dry wood church leaving.jpg
Good Shepherd Church- Artichoke, MN

I have only lived here three years and the loss of farmsteads, churches, historic mainstreet anchor buildings in our little area is a heartache. I can only imagine what is like if you've lived here your whole life and even have generational memories.

Change. Loss. No rational hope for rebuilding.

Take a look at that picture of the Good Shepherd Church-- about 10 miles out my backdoor. A lovely country church--with a congregation that endured for over 125 years. This month the church was picked up and moved away to a more populated area. Many people are happy that the building will be saved and used-- and not collapse over the years from the lack of people/use that keeps buildings alive. But it leaves another gap in the landscape. A gap where a beautiful and inspiring landmark stood as a testament to what, in my opinion, is a hallmark of our culture. That we can work together to build and sustain a place to nurture the human spirit.

Likewise, we once built monuments to business and industry. Businessmen invested in the permanence of a brick building on mainstreet. You have to believe in the future to build a brick building. I'm sorry to say that we may not even have the skilled labor, the noble stonemasons, who could even build those same buildings today. And so the two buildings that burnt to the ground on mainstreet Ortonville this month represent a loss that will never be replaced. Maybe a pole barn would go up in their place-- but the resources, skill, and belief in the future that it takes to build a landmark are not there.

Once these buildings are gone, they are gone forever.

There is a building in Clinton- a tall, two-story yellow brick building- that lives in my dreams. It lives as a completely restored dry goods, gardening, book store, coffee shop. Upstairs is a sunlit, elegant, comfortable living area -- our winter home so that the kids can go to school through the blizzards that isolate us on the prairie. I buy lottery tickets because they are my only hopes to achieving that dream. This venture is not a money maker, but a labor of love. Love and hope.

But the hope that I'll win the lottery before the building is razed is running low. The front page of Thursday's Northern Star newspaper included the city council's recommendation to raze the building because the bricks are beginning to fall and are a hazard. A race against time- will Kathy get enough money for a roof and a brick repair before the building collapses or is razed?

Last Monday, my program at the U co-hosted a talk with Nicole Foss, of Automatic Earth fame. I spent time with her following the seminar's gloomy description of what faces us in the future (economic, energy, and resource collapse). She whispered to me "You're in the right place. It will come back. It will be the soul and center of what is good, right and whole in the future." Ok- she didn't say that, but she did.

If we can just keep it together until the collapse. Until the pendulum swings back. Hope clings eternal.

gone Ortonville fire.jpg
Historic buildings lost Oct. 2010 in Ortonville, MN


Having re-read this, it occurs to me that I can "feel" this loss, because I haven't been numbed by the never ending grief one would feel if they constantly saw all the ghosts of what once was on the landscape.

I've often wondered if and how our Native American peoples live with this grief as well. Think of the losses they have seen through the generations/years on this same landscape.

And I miss the mammoths. I can still see their shadows on the tallgrass prairie and the prairie pothole ponds. They walked here. On this piece of ground...

And why did those Lutherans name their community for "artichokes"? I am imagining some past generation when green fields of those delicacies grew around that chapel, and its Scandinavian parishioners held church banquets featuring fresh artichokes, still hot from the steamer and dripping in garlic butter, that attracted people who might otherwise have attended church closer to home, but who joined the congregation at Artichoke just to participate in its potlucks. Did the climate change, so that now soybeans have replaced the artichokes, and the congregation dwindled when its church dinners featured only the same old hot dish?

Re: Lost craftsmanship. I hear you. Have you ever read any James Kunstler? He shares your doubts on our ability to recreate a better civic environment through the creation of substantial buildings. Pole barn, indeed. That's about all we strive for nowadays, it seems.

We've got our own early 20th century brick buildings up here in Wahpeton that need saving too. Best of luck in all our efforts.


Did my dill-doagence and looked into the history of the name Artichoke. We had about 15 relatives over and asked our Norwegian Bachlor Farmer uncle (85) why "Artichoke?" He doesn't know but provided references for further research. The Artichoke General Store was moved to the Big Stone are history museum (which is by EVERY standard a world-class museum - Amazing!!).

I will continue my research this morning at the Artichoke Baptist Luetefisk Dinner. AB is the oldest Norwegian Baptist congregation in North America. Hopefully someone there will know.

Jake- WOW! That Vantop "Us vs Them" video on your blog is fantastic. You're close by in Wahpeton. Best hopes for our work indeed! I follow Kunstler- cranky as he's getting.


One could teach an entire course based on the dissection of your story of loss. Decline is an old story for Big Stone County - moving to a geography of nowhere is just new labeling.

Why the church is being moved to Morris is its own tragic tale of divided community, exclusion, and hypocrisy.

The disintegration of the building in Clinton can be explained in many ways - and one is our lack of visionary leadership, need for popular education, and a new breed of community organizers.

The Catholic Workers long ago adopted the philosophy of "building a new society in the shell of the old". That's the place to begin.

We need "new thinking" to match our desire to foster "sustainable" resettlement. Duane

So Duane... wanna buy a building? I know a nice mainstreet beauty -- just needs a little TLC!

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on October 30, 2010 7:50 AM.

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