City of Antler working to turn town square into a museum

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North Dakota has many hidden, and some well-known, gems that are held near and dear.

For one small town, they’re working to preserve history as best they can.

On the northern border of the Peace Garden State lies a special city right off of Highway 256.

“The City of Antler was platted in 1905 during the railroad boom. David Tallman with the Tallman Investment Group Dakota Development Company was platting towns along the Great Northern Railway,” Mark Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen, who is a long-time native and historian of Antler, says the city blossomed for many years — building its foundation around the town square.

“It was State Bank of Antler along with some other offices,” he said. “It served as customs and rooming houses and different things over the years, but the history of the town in 1905 is when this building was built and many others along the town square and from there was a boom period for the town.”

But as the saying goes, all good things eventually come to an end.

“There’s been so many buildings torn down over the years here,” Jorgensen said.

Building vacancies became more frequent after the World War and the removal of the northern railway.

Now, all that remains is the town square.

“This town square building is the last original one in the state of North Dakota,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen and others in the city want to preserve it and the hope is to turn it into a museum.

“We’ve already had people start donating items for when the museum is ready,” Jorgensen said. “We also have what was at one time the world’s largest quilt here in Antler which was a centennial project.”

To help raise money, the city created the Antler Historical Society. It’s a nonprofit made up of six board members and volunteers from in and around the area.

“Antler is just a special place and I think that small-town North Dakota shouldn’t be forgotten. These towns were kept alive by the railroads and when the railroads moved out a lot of these towns died out,” Antler Historical Society volunteer Vince Azzarello said.

Azzarello says so far they have about $14,000 put toward the project that could cost more than $200,000.

To most it’s a hefty price tag, but for those behind it all, it’s a priceless project.

“It’s just something that’s iconic for the city of Antler and it would just be nice to have them available in a usable condition where people can go in and take a look and kind of relieve history while they’re here,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen says they plan to begin work on the building this fall and hope to complete it in two to three years.

For more information on how you can pitch in to help, click here.

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