Jul 23 2009

A North Dakota Ghost Town: Sims

One of the things we found by driving off the beaten path was the ghost town of Sims, ND.  A bustling town of 1,000 people in the 1880′s, with a brick factory and railroad spur, Sims’ population decreased to just 98 by 1940.  Now it’s all but gone.

The Sims Lutheran Church and parsonage still stand. The parsonage is said to be haunted by the “Gray Lady,” the ghost of a former pastor’s wife. She’s a friendly ghost, people say.

Sims ND Church and Parsonage

The restored church was host to First Lady Laura Bush when she visited North Dakota in 2008.

Even the his and hers outhouses are still there.

Sims ND church outhouses

The only other thing left of Sims is this brick house.

Sims ND site church is down road to left

Sims ND brick house front

Next door, in the pasture, there are lonely steps.

Sims ND steps in pasture

This house is down the road, across the bridge. I don’t know if it would have been considered part of the town, as it’s nearly a mile from the church.

Sims ND house in pasture

Sims ND house in pasture from road

Finding Sims isn’t hard; take the Almont exit off I-94, west of Bismarck, and head south until you reach Sims Road. Sims is just a little ways down the gravel.

I had mixed feelings about visiting Sims. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and the area was lush. The story of Sims intrigued me, and my kids thought it was great to see an actual ghost town.

On the other hand, it hit close to home. My northeastern North Dakota hometown, also once vibrant, is diminishing in population as well. When I was a child, we claimed 76 residents; now there are around 50. The old buildings on Main Street have fallen into disrepair and have been removed for safety reasons, most recently the store and the community hall. Sims is not alone in its demise. For some of these small towns, soon only the stories will remain.

More information about Sims can be found on the Sims-Almont website, including a story about First Lady Laura Bush’s visit to the area.

Related Posts:  These posts tell of other gone-but-not-forgotten places near Sims.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Published by at 7:36 am under Scenic Drives and Byways
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22 comments so far

22 Comments to “A North Dakota Ghost Town: Sims”

  1. Peter Carey on 23 Jul 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Nice job capturing it! Looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Angela Nickerson on 24 Jul 2009 at 1:03 am

    I echo Peter’s comment — you did a lovely job of capturing the elegance of what is left as well as the emptiness of what once was. The demise of America’s small towns makes me so very sad.

  3. Heather on her travels on 24 Jul 2009 at 2:08 am

    That looks like something out of the little house on the prairie. When we see ancient ruins we have to try hard to imagine the bustle of life that went on there, but this looks like the residents will come in from the fields any time.

  4. Lucia on 24 Jul 2009 at 6:52 am

    What a discovery. Back road adventures are always the best. Love the outhouses and the way you have captured the essence of a ghost town. Driving through some areas of suburban Florida has started to feel like driving through modern ghost towns as building has been halted halfway through projects and other houses are being foreclosed…modern ghost towns without any of the charm of your midwestern discovery.

  5. Amy @ The Q Family on 24 Jul 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Great pictures that capture the town. I don’t know how I would feel if it has been at night. :)

  6. Tim on 24 Jul 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Ghost towns are so very cool. Not a lot here in Michigan but we have a few interesting ones.

  7. Bridget Smith on 24 Jul 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Beautiful post, Linda. Those midwest small towns are so fragile yet beautiful. I loved church and that elaborate brick house.

  8. marina k. villatoro on 24 Jul 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Those are the best shots I’d ever seen of a ghost town, which by the way looks more manicured than some towns that are in full swing:)

  9. Dominique on 25 Jul 2009 at 6:54 am

    Great shots and story! We’ve got to keep this in mind when we get back out to ND.
    You do a nice job of capturing the place and that little sense of sadness when you see something that was once so lively become so deserted.

    Most of the Michigan ghost towns I can think of off hand are old mining towns in the Upper Peninsula and Port Oneida near Traverse City in the northwestern lower peninsula…yup, I wrote about it http://www.midwestguest.com/2009/04/port-oneida-rural-historic-district-celebrates-northern-michigans-agricultural-heritage.html
    We spent a winter afternoon in Port Oneida earlier this year…and your Sims photos remind me a bit of that town. In Port Oneida, they’ve tried to preserve a bit of it as an “agricultural historic district”.

  10. Sandra Foyt on 31 Jul 2009 at 11:02 am

    We’ve been visiting “ghost towns” that are actually pretty lively with tourist trade. Sims, on the other hands, looks like the real McCoy.

  11. Annika Nelson on 12 Aug 2009 at 2:50 pm

    If you would like to read more about the First Lady’s visit to Sims, go to the Horizontal-Lines blog, the official blog of the North Dakota horizons magazine. I posted two blogs about her visit:

    http://horizontal-lines.typepad.com/horizontallines/2008/10/first-lady-laur.html

    http://horizontal-lines.typepad.com/horizontallines/2008/10/photos-from-the.html

  12. [...] Sims may be a ghost town, but Curlew is a mystery to me.  Sims at least has a website and some articles bringing it to life, but I haven’t found anything on the Internet about Curlew other than on maps.  And so I wonder:  Was Curlew a town, or just a township or school district name?  Was this sign from a cemetery, or was it erected especially to remember this locale?  What was Curlew like at its height? [...]

  13. John Piepkorn on 19 Aug 2009 at 9:37 am

    My father- in-law’s great-grandfather owned that brick house. We have one of the brick cornices in our house. The cemetery is interesting to look at also, everyone seems to be named peterson, anderson or johnson or some other Scandinavian name.

  14. [...] north of Sims and not too far from Curlew stands what’s left of North Almont, [...]

  15. [...] only to find that the elevators had been demolished a week earlier.  Annika Nelson, a native of Sims with whom I’ve been corresponding, alerted me to the fact that they’re no longer [...]

  16. jessiev on 26 Aug 2009 at 10:12 pm

    amazing – such incredible photos.and yes, it makes me sad.

  17. [...] With a population of 800, Glen Ullin is faring better than its gone-but-not-forgotten neighbors of Sims, North Almont, and Curlew.  Several businesses line its main street, and there’s a still [...]

  18. [...] now you’ve seen my entries on Sims, Curlew, North Almont, and Glen Ullin, North Dakota.  These towns made a definite impression on my [...]

  19. Jessica on 11 Oct 2009 at 11:05 am

    Amazing photographs. Gotta love the scandanavian names.

  20. Beverly Inkster on 16 Mar 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Thank`s so much for the wonderful pictures… My Great grandmother vinnetta Orr was born in Sims , so it gives me an idea what it was like there..Makes me want to visit .. I am an artist so would kindly ask for permission to use your photos to create a painting.. I have a wimsical style.. so would be changing colors and moving things around.. Please let me know if this would be ok… If you would like to see my work go to the Lloyd Gallery.. Penticton B.C. Thanks again..

  21. Tina on 04 Jan 2013 at 9:15 am

    Such beautiful pictures thank you for sharing. I am curious as to why it is still a ghost town? why not sell and restore whats left? at some point that brick house will be no more so why not allow someone to save it and make it a home again?

  22. minnemom on 04 Jan 2013 at 9:21 am

    My best guess would be that all of the land is privately owned and is no longer really a town of any sort. Restoration of a house in that condition would likely be cost-prohibitive, and it’s a sparsely populated area of the state, so there may not be anyone interested in purchasing it. It’s hard to see these pieces of history fall apart, but there’s often not enough money to preserve everything we’d like to preserve.

    Thanks for your comment, and for reading the post.

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