Visit to Ft. Totten, North Dakota
My parents were in town this weekend and we took a trip to Ft. Totten, North Dakota. It’s a remarkably well preserved “Dakota frontier era” fort. It functioned initially as a frontier fort with a garrison who guarded railroad construction and communication lines around Devil’s Lake, ND. In 1890 it was turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and began life as an Indian School. In 1960 it was given to the State of North Dakota who have subsequently opened it as a historic site and worked to restore and maintain its buildings. Here’s a Google Earth KZM file showing its location.
The way the fort is presented enables the visitor to understand its past as a military installation and as a school. This is no easy thing considering that several buildings — like the armory — changed functions considerably over that time. While hardly lavish in presentation, I thought that the simple signs and informational posters wove together the two, very different, stories of this site in a thought provoking and understandable way.
More interestingly still, is that parts of the site have been given over to local historical organizations, a theatre, and a bed-and-breakfast. These buildings not only take advantage of the extensive facilities available at the site, but also must also help with the maintenance of the site by keeping it in the public eye. Coming from Greece where so many sites with substantial remains are simply closed to the public, it was striking to see how the State of North Dakota can find ways to keep a site visible in the public eye while still maintaining some aspects of its “historical integrity”.
This photo is gratuitous… Wind power on the prairie.