Rugby and Grand Forks, North Dakota

posted November 3, 2014 by Holly Hayes
part of: Mississippi River Road Trip
Day 7 map

About an hour east of Minot, I arrived in Rugby. It is a small town of less than 3,000 people and isn't exactly famous, but it ended up being one of my most interesting stops in North Dakota.

IMG_9666.jpg First of all, Rugby apparently at the geographic center of North America. This monument was constructed by the town in 1931.


But much more interesting was the Prairie Village Museum, located near the above monument. It is home to a wide variety of historic buildings and artifacts from Rugby and the surrounding county.

IMG_9685.jpg It doesn't look like much on the outside, but it has some pretty great stuff inside.

Being late in the season, it was only partly open while they did some work on it, so the friendly husband-and-wife owners only charged me half the (already modest) fee. Unfortunately I don't have their names. While the husband (accompanied by a friendly dog) painted a hallway nearby, his wife explained that some of the buildings will be locked, but I'm welcome to wander into any that are open and poke around. I had the place to myself most of the time, and spent far longer than I planned!

IMG_9687.jpg The museum begins with a large barn full of themed rooms. Here's one featuring home appliances.

IMG_9694.jpg Another room displayed various Native American artifacts.

IMG_9695.jpg And another room had this. There was no label or explanation, but does it really need one? [Note: As I write this, over a month later, the boxing baby alligators remain in my top 10 most enjoyable sights of the trip.]

The rest of the museum consisted around 20 historic buildings that had been relocated and arranged in a pleasant grassy field, with nice wooden boardwalks set up between them. Here's a little virtual tour of some of my favorite buildings.

Land Office & Train Station:

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House (work in progress):





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Scandinavian Giant:

A back room of the schoolhouse was dedicated to a local celebrity named Clifford Thompson. Known as "the Scandinavian Giant," he was one of the world's tallest men in recorded history, said to be 8 feet 7 inches tall. (But further along in my trip I will come across an even taller one!) The museum had great collection of photos, which were quite fascinating, along with a life-sized statue, which was a little creepy but helped me imagine what it would be like to stand next to him.

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Clifford was born near Rugby in 1904, spent four years in the circus, was later a traveling salesman and practicing lawyer, appeared in ads and at least one Hollywood movie, and eventually settled in Portland, Oregon (hooray!). He died in 1955.


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IMG_0041.jpg The last buildings I passed on my way out were these two. The one on the right was unlocked and contained antique farm equipment.

IMG_0044.jpg It is an impressive collection, and I enjoyed a quick look around, but farm equipment doesn't really float my personal boat.

Vintage cars, on the other hand, do float my boat, and that's what the building on the left said it contained. But alas, it was locked. I peered in the window but couldn't see much, and started to head out. But the nice man seen in the photo above (not the one who was painting on my way in, but clearly on staff in some capacity) noticed my interest and offered to open the other building for me. YAY!!

Here are just a few highlights from their fine collection.

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After all the exertion of strolling around and pressing the camera shutter, I was ready for some pie. I mean, lunch! I asked the museum owner what she recommended, and she pointed out a little diner down a dirt path from the museum. She said a lot of locals eat there and it has great pie. Sold.

IMG_4174.jpg Yep, there were a lot of locals, so it was good people watching.

IMG_0137.jpg I was very pleased to see that the sandwiches were made with Miracle Whip. Score another point for North Dakota! I got the clubhouse, and it was pretty good, but that's not really interesting.

IMG_4171.jpg What is much more interesting is this delicious slice of apple pie, with real whipped cream. Yum-mo.

A Beautiful Rest Area

Back on the road, I later stopped at a rest area along Highway 2 that has to be one of the prettiest I've ever seen:

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Note also the changing landscape as I approach Minnesota - a little greener, and the first of many lakes!

Evening in Grand Forks

Finally I reached my stop for the night: Grand Forks, ND, which is right on the border with Minnesota. I really liked the looks of the town as I made my way to my hotel.

IMG_0203.jpg Pretty tree-lined avenues by the University of North Dakota campus. Every time I saw "UND," I thought of the word "undies" - is that just me?

IMG_0232.jpg An exceptionally friendly water tower also welcomed me to the city.

After checking in to my hotel, I drove right back downtown to walk around with my camera, as the light was lovely and I would be leaving first thing in the morning.

IMG_0255.jpg The first thing I encountered near my parking space was this impressive monument.

IMG_0241.jpg A leafy downtown street.

IMG_0260.jpg This atmospheric alley with railroad tracks was like a little glimpse into the past (or a good movie set).

IMG_0273.jpg Just a fluffy kitty in a window.

IMG_0294.jpg Soon I reached this pretty bridge, and found myself on the state line! I hadn't actually realized Grand Forks was right on the border. So I went ahead and walked to Minnesota and back.

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Back in North Dakota, I had a nice but mostly unremarkable dinner at a restaurant called Sanders 1907. Then I took some twilight photos on the way back to my car, which I'd parked on the top level of a free parking garage.

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It was only after I got to the top of the garage - and noticed the distinct absence of my car - that I realized I'd climbed the wrong one. Oops. No, I hadn't been drinking - alcohol is not required for me to be an idiot. In my defense, the two look A LOT alike and have very similar names, and are only a couple blocks from each other. And it was worth it anyway, as there were nice views from the wrong garage.

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It was around 10:30pm when I finally got back to my hotel. I was very much ready for bed.

Next time: Minnesota, and the headwaters of the Mississippi!

Post Info

Post ID
Rugby and Grand Forks, North Dakota
Holly Hayes
Date Published
November 3, 2014
Last Updated
January 7, 2022