

An open foundation is also on-site, as well as a few inhabited homes in the area.

Caribou Church

For more reading on the Caribou church and other churches like these, I would recommend you check out Sacred Sites of Minnesota by John-Brian Paprock and Teresa Peneguy Paprock.

If you’d like to be notified when we post new places, follow us on Facebook.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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

St. Pauli Lutheran Church

St. Pauli Lutheran Church

This is St. Pauli Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Almond Township, Big Stone County, just a short drive north of Ortonville on US Highway 75.

As I understand the explanation on this page, I think this church was built in 1896 after a split within the Norwegian Lutheran community created two new congregations with separate churches.

St. Pauli Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Pauli Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The grounds of this church and cemetery are in remarkable condition.  It’s clear there are some people who really take pride in this place.

St. Pauli Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Pauli Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Pauli Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

The Beautiful Plains of Sundal, Minnesota

The Beautiful Plains of Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal, Minnesota is in Norman County and notable for two striking structures of entirely different character.  Sundal is a loose knit collection of farmsteads with a reported population around twenty.  On the east end, the abdandoned creamery — the building with the smokestack you see below.  On the west end, the beautiful Sundal Lutheran Church.  Sundal’s parent township, sometimes spelled Sundahl, is named for a village and river in Norway.

Sundal, Minnesota

The former Sundal Creamery.

Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal, Minnesota

Across the road, this home stands abandoned.

Sundal, Minnesota

This part of the state, like southern Minnesota, is decidedly more prairie than the forested lands to the northeast.

Sundal, Minnesota

Sundal Lutheran Church was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains. The plaque at the bottom of the sign shown below reads: In memory of persons buried 1881 — 1891, Original Cemetery, NW Corner, Sec. 15, Sundal Township

Sundal, Minnesota

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


Last Days in Tenney

Last Days in Tenney

Tenney, in southern Wilkin county, came to my attention when I saw a story on the news about how they had voted to dissolve, officially shedding the “town” designation.  There are only six people in Tenney.  As I learned on my visit, there are also two big black dogs.

Read more on Tenney in the Star Tribune.

Much to my chagrin, I somehow forgot about or missed the Tenney Firehouse which is on the National Register of Historic Places… next time perhaps.

Photos by Troy
Copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC