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Minot building, Mandan cemetery, grain elevators named to ND 'most endangered historic properties' list

DUNSEITH, N.D. -- Preservation North Dakota named its 2008 "3 Most Endangered Historic Properties" this morning during its 15th Annual conference at the International Peace Garden.

DUNSEITH, N.D. -- Preservation North Dakota named its 2008 "3 Most Endangered Historic Properties" this morning during its 15th Annual conference at the International Peace Garden.

The three properties include the Flat Iron Building in Minot, Crying Hill Cemetery in Mandan, and North Dakota's grain elevators, a statewide listing.

To qualify for the "3 Most Endangered List," a site must have historical, architectural or cultural significance. The property also must be in danger of demolition, deterioration, or substantial alteration due to neglect or vandalism.

"Historic preservation plays a vital role in the economy of the state. By offering experiential and learning-based vacations, historic preservation also has a very real impact on the state's heritage tourism industry," said Dale Bentley, PND Executive Director. "Hopefully communities across the state will see this list and be inspired to begin a preservation project of their own so that North Dakota's rich cultural and architectural heritage is fully recognized as the economic resource it has the potential to become."

Here are the 2008 "3 Most Endangered Historic Properties":


  •   Flat Iron Building, Minot -- Ward County

The Flat Iron Building stands on the corner of Central Avenue and Broadway in Minot within a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in the early 20th Century, the Flat Iron Building has served as a newspaper office, library, and as commercial space. It is an excellent example of early 20th Century commercial design style, which is known for a more restrained and abstract use of decoration and detail, according to Bentley.
The Flat Iron Building probably is best known for its unique shape. The height and length of the building is similar to store fronts on many North Dakota streets, but step to the side, and you'll see how "flat" the building actually is. The layout of doors and windows on the street side reveal the building's former commercial use. It is two stories high above ground, and also has two stories below ground.

The City of Minot has marked this building for demolition. However, the Creative Restoration Company, a local coalition that hopes to restore the building, is developing a preservation plan. Deb Carroll is acting spokeswoman for the Creative Restoration Company and has co-created an affiliate group under PND to aid in preservation efforts, according to Bentley.

  •   Crying Hill, Mandan -- Morton County

Crying Hill rises above the surrounding plains on the east side of Mandan. The highest point in the area, Crying Hill has been sought out for centuries as a place of prayer, fasting, solace, and spiritual inspiration. In addition to the symbolic significance of being closer to the Creator, standing on Crying Hill provides a beautiful and practical place to view the surrounding area.
The Mandan, Hidatsa, Lakota, Dakota, and Arikara peoples have a deep spiritual connection to Crying Hill, according to a news release. Crying Hill means something different to each individual who experiences it. These experiences have been preserved in historic documents as well as the oral traditions of Native American elders and local residents.

Crying Hill is a significant American Indian landmark within the Mandan-Bismarck city limits. It was part of the original Mandan village, a site visited by the Verendrye expedition, one of the earliest known European explorations in the area. It still is used today by regional American Indians, by other cultural and religious groups, and by local residents.

The site is threatened by urban expansion, development and encroachment. It is essential that the site be protected before further development in the area destroys the landscape beyond recognition.

Patrick Atkinson of Mandan has led preservation efforts by purchasing the land, creating an ecumenical, nonpolitical community coalition, and making "Crying Hill" a registered trademark to protect the integrity of the name. Crying Hill's preservation coalition is committed to preserving the property from private urban development, to develop and promote Native American historical awareness in the area, and to provide a public access area that will improve the economic, educational, spiritual, physical, and cultural well-being of the community, its children, and their families.

  •   North Dakota Grain Elevators -- Statewide Listing

Grain elevators are fundamentally significant to the history of North Dakota, and the entire Great Plains region, Bentley said. At one time the various wood and metal structures, visible for miles, served as economic pillars for almost every community in the state.
While agricultural technology has evolved to the point where modern semi-trucks haul grain for miles to huge cement elevators, it wasn't that long ago when one could pass an elevator in any town and see a long line of grain trucks with an assortment of farm wives, kids, and hired men waiting to unload the grain truck, he said.

These structures are deteriorating now from lack of use, and their architectural and cultural significance is in danger of being lost forever, Bentley said. At one time, these structures were at the center of state and national attention as radical farmers, fighting against the railroad monopolies, formed cooperatives and lobbied for state-run elevators to combat what they felt were excessive prices and corruption.


Grain elevators can be difficult to maintain. They often serve a limited purpose, and can be costly and difficult to repurpose for alternate use. Not every elevator can and should be saved. However, the structures are so fundamentally significant to state and regional history, that an inventory should be conducted to determine how many of these structures are still standing, what condition they are in, and which ones could be salvaged, either as simple visual artifacts on the landscape, or as structures with an alternate use.

Honorable Mention

  •   Can Pile -- Casselton, Cass County

The Can Pile in Casselton is not exactly a piece of art, even to modern eyes, but it has a fascinating story to tell, Bentley said. The Can Pile began with Max Taubert's entrepreneurial spirit. A bachelor and World War I veteran, Taubert opened his gas station, the Brick House, in 1933.
Business boomed thanks to truckers headed to the West Fargo meatpacking plant, and the can pile is lasting evidence of Taubert's success. In 1936, Taubert added a lunch counter to his establishment, which soon became famous for the Brick House special, two hamburger patties with a large slice of onion garnished with pickles and mustard.

Preserving the Can Pile in Casselton is important because of the wealth of story and local folk lore attached. The Can Pile also has attracted a lot of attention for the city, especially as grassroots, experiential tourism is on the rise.

It has become noticed by people across the country, who are interested in roadside Americana, and it is appearing in more and more guides for travelers, especially in the Internet-based guides.

In a way, Taubert's entrepreneurial spirit is still alive in his Can Pile -- a structure that encourages those in search of genuine Americana to pull over and spend some time and money in Casselton, Bentley said.

Historic Preservation Success Story Award

The Martineau House, along the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, St. John, N.D., was awarded PND's 2008 Historic Preservation Success Story Award.


The Martineau House is the official Visitor Center of the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway. It is a National Register of Historic Sites property owned by the Rolette County Historical Society. This successful restoration and adaptive re-use is due to a partnership with the City of St. John. Working together, they secured over $65,000.00 in grant money for the building restoration and grounds beautification, according to the news release.

The restoration required lifting the structure off the original foundation. After 100 years, the original log foundation had disintegrated, and the building was sitting on packed earth. A poured concrete foundation replaced the logs on the original site.

New landscaping was completed with appropriate plants and a historically accurate picket fence. Unique architectural features were restored, including the front porch and gingerbread trim, and historically accurate doors, windows, shingles and siding were installed and painted in period colors.

The interior restoration included a new heating and cooling system, restroom facilities, electrical wiring, and restoration of the woodwork and floors. The building is now also handicap accessible.

The Visitors Center is the only surviving structure of many built by the Martineaus in St. John. It was built in 1899 as a tenant home and temporary family residence next door to his primary dwelling. The Martineau House is the oldest surviving structure in St. John.

The list will be announced to the public during this evening's Opening Plenary Session for the Historic Preservation Conference; that session will be held at the Burdick Performing Arts Center on the grounds of the International Peace Garden. This event is free and open to the public; the session will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Preservation North Dakota is the state's grass roots, nonprofit coalition for historic preservation. Incorporated in 1989, Preservation North Dakota, a membership-based organization that relies on the support of its members to make resources available to local preservationists across the state.

More information regarding the complete conference schedule can be found at www.prairieplaces.org , including a link to register for the conference online. Photos of the structures on the list are available for publication.

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