North Dakotans Remember the History of Presidential Visits


North Dakota’s about to get its 15th visit from a sitting president.

In years past, visits came on centennial birthdays, campaign trails, and after natural disasters.

But one historian says they all mark important times in our state’s history.

“The first incumbent president [to visit] was President Hayes, he came in 1878,” Jim Davis, State Historical Society says.

But no matter if it was the state’s first presidential visitor or most frequent, every one captures a moment in North Dakota’s history.

“Franklin Roosevelt made five trips to North Dakota as president,” Davis says.

Bismarck’s very own piece of presidential history is in the heart of downtown.

The Patterson building, a political hub in the ’20s and ’30s, now houses Peacock Alley.

But some famous visitors still line the walls.

“Across the street from the historic train depot, in a previous time, people would come on the rail and stop at the depot and then come across the street to the Patterson building,” Dale Zimmerman, owner of Peacock Alley says.

You’ll find photographs of presidents such as John F. Kennedy.

“[The photographs are to] show the kids, people growing up, and also tourists, that come to our great city our political history,” Zimmerman says.

And though not every stop was a celebration, Zimmerman says displaying North Dakota history is important.

“We display it everywhere we possibly can, showing the history of our political system, and what makes North Dakota such a unique state,” Zimmerman says.

The visits that mean the most, one historian says, were the ones that were hardest to make.

“But the ones that are most moving are when the president comes here because there’s a compelling reason for him to come help heal a rift or to help heal after a natural disaster,” Clay Jenkinson, local historian says.

And these moments, often captured in a single snapshot, can leave a lasting impression on the community.

Zimmerman says, though he doesn’t expect President Trump will be stopping by, he would love to add him to the list of his presidential diners.

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