Arena, North Dakota

These photos were taken in the North Dakota ghost town of Arena.

Arena, North Dakota

Arena, North Dakota

I have been interested in old buildings and abandoned places most of my life.  I am of the generation who grew up with that quintessential family outing, the Sunday drive.  We zigzagged across many of the back roads of Michigan in our Ford station wagon and often, when we came across an old farmhouse, my mother would have my father stop the car so she could get out and look inside (BTW – she still does when she gets the chance!) Arena Church 3 Final Arena Church 1 Final

It seems my parents instilled these activities in me as I still love going for drives along the least traveled roads and now it is ME who can be found peering into old houses and abandoned buildings.

Arena, North Dakota

I give a deserving nod to my folks but I am dedicating this particular post to “Ghosts of North Dakota”.  Although I’ve never met Troy Larson and Terry ‘Rat’ Hinnenkamp, they have given me inspiration and, more importantly, direction when it comes to actually being able to locate some great ghost towns in North Dakota.  In my opinion, these two men have done a tremendous service to the state of North Dakota and its residents by photographically recording these former communities.  Many of the buildings have already started to disappear and as time passes, more will be lost, to gravity, the elements, and vandalism.

Arena Grain Elevators

Arena Grain Elevator

Arena Grain Elevator

Arena Grain Elevator 7 Final1964 Invoice

1964 Invoice

If you have any interest whatsoever in ghost towns, old buildings and the history of North Dakota, please visit their website and…note… they have now published some of their works in a really beautiful and well-constructed book (available at their website Ghosts of North Dakota).  You guys need to get an ISBN number and get that into the libraries!

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30 thoughts on “Arena, North Dakota

  1. Stunning photos! Old buildings like this fascinate me. I always try to imagine the people who once lived there and their stories. I’m going to go check out that website now!

    • Thanks soonie! I know what you mean about wondering about the folks who lived in these places. Some that I’ve been to are relatively undamaged or vandalized and I’ve gotten to see some things that would definitely add to their stories. On the Ghosts website, people will comment about their memories of the towns or their relatives who had lived there at some time. I hope you like their site!

  2. Thanks Madhu. I too thought it was fascinating that the invoice was in such good shape AND outside; it looked as if it had been written that day! I have to believe that it had been tucked inside and had been recently dislodged – I can honestly say I wasn’t involved in that process. In any case, that’s one of the really fun things about exploring these old places.

  3. A wonderful post. I love your ending with the close up of the receipt caught in the grass. The photos are so strong in their simplicity – like the buildings. It looks like yellow sweet clover in the field around the house in the fourth picture – do you know if it was? I love that smell.

    • Thank you blue :) I like your observation of the simplicity; it does seem appropriate considering the vast prairie setting.
      I’m afraid I do not know what the yellow flowers were – I think their color added a great deal to the scenes, especially with the dark skies. I don’t know if you clicked on the individual photos (they look so much nicer that way!) but you can then zoom one more level and get a really good look at the flowers.

      • Thanks – I tried that, and I think it is Yellow Sweet clover, so if you go back when it’s blooming, inhale deeply! I used to love picking bunches of it to bring home. Even if it’s not pretty the way a rose or a daisy is, the room smells like meadow – to me, happiness!

  4. These are absolutely beautiful. I, too, share your interest in abandoned and deserted places, they are just so atmospheric. Thanks for the site recommendation, it looks amazing :)

    • Thank you Dory. I’m always glad to find others have that connection with the old ghosts. I often wonder if it’s because I’m getting closer to being one myself – lol.

    • Thanks Bella :) I think that’s my favorite shot of the series.
      My mom is pretty awesome. She just had her 86th birthday…I can finally keep up with her now – lol!

  5. I see Arena’s remains pop up randomly on the internet from time to time. In a way it always kind of shocks me. Arena is literally my backyard, and I too, am fascinated by it’s ghostly remains. It wasn’t always like this, my husband remembers it when it was still alive, dying, but alive nonetheless. That was maybe about 25 years ago. Thank you for sharing your interests in rural decay :)

    • I would love to have seen pictures and hear the stories of when it was a town, alive and well. I hope you visited the Ghosts of North Dakota site as they often have folks who will make comments, usually memories or anecdotes – maybe your husband could share a few? Maybe these photos could prompt a few for him??
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting – it’s especially nice to make a personal connection with these photos :)

      • Absolutely! I plan on writing a blog about Arena at some point as well, but I am new to this whole blogging business. I have several pictures of the town taken last summer to encorporate. I do know that there was a general type store run out of someone’s home (the home that is buried in the trees-hardly know it was there) that is on the far South end of the town, you do not have a picture of it in your article. It was called “Kay Mart” or something like that. I do not know who the person was who lived there and ran it but my husband recalls being about five standing in there. His family knew the old lady that lived in the trailer home (also not in your pictures) that looks more like a large box car that was falling in on itself. Perhaps I can let you know when I write this future blog and post it’s pictures?

      • That old house was so covered in vegetation that I decided not to venture into the jungle. What a great story to know it was “Kay Mart”. It’s those types of stories that I just love to hear about! Please let me know when your blog is up and running, I can’t tell you how much I will look forward to seeing your photos and reading the stories. And don’t give up; it’s a little intimidating to get one of these blogs up and running (it seemed to take me MONTHS) but it’s a wonderful forum to share photos, stories and ideas.

      • I will let you know when I get around to it. There are several abandoned farmsteads that I want to write about too. I almost feel if I don’t capture their ending then they will certainly be forgotten about. Thank you for the encouragement! I have a couple posts so far but they are just silly ramblings of how I feel in the moment ;)

    • An appropriate observation considering the vastness of the prairie here! The stormy sky definitely was an added element for a “ghost town” series.

  6. I grew up in Arena, my family living there from 1953 to 1968. My grandparents, Christ and Rose Wetzel, lived next door in the yellow house in the photo. Our little house was burned down decades ago. My grandfather was the manager of the Peavey grain elevators and my father was his “second man”. My father then was promoted to manager when my grandfather retired. I believe that is my father’s handwriting on the grain elevator invoice dating from 1964 in the photo above. The building that is referred to in the comments as “Kay Mart” is actually the home of Dallas and Hattie Barkman. There used to be a building housing the store/gas station/post office just to the north of the Barkman home. It was owned and managed by Selma Rice who lived with the Barkmans. After she died Rose Eide purchased and ran the business. Rose stocked a large variety of items, way more than Selma ever did. Because of this, the locals started referring to the store as Rose’s “KMart”. The store was robbed and burned down by the thieves. I have a lot of memories of Arena and these are but a very small number.

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