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Ghost Town: Mondak, Montana

Ghost Town: Mondak, Montana

This is Mondak, Montana, a true ghost town in Roosevelt County straddling the Montana/North Dakota border, two and a half miles west of Buford, North Dakota, and ten miles north of Fairview, Montana.

Mondak, Montana

Mondak has an incredible history as a rough and tumble outpost designed to serve liquor to thirsty North Dakotans after their state became one of the first to go dry.

Mondak, Montana

Mondak was founded in 1903 by businessmen intent on making money in the bootlegging and saloon trade. There were eventually seven saloons in Mondak, as well as a bank, two hotels, and three general stores.  According to one account, it also had a notoriously dangerous red light district.

Mondak, Montana

The liquor laws intended to keep North Dakota dry were woefully inadequate in Mondak, though. It was illegal to sell alcohol in North Dakota, but it wasn’t illegal to drink it. So, according to a story in a 1965 issue of Montana Magazine of Western History, a local partnership built a saloon right on the state line in which customers could walk to the Montana side of the bar, get a drink, then move back down to the corner booth and drink it in North Dakota.

Mondak, Montana

We visited Mondak on a summer weekend in July of 2014 when smoke from forest fires (in Canada, Washington, or Oregon, depending on who you ask) was thick in the air, spoiling the beautiful skies we so often seek.  These photos were shot just after six in the morning, moments after sunrise.

Mondak, Montana Map

In this graphic based on a Google Earth aerial view, we see substantial ruins in Mondak and the unique geographic layout of the town. Note the close proximity of the state line to some of the ruins. The jail and the other two remaining structures appear in the upper left.

Mondak, Montana

Something tells me that morning patch of warm sun on the wall was a welcome relief for any prisoner who had to spend the night in this cell in the winter.

Mondak, Montana

At the rear of the structure is the large room shown above, presumably desk space where the town’s lawmen could kick back in a chair and put up their boots after bringing in a drunkard from who knows where — there were too many to count. Mondak was known to have a considerably higher-than-average crime rate.

Mondak thrived for almost two decades, but was devastated by a number of factors, including a fire in 1916, the end of prohibition, which really started the decline in earnest, then another fire which destroyed many of the by-then-vacant structures in 1928.

Mondak, Montana

Mondak, Montana

Below, a shot through the front window of the red building, above.

Mondak, Montana

Mondak, Montana

Mondak, Montana

We’re not quite sure what this was. If someone can enlighten us, please do. Terry speculated this might have been a vault.  Below, looking into one of the chambers.

Mondak, Montana

On the back was the single door shown above.

Mondak, Montana

Today, there are nearly a dozen foundations and empty basements still visible around the site, slowly decaying and filling with sediment, year by year, as nature reclaims Mondak.

Mondak, Montana

Mondak, Montana

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Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media

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Carlyle, Montana: Prairie Ghost Town

Carlyle, Montana: Prairie Ghost Town

There were once over two hundred people in Carlyle, Montana, but today it is a ghost town. The remains of the business district (visible in the background, behind the elevators) are secured on fenced and posted property, and are a shadow of the small town that once stood here.

Carlyle, Montana

Carlyle’s most visible remnant is the former school standing on a hill across the road from the elevators. It appears the present owner opened up one wall on the west side of the school to use in a ranching operation.

Carlyle, Montana

Carlyle, Montana

Carlyle is in Wibaux County, just inside the Montana/North Dakota border, a short drive south of Beach, North Dakota. There were several other homes in Carlyle, including one that looked as if someone might be using it part-time for a residence and/or workshop area, so we chose not to photograph it out of respect for the property owner.

Carlyle, Montana

Check out our post about another Montana ghost town — Mondak, Montana.

Carlyle, Montana

While the railbed is still visible in Carlyle, it’s still hard to imagine the days when tons of oiled-wood railroad ties and twin ribbons of steel carried rail cars full of grain through town. The ties and tracks were torn up long ago.

Carlyle, Montana

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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