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Then and now — Arnegard School

Arnegard School 1954

Arnegard School 1954 from the Bill Shemorry Collection. State Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-29-24)

Arnegard School

Arnegard School May 2018

West of Watford City on Highway 85 is the little town of Arnegard, population about 160.  At its peak, the town had about 250 people.  Its claim to fame is the Stenehjem family from which the state gets its Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. It’s also home to the banking family of  Stenehjems (First International Bank).

One of the first buildings in Arnegard, in true North Dakota fashion, was the school. It was a small, one-room building in 1915. By 1954 it was fully equipped and expanded.  By 1961, it had a championship basketball team. Now it is empty, but it still looks good. Want to buy it?

Here’s how Arnegard describes the school:

The high school closed in 1963 due to declining enrollment, but elementary school classes continued to be held in the structure until 1976. McKenzie County donated the building to the city of Arnegard shortly thereafter, and it was used as a roller skating rink, town library, and meeting hall. By the early 1980s, the second floor was considered unsafe, and the building eventually closed. In 1998, local man Milton Hanson purchased the structure and completely renovated it. It now is operated as the “Old School Bed & Breakfast”, and has been featured on HGTV’s “If Walls Could Talk” and Prairie Public TV’s “Old to New: Remodel, Restore, Revitalize”.

A few years ago, the school was for sale, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

The historic photo above came from the North Dakota Historical Society.  One of its many awesome collections of historic photos is the Bill Shemorry collection.  

About Bill Shemorry

William E. “Bill” Shemorry was a native of Williston, N.D. who began work in the newspaper industry as a newsboy selling the Williston Herald and the Williams County Farmers Press. In 1953, he started to publish the Williston Plains Reporter, which he operated for 25 years before selling to the Williston Herald. Shemorry then began to concentrate on his own writing and photography. In addition to writing many books on the history of Williams County, he also collected photographs of early North Dakota photographers.

Shemorry was an active member of the Williston Fire Department, was Civil Defense Chief of Williams County for three years in the 1950’s, and was a combat photographer in World War II. Shemorry’s photograph of the discovery of oil in North Dakota on April 4, 1951 at the Clarence Iverson No. 1 is one of the most famous oil photographs ever taken, and was published in many national publications.


“Then and Now” is a regular feature of Beautiful Badlands ND.  Subscribe to get a note in your inbox when a new story is posted. The subscription box is in the upper right.

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Here are a couple more “Then and Now” stories. 

Killdeer 

North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park 

South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Watford City

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