History

If you look up at the top of your screen, you will see that the website address for this blog is theprairieblog.areavoices.com. That’s been home to my writings for a little more than seven years.

AreaVoices.com is the blog portal for a whole bunch of writers, all of us unpaid, who like to think we have something to say from time to time. It is owned by Forum Communications and the link to it can be found on all Forum Communications newspaper, television and radio websites.

It’s been a good home. The Forum drives traffic to our blogs, and we drive traffic to their media outlets. It doesn’t cost anything, and the Forum puts a few ads on our blogs as “rent” and makes a little money each time someone reads our blogs.

Well, so much for that. Here’s an e-mail I received from the Forum today:

Greetings,

Thank you for your contributions to AreaVoices, a Forum Communications blogging platform for more than 10 years. Over the years, we’ve seen many contributors develop their voices, entertain and inform their community, and share stories with readers. 

 You are receiving this email because as a blogger, you deserve advance notice that your AreaVoices site will be shutdown on May 15. This provides some time for you to decide what’s best for your site and take appropriate action. 

 We are providing some helpful links for you to consider blogging options and how to transfer your existing content to a new site. 

 So why are we archiving AreaVoices? Forum Communications will be launching a new content management system (CMS) with new public-facing news websites. The new CMS and websites will require the full dedication of our developers and support efforts, resulting in the inability to provide adequate support to AreaVoices. Without this support to AreaVoices, the user will be left with a subpar experience— and that’s something we all want to avoid.

You bet, we want to avoid that. So pretty soon I will be finding a new home for The Prairie Blog. I had an old home when I started this back in January of 2010, and it got noticed by my friend Harvey Brock, the publisher of The Dickinson Press, and it was Harvey who invited me to move it over to AreaVoices. As I said, it has been a good home. When I find a new one, I’ll try to make sure it’s as easy to use as this one, and will allow my subscribers to keep on getting e-mail notices whenever there’s a new blog post. I’m also hopeful I can take along my archives so they will be available for reference and research. I’ll let you know in the next couple of weeks what my new address is. The Forum has been a good partner. I’ll miss them.

Oh, and no matter what happens, you’ll still be able to find me on my other blog site, View From The Prairie, at Unheralded.fish. If you don’t know about that, it’s a site started by former Grand Forks Herald employees, now retired, to let them keep on writing. You can click here for that address. You can go there and bookmark it, or even subscribe, like I do, if you want to. There’s a bunch of really great writers there, some of the best in the state.

But I do want to preserve the identity and the archives of The Prairie Blog as well, so when I get a new home, I’ll let you know where I live. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, regular readers of this blog (both of you, as my friend Dan Ulmer likes to say in his weekly newspaper column, poking fun at himself to remind him not to take himself too seriously—I’m with Dan) will notice that I haven’t been very active here lately. That’s not because there hasn’t been much going on to write about. Instead, it’s a function of time. And priorities.

No, I haven’t been fishing, although I intend to change that next week, if the weather cooperates. I’ve been researching, digging through files at the State Historical Society, and old issues of The Bismarck Tribune, being a bit of a historian. And writing. History.

A few months ago, my longtime friend (if 40 years counts as a long time) Bruce Whittey called me and asked me to help with a project. Bruce is a neighbor, about two blocks away, although we are both relative newcomers to our neighborhood, the outskirts of Highland Acres, a neighborhood of some 400 homes in northwest Bismarck,  overlooking the Missouri River.

Like me, Bruce retired a few years ago, and has taken on a major project: Nominating our neighborhood, Highland Acres, as a National Historic District, to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a worthwhile effort, and the history of Highland Acres is a fascinating one, likely qualifying it for listing on the National Register, if we do our job well.

The application process is a lengthy and cumbersome one, in my opinion, but this is a great big deal and a listing on the National Register is not to be taken lightly, so applicants should be subjected to a very thorough review. When the application is done, it will be submitted to our State Historic Preservation Officer (North Dakota State Historical Society Director Claudia Berg), and she and her staff will review it, and if they feel that Highland Acres is worthy of being listed on the National Register as a National Historic District (the first major hurdle to be crossed in the process), they will submit it to the National Park Service for final approval.

My job was to write the broad history of Highland Acres. I’ve done that. About 13,000 words worth. It took me a couple months. I’ve turned it over to the historians, because it is time for me to move on to another project. Lillian and I are writing a book, and that will consume all my non-fishing hours for the next few months. More about that another day.

But my job of writing the history of Highland Acres was the easy part of the National Register application. Now the real work begins—the technical details of qualifying for the National Register will be filled in by real historians, not old retired writers like me, pretending to be historians.

Bruce Whittey has put together a pretty good team. I’m a bit in awe of what he’s done. Not bad for an old car salesman with a bushy mustache. I think, once you read the history, you’ll agree. You’ll get to read it if you want to, because I’m going to share it with you here over the next couple of weeks, before I have to go find a new home for my blog. It’s a pretty long story, so I’ll break it up a bit so you don’t get history overload.

Right about now you’re asking “What’s so historic about Highland Acres? It’s just another part of Bismarck, one often viewed as kind of ‘ritzy,’ right?”  Well, what I learned in the course of my research is, it’s not what you think it is, and it has a very, very interesting story. I think you’ll like it.

Here’s how the National Register of Historic Places describes itself.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.

The key words there are “worthy of preservation.” You’ll be as surprised as I was to learn how dreams came true for some of Bismarck’s finest young men and women, returning World Wat II veterans, who came home after winning a war, looking for a place to live and start their new lives, and how that dream has been preserved for history. Stay tuned. See you tomorrow.

 

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