While preparing for a trip to North Dakota last September, I found myself randomly browsing google for possible locations. While I spend more time perusing google aimlessly than I would like to admit, this time it certainly paid off. I came across an image of a dusty bookcase filled with old textbooks. Obviously, with my love of books, not finding this school was not an option. With many more hours and some hints from fellow explorers, I found myself making the six hour journey to Nome, North Dakota. While not exactly on the way to our final destination of Devils Lake, every extra minute was worth it.
The Nome school was opened in 1916 and was only in use until sometime in 1966. The image below was originally used as the cover of the school Annual and was taken sometime in the 1950’s. Nome saw it’s population peak just prior to this time with the 1940 census recording 277 residents.
Since then, Nome has seen a steady decrease in residents with current estimates almost below 60. It seems the residents have taken notice to the steady decline of their home as well. The first sign that greeted us upon entering Nome stated: “slow down, we are still here”. Even the school is failing to make it’s presence known as it is slowly suffocated by trees and shrubs. If you weren’t looking for it, it would be almost impossible to see this hidden gem from the main road.
After making our way through the brush and climbing over various kinds of debris, we found ourselves greeted by glass paneled double doors and a grand wood main staircase shrouded in darkness. Once we climbed higher, we were able to finally see the beautiful decay that is the Nome School.
Everywhere you look, you are greeted with huge glass windows, carved wooden banisters and cabinets, antique cloth chairs and black metal desks, glass vases and porcelain figurines, dusty books and used suitcases, rotting world maps and faded chalkboards.
While I doubt I would ever be able to spend enough time capturing the beauty of this school, I know this is one place that I will always think about and wish I had been able to explore in more detail. I wouldn’t mind another look at all those old textbooks either…