Volume 122, Number
Former York School building being put to new uses
BY RICHARD PETERSON
Lee Dirkzwager bought the York School and now he’s trying to figure out how to put it to its best use. He’s got some temporary renters for part of it this summer. The ND Department of Transportation (ND DOT) has its field office there while the westbound lane of US 2 is completely rebuilt. Close Construction, the primary contractor, has its field office in a trailer parked beside the old school.
Well, it isn’t so awfully old. It was built in 1959 and it closed as a school in 1985. Skinner and Lorraine Tester of Leeds bought it after that and operated a flea market there for several years. After Skinner’s health failed the flea market was closed and the building was unused for 2-3 years until Dirkzwager bought it in 2003.
A native of Minnesota, Dirkzwager has deep roots in the area. His great-grandfather was Benson County pioneer Olaf Pierson and his grandparents were Ralph and Evangeline Sandven Pierson. His mother, Marian, was their oldest daughter. She married Minnesota native Ken Dirkzwager, who was commissioner of public safety for the state of Minnesota. Marian Dirkzwager died in 1988.
Lee and his wife Larisa now live on the Ralph Pierson farm about three miles south of York. This was the first farm in North Dakota to receive electricity from a rural electric cooperative.
The school building is about 11,000 square feet and Lee is in the process of slowly transforming it into new uses. "This is a long-term project, maybe 10 years, because we’re not sure what we want to do with it and we’re financing all the renovations ourselves," he says.
Heating a building like this in North Dakota is a challenge to the pocketbook. Most of the windows have been replaced with new double-pane windows. New 6" walls were installed on the east and west sides of most of the building and they will be covered with insulation and steel siding.
Those portions of the building which will be occupied in the winter will be heated by baseboard electric heat. With its high ceilings air conditioning will probably not be needed.
There are five fuel oil furnaces in the building. When it was a school three were operated in the winter and two were back-ups. Lee had them checked out and they all work. But heating with fuel oil would cost in the neighborhood of $8,000 to heat the building, so they’re going to be strictly back-up heat.
The plumbing was a major problem because it froze, resulting in burst pipes which have to be replaced. The plumbing is being replaced as the renovations proceed. So far only an apartment and an office have running water.
The 2-bedroom apartment is occupied by contractors at present and they’ll be there until October. Lee figures he can rent it out to hunters after the contractors leave. He has high hopes of converting one 24×32 room into another hunting lodge, maybe even with a hot tub.
He’s hoping to convert another 24×32 room into an office which can be rented to some type of business.
The ND DOT is occupying the space he had planned to use for his business and when it leaves, he expects to claim the space for himself. In the meantime his office occupies the cramped quarters of the principal’s office and the vault.
His is exactly the type of business he’d like to attract to York. He’s a mechanical engineer specializing in designing electrical controls. He’s done consulting work for Noodles by Leonardo and the pasta plant in Leeds, for instance, and does a lot of work for a marshmallow plant in Chicago.
He’s worked in 40 different states.
Larisa says he got a call at 4 a.m. from the Chicago plant because it had a problem. From his computer on the farm at York he was able to access the computer in Chicago and tweak the controls in the plant to overcome the problem.
With computers distance is no object. Almost any business could be located in York and do business elsewhere.
York doesn’t have a lot to offer, Lee admits, but it does have some advantages urban locations don’t have. Dirt cheap rent, for instance. A major paved highway right outside town. An airport 40 minutes away with virtually no traffic to fight. No crime to speak of. And a pleasant, rural atmosphere.
Back to the building: the ceilings are all vaulted and finished with tongue-in-groove beveled edge fir. It’s very attractive. He figures the salvage value of the ceilings is more than he paid for the building. "But we wouldn’t do that," he adds, "we want to preserve the building in its original state as much as possible."
The 45×70 gym, which has the same ceiling is something of a puzzle to Lee and Larisa. She’s a mountain climber and wants a climbing wall on one end of the gym. Lee is resisting because he thinks this might be a possible spot for some type of business.
She also wants a sauna in the one of the locker rooms. "We’ll see," says Lee.
They’ve played tennis in the gym and would like to open it to the public in the winter but the expense of heating and liability concerns create obstacles.
A small room adjacent to the gym contains exercise equipment. "We might start a health and fitness club in York," laughs Lee.
Lee is an avid skier and he met Larisa when he was skiing in Russia. A native of Russia, she was a ski instructor there. She has a degree in chemistry and a teaching degree. She’s also a horse enthusiast, and yes, she has horses on the farm near York. She was baptized Dec. 21, 2003 and they were married the next day at the Leeds Lutheran Church.
There isn’t much skiing around here, but the Dirkzwagers have a small apartment in Vail, Colo. and they spend from six to 10 weeks out of the year there.
Larisa’s mother is presently visiting from Russia for six months or so. She helps with all kinds of chores in refitting the building and she and Larisa keep the apartment and rented office clean. She’s especially proud of her potato garden behind the school building in York.
Lee’s father also helps out a lot. Although he’s 86, he helps with finishing doors and painting. He wants a small apartment in the building.
That’s likely to come to pass. He divides his time between his home in Minnesota and York.
Although he’s hoping for businesses to locate in the building, Lee’s fallback option is the hunting lodge concept. Tourism, especially hunting and fishing tourism, is becoming big business in this area.
Lee isn’t sure what the ultimate use of the building will be, but he’s not rushing into any rash decisions. "I think we’ll eventually develop this into something good for our area."
Larisa Dirkzwager prepares to cut a symbolic ribbon in the south door of the former York School as her husband, Lee, looks on. The Dirkzwagers are transforming the building for new uses. His business is located there, as the sign proclaims. The ND Department of Transportation has a temporary field office and a hunting lodge is also located in the building. The Dirkzwagers are hoping for more business occupants.
Damage from Sunday storm extensive
The pole barn on the Haagenson farm was heavily damaged with the wind taking half the roof off.
The barn at the Boyd and Elna Haagenson farm north of Minnewaukan was flattened by the storm, while nearby buildings weren’t damaged at all.
The barn on the Ruth Lunde and sons farm near Harlow was a landmark. It is no more.
This is the power line looking east from ND 30 near the Curt and Kim Kenner farm south of Harlow. The double poles of the power line were snapped off as far as the eye could see.
The power line looking west from ND 30 near the Kenner farm south of Harlow. The power line was said to be down for 23 miles, all the way to ND 3.
Big evergreen trees east of Brinsmade near the Glenn & Sheila Blasky place were toppled by the wind and they fell on a nearby power line.
The big pole barn on the Glenn Tofsrud farm north of Minnewaukan isn’t as big as it used to be. The north quarter of the building was torn off. Half the roof on the building was also destroyed.
Part of the middle bin is pictured beside a tipped-over grain dryer.
The wind chose to collapse the middle bin at BTR.
The BTR Farmers Co-op at Niles sustained quite a bit of damage. The bin on the left, which bore the brunt of the storm from the west, was dented by the wind. (BTR photos by Duane Anderson of Leeds)
Big box culvert being installed
This huge box culvert being constructed on US 2 a couple miles west of Leeds will eventually carry water under the westbound lane of US 2 and then through the tunnel under the railroad bed in the background. Wanzek Construction is preparing the box culvert and Close Construction is in the process of completely regrading the westbound lane from Leeds to Knox.
Earns top honor
Jeff Wald, son of Becky and Gary Wald of Maddock, was selected North Dakota State FFA Star in Agribusiness at the 76th State FFA Convention held at NDSU in Fargo June 6-10. He was selected from more than 180 FFA members who received their State FFA Degree, the highest degree given by the North Dakota State FFA Association. Jeff has been active in the A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter of Maddock, the Maddock community and state and national FFA activities. He was a member of two state-winning FFA teams and participated at the National FFA Convention in dairy foods and food science, receiving gold awards in both contests, and was 10th high individual in the nation in the food science contest, receiving a $500 scholarship. Jeff’s Supervised Agricultural Experience Program consisted of a lawn care service, farm placement and pinto bean production.
The Leeds Dollars for Scholars Foundation awarded scholarships to Leeds High School graduating seniors during Awards Night in May. Receiving scholarships were, left to right, front row: Nicole Stone, Erin Dunlap, Brittany Sogge, Amanda Smith, Courtney Larson, Krista Anderson and Amanda Luhman. Second row: Jarl Braaten, Jay Anderson, Ben Tufte, Tyler Axness and Tyler Bjerke. Back row: Mike Torgerson, Travis Kirkeide, Casey Blomster and Patrick Dunlap.
High winds and pelting rain didn’t stop the Lake Region Anglers’ 27th Annual Devils Lake Open Fishing Tournament held Sunday, June 19 at Lakewood Park. Fishing hours were from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a total of 29 teams participating. A total of 47 northern pike and 98 walleye were weighed.
Each two-person team was allowed to weigh in 3 pike and 5 walleye. Plaques were given to the top 10 and cash prizes were awarded to the top five.
Payout was based on 75% of entry fees received. First place winners with
33.02 lbs were Eric DeWald and Rob Shepard, both of Devils Lake, $362.50.
In second place, with 28.64 lbs., were Al Freidig and Tim Rutten, both of Devils Lake, $290.
Third place winners with 28.26 lbs. were Dennis Hansen of Devils Lake and Joe Dobbs of Fargo, $217.50.
Fourth place winners with 27.33 lbs. were Randy Yoder of Devils Lake and Joe Tuchscherer of Rugby, $145.
Fifth place winners with 25.74 lbs. were Charlie Bisbee of Leeds and his 10-year-old son, Seth, $72.50.
Bruce Lien of Milton and Brad Gilbertson bagged $140 for the largest walleye, 6.89 lbs.
Gary Remmen & Bob Sylling, both of Devils Lake, also took home $140 for their largest northern pike, 8.69 lbs.
FFA team takes 2nd
Four members of the A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter of Maddock participated in the State FFA Quiz Contest held at the 76th annual FFA Convention at NDSU in Fargo June 6-10. Receiving gold awards in the contest were, left to right, Brian Grondahl, Cody Lunde, Jeff Wald and J.T. Rice. Sixteen winning and runner-up district FFA teams participated. Seventy-two members of these 16 teams took a 100-point test with the four top team scores participating in the "Team Bowl" format on stage at the convention center. Maddock defeated Carrington in the semifinals and lost to Napoleon in the championship round. The Maddock team received a gold award and second place high team in the contest.
Jeff Wald was the high individual in the contest, scoring a 93 out of 100 total points in the written test. He is shown with the Bison Award.