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Rianne Kuhn, director of marketing & communications for Visit Minot, stands by the fountain that has been "loved, hated, missed, ignored, repurposed as a flower pot and literally avoided (by motorists) in the 100-plus years it has stood in Minot," as the Minot Daily News reported in 2017. The fountain stands today as one of Minot's hidden historical gems. IMAGE: VISIT MINOT

Rianne Kuhn, marketing director, Visit Minot: Finding the hidden tourist gems in Minot, ND

MINOT, N.D. – When traveling to Minot, you'll find a number of recognizable attractions such as the Roosevelt Park Zoo and Dakota Territory Air Museum, along with large events like the North Dakota State Fair and Norsk Høstfest.

However, Minot is rich with history, and there are a couple of hidden gems around town that even some of the locals don't know about.

  • For example, as you walk through the Scandinavian Heritage Park, near the stairwell leading to the Gol Stav Church, you'll come across a statue of Sondre Norheim, 1825-97, the Father of Modern Skiing.

As a skier in Norway, Norheim’s love for the sport sparked his idea for a new and extremely useful invention for skiers. Norheim's innovation let skiers attach their skis firmly to their feet, providing additional structure and stability -- and forming the start of what we know today as ski bindings.

By taking thin shoots from birch-tree roots and soaking them in hot water, Norheim was able to securely fasten his skis to his feet. “Now he could twist and turn on his skis and fly through the air like a bird,” www.hostfest.com reports. “Thus was the humble beginning of ski bindings.”

Norheim moved with his wife and five children from Norway to America in 1884. He “was a modest man, so even his neighbors in North Dakota did not know that his name was legend in Norway,” reports www.hostfest.com.

When Norheim passed in 1897, he was buried in Denbigh, N.D., just over a 30-mile drive from Minot.

His grave went unmarked for decades. Then in 1965, Norheim’s descendants and others researched all of the unmarked sites in the Norway Cemetery in Denbigh. They narrowed Norheim’s gravesite down to two possible locations.

After three days of rain, the researchers drove a stake into the wet sediment of the first possible burial site; and when the stake hit a metal casket, they knew that this was not where Norheim was buried.

The stake then was driven into the second possible site, where it hit nothing.

That was the spot. Norheim had been buried in a wooden casket, and the wood would have disintegrated over time, the researchers knew. So, the mystery as to where he was buried was solved.

Once the burial site was confirmed, a plaque was placed there in 1966. Travelers can find the plaque near the Norway Lutheran Church, which Norheim originally built out of logs. The church, now made of stone, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; visitors to the area can see it as well as Norheim’s burial site.  

And every year at Norsk Høstfest, a bus takes passengers to do just that. The visitors depart from Scandinavian Heritage Park and travel to the Norway Lutheran Church and Norheim’s gravesite for a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony.

  • In 1886, the development of the Great Northern Railway halted as the winter season blew through North Dakota. The rail construction crew set up camp, and as if by “magic,” a tent town arose practically overnight.

The community grew to a population of 5,000 in the next five months, giving Minot the nickname of the Magic City.

In 1910, the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Humane Alliance of New York donated 100 fountains to different cities across the country. Due to Minot's growth, the city was selected to receive a fountain from the alliance. Minot was the smallest city to be selected.

The fountains were cast in five pieces, which were shipped by train into Minot. Fully assembled, the fountain weighed in at 5 tons.

The National Humane Alliance of New York spent $1,250 on the fountain, which was quite the sum in 1910. Once the fountain arrived, its assembly and transport were the city's responsibilities.

The fountain was put together and placed at its new home on Main and 1st Avenue. It was designed with a large bowl on top -- which the horses could drink from – and a small bowl on the bottom for dogs.

As cars became more common, the fountain played havoc with traffic, resulting in accidents. So, it was moved several times over the years and came to rest at what was then Minot State College, outside of Dakota Hall.

The fountain stayed there for 50 years. The water jets no longer functioned, so the bowl that horses once drank from filled up with flowers and dirt.

As Minot moved into its centennial year of 1986, merchants rallied to bring the fountain back downtown, where it had originally stood. With help from Monarch Concrete, the fountain was disassembled yet again into those five pieces and moved back downtown.

The fountain was repaired to be functional once again, and it got a good polishing.   

Then during the downtown infrastructure project in 2015-17, the fountain was put into storage. With the completion of the downtown infrastructure, the fountain was placed on the southwest corner of Main and 1st.

With help from local companies, it was once again made functional. And today it serves as a historical marker and a piece of Minot's rich history.

Rianne Kuhn

Director of Marketing & Communications

Visit Minot

www.visitminot.org

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