Founded in 1872, Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, is a destination full of history and culture. When visiting Bismarck and neighboring Mandan, groups will have the chance to learn about the city’s past, from the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Northern Pacific Railroad.
For a look into the early 1900s lifestyle of North Dakota, groups should visit Buckstop Junction, a 20-acre historical village. The town was established and designed by the Missouri Valley Historical Society (MVHS), which transferred to the site buildings that date from 1875 to 1935. Visitors can tour buildings such as the Driscoll Blacksmith Shop, built in 1919 and the Sterling Railroad Depot, built for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1885. Group tours of the town are available. (701-250-8575, www.buckstopjunction.org)
Camp Hancock State Historic Site, on Main Street in Bismarck, preserves a military installation built in 1872. Originally named Camp Greely after Horace Greely, editor of the New York Times, the site was renamed Camp Hancock in 1873 as a tribute to the commander of the Department of Dakota, George Winfield Hancock. The post was used to protect supplies, equipment and engineering crews of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the citizens of Bismarck. It was also a storage station for the U.S. Army quartermaster’s supplies. The log office headquarters is the oldest building in Bismarck and serves as an interpretive museum featuring the exhibit The Four Seasons at Camp Hancock. Camp Hancock is home to a 1909 Northern Pacific locomotive and the Bread of Life Church, the city’s oldest church. (701-328-2666, www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/hancock)
At the corner of Avenue B and 4th Street in Bismarck is the Former Governor’s Mansion, a two-and-a-half story Victorian house with a carriage house. The mansion was built in 1884 as a private residence by Asa Fisher, who sold the house in 1893 to the state for $5,000. It was home to 20 North Dakota governors from 1893 to 1960. Today the mansion is open for visitors to explore its rooms with exhibits featuring furniture used by some of the governors and wallpaper samples from the early 1900s. The 1903 carriage house holds the exhibit From Bucket of Oats to Quarts of Oil. The mansion also has a flower garden with over 60 types of “heritage flowers,” plants that were grown in North Dakota in the 1890s. (701-328-2666, www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/fgm)
While in Bismarck, groups must visit the North Dakota Heritage Center, the largest museum in the state. The center features permanent and temporary exhibits with topics ranging from North Dakota’s history to pre-historic dinosaurs. The Main Gallery is the focal point of the center with six exhibits—Corridor of Time, First People, Era of Change, Settlement Era, Bright Dreams and Hard Times, North Dakota Kids and Birds of North Dakota. The Hall of Honors highlights Nautical North Dakota, an exhibit about the USS North Dakota battleship. (701-328-2666, history.nd.gov/exhibits/heritagecenter.html)
Known as “the Skyscraper on the Prairie,” the North Dakota State Capitol is a 19-story, Art Deco building dating back to 1933. Free historical tours are given with stops at the Great Seal, the House of Representatives and the Memorial Room. Various statues such as the Native American guide and interpreter Sacajawea, a buffalo and a pioneer family are located throughout the capitol’s grounds. (701-328-2480, www.nd.gov/fac/index.html)
One of the area’s most prized tourist attractions is the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Located on the Missouri River in Mandan, this state park spans over 1,000 acres highlighting military buildings and North Dakota history. In 1873, Fort Abraham Lincoln was used to house six companies of the 7th Calvary under the command of Colonel George Custer with the mission of expanding the Northern Pacific Railroad and advancing westward with the American frontier. Highlights at the fort include the Custer House, a reconstruction of General Custer’s house as it would have been in 1875; historians are available to take visitors on a tour of the house and the Fort Lincoln Central Barracks, a renovated barracks of the 7th Calvary featuring biographies of men who served at Fort Lincoln and an exhibit of American Indians who also enlisted and served there. Visitors can tour On-A-Slant Village, where the native Mandan Indian tribe lived from 1550 to 1781. The site contains six reconstructed earth lodges. While visiting Fort Lincoln, guests can ride the Lewis and Clark Riverboat for a historical journey on the Missouri River or hike on the park’s nature trail. (701-663-4758,www.fortlincoln.com)
For more information, contact the Bismarck-Mandan CVB, 701-328-2525, www.bismarckmandancvb.com.