West Fargo, North Dakota
With 12 acres, 43 historical buildings and more than 400,000 artifacts, this must-see for bus tour groups is one of North Dakota’s largest historical attractions. Operated by the Cass County Historical Society, Bonanzaville allows tour passengers to experience first-hand the rich social and agricultural heritage of the Red River Valley, from the mid 1800s to the present.
The name comes from highly profitable “bonanza farms,” created mostly in Minnesota and Dakota’s Red River Valley in the late 1800s. Covering thousands of acres, these came from the sale of land to investors by the Northern Pacific Railroad to cover its debts and typically produced wheat. By the 1920s, bonanza farms had run their course, and the land was parceled and sold or rented to smaller farmers.
Bonanzaville’s Pioneer Village includes historic and replica buildings from numerous eras. Tour passengers can also visit Arthur Town Hall, built in the 1890s; a blacksmith shop; a saloon and hotel; a one-room schoolhouse built in 1895; a Northern Pacific Railroad depot built in 1900; a barbershop; and many other structures. One of its featured items is Fargo’s first log cabin, built in 1869, when Fargo was just a city of tents in the Dakota Territory.
The property is home to many types of historical North Dakota abodes, from other log cabins and pioneer farmhouses to well-appointed bonanza farm homes, such as the Houston Home. David Houston was a successful transplanted Wisconsin farmer whose brother invented the first roll film camera. Houston perfected and patented the roll film holder in 1881 and then licensed it to George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak). That same year, he built his home in Hunter in the Dakota Territory for $7,000 (about $250,000 today), outfitting it with maple floors, cherry and oak wainscoting, walnut stairs and large bay windows. It was truly an elegant house for its time.
Groups can view a collection of more than 60 antique, vintage and modern vehicles at the Eugene Dahl Car Museum, and more than a dozen aircraft and related artifacts as well as other vehicles, at the Eagle Air Museum. At the Melroe Tractor Building and the Moem Agricultural Building, passengers can see vintage tractors and farm implements, ranging from walking plows and hand-operated threshers to steam- and diesel-powered tractors, as well as a variety of antique and vintage artifacts. A telephone museum and a law enforcement museum are among six other museums at Pioneer Village.
In addition, Bonanzaville also features rotating exhibits on different subjects, including a large collection of very rare Indian artifacts. Its newest exhibit features artifacts and stories from World War I and World War II.
Bonanzaville is open May 1 through August 31, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. In September, the same hours apply except closing time during the week is 5 p.m., and in October, it is open only on weekends.
Bonanzaville hosts several special events throughout the year, including annual Fourth of July festivities, Christmas on the Prairie and Pioneer Days, held each year over the third weekend in August, with demonstrators and docents in historical attire and threshing and blacksmithing demonstrations.
Bonanzaville, 1351 Main Avenue West, West Fargo, North Dakota, is easily accessed via Interstate 94 and welcomes motorcoach tour groups. Buses can drop off and pick up passengers at the front door and park for free at the west end of the parking lot. Tickets for tour groups are $8 per person ($4 off the regular price), payable on site or ahead of time through the tour company. Escort and driver are admitted for free. Docent-led group tours are available with advance notice and take at least one hour; allow more time for passengers to explore on their own. The on-site gift shop offers unique items, books, souvenirs, snacks and drinks. Several dining facilities within a few blocks welcome large groups.
To learn more about bringing your bus group to Bonanzaville, visit online at bonanzaville.org or contact the facility at (701) 282-2822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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