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Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota’s natural and cultural history. We encourage dialogue, questions, and comments!

Guinn Hinman's blog

New Programs out at State Historic Sites!

Scattered all across the state, in almost every corner, our historic sites have something fun to offer for everyone. In addition to preserving and interpreting the history of these great places, we also offer dynamic educational programming for all ages. The summer of 2018 has seen two new programs take off –the Cycling History Highways series and the Junior Sheriff program at the Stutsman County Courthouse State Historic Site.

Cycling History Highways is a series of bicycle rides throughout the summer that merge cycling with historic tours and activities. On June 30, cyclists were treated to a guided tour of Chief Looking’s Village in Bismarck by Doug Wurtz, member of the North Dakota Archaeological Association. Cyclists then departed for Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic Site, with a unique water break at a tipi along the way. Upon arrival, the group partook in Native American games, atlatl throwing, and an interpretive tour.

Cyclists riding by Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic site with the Missouri River in the background

Cyclists enjoying the view near Double Ditch State Historic Site on June 30

Two more rides are scheduled for the summer, with a Cold War themed ride planned for July 28 near Cooperstown and a ride from Fort Clark State Historic Site to Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton on September 22. Cold War riders will be given guided tours of the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site, including the Oscar Zero missile alert facility and November-33 launch facility, before proceeding on to other Cold War sites. For the final ride, cyclists can immerse themselves in the historic world of the early American fur trade, joining Historical Society staff for guided tours and activities at both sites.

For more information and to pre-register for Cycling History Highways, please visit: history.nd.gov/cycling

In addition to cycling around historic sites, history enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the Junior Sheriff program at the historic 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse—our newest addition to the historic sites lineup. Hopeful Junior Sheriffs can test their wits as they explore the oldest courthouse in North Dakota. Participants will answer questions, solve puzzles and record their answers. The new Junior Sheriffs will be sworn in and received their official badges! Appropriate for all ages, the Junior Sheriff program at the courthouse is a fun and free activity to try.

Junior Sheriff Notebook

The official Junior Sheriff notebook and badge

For more information on the Stutsman County Courthouse State Historic Site and all of the events on schedule this summer, please visit: facebook.com/1883Courthouse

Summer Historic Preservation: Column Restoration at Fort Totten State Historic Site

Fort Totten State Historic Site, on the south-east edge of the town of Fort Totten, features a dozen or so brick buildings, all with distinctive columns lining the front porches and entrances. Unfortunately, many of these columns had succumbed to rot and water damage over the years and were in desperate need of preservation.

The original military fort was built of logs in 1867 and replaced with buildings built using locally made bricks in 1868. These original bricks and the wood columns require regular maintenance and care.

Soldiers at Fort Totten State

Soldiers in front of a building at Fort Totten, circa 1870. Note the distinctive columns on the porch. SHSND 670-21

Staff members in front of school

After its tenure as a military post, Fort Totten became an industrial boarding school for Native American children in 1890. Pictured are staff members of the school on a front porch around 1890. SHSND 32286-61

Rotted columns

The columns at Fort Totten had started to rot and were in need of restoration.

Column replacement

This summer, we replaced 7 columns. To replace the columns, the existing rotten columns were removed and the porches shored up temporarily. Large fir beams were hand cut into the distinctive tapered shape of the historic columns at Fort Totten.

Column replacement

The footers at the base of each column were then poured and the columns painted to match the historic colors.

Column replacement

Although likely overlooked by most visitors, the columns at Fort Totten are an important architectural feature of the site and well worth restoring. Restoration work is an important aspect of our preservation of historic sites at the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

We invite you to visit Fort Totten and admire the craftsmanship of our newly restored columns.