Ghost hunters, televised or amateur, are not my enemies. They have as much a stake in history as any other person, if not more. Unfortunately, because there is a positive correlation between places we as a culture find creepy, and places that are off limits, there is often a problem with wannabe paranormal investigators vandalizing places they’re supposed to be investigating.
I know that people have been arrested at Nopeming in the act of breaking windows to gain entry for their investigations. These things happened before I ever went there, and they won’t stop until the building has tenants or security. Nevertheless, I urge everyone to respect this place, if not for its history, maybe for the memory of the people that died there. If you are out with a group of friends that want to ‘break into’ the place, tell them it’s not a good idea.
Besides, Duluth Police and the St. Louis County Sherriff patrol it at least daily every day of the year. Many a curiosity seeker has spent their Sunday night in lockup for getting too close to Nopeming.
Instead of spending the weekend in a holding cell, enjoy the history and photos and stories that I posted here, and think of all the stories untold when you pass that golden building on the side of a hill when you drive up I-35.
There are stories that I could not in include, there is history that I have not heard, and that was never recorded. I am a historian, a scientist, an artist… not a storyteller (as much as I try).
Nonetheless, I had a story to share about this place, and am as happy about any interest generated in Nopeming as I am grateful to anyone who wishes to preserve it for the future.
It seems that everyone who has touched Nopeming has also been touched by it. Even knowing the facts, human and statistical, the place is still as mysterious, and as haunting, as when I first saw its shape behind a curtain of trees. This feeling is neither special, nor is it explainable.
If any of that intrigue can be passed to you, the reader, through these stories, then it was well worth the effort (and the risk) of sending them into the world. Places are a lot like people; they do not live in years, they live in stories.
This is one reason why history is so important—it makes things matter. It qualifies social value; it is cultural; it is personal. Places bleed memories.
So, simply, remember Nopeming.
My first picture at Nopeming, sometime around 2004. The same year that the county stopped mowing the lawn.
While it looks like a sidewalk, this is the roof the infamous (thanks to Ghost Adventures) steam tunnel that connects the steam plant and demolished Hart House.
When Nopeming was affiliated with local farms, it often slaughtered its own livestock. This is the part of the hospital where food would be prepped, below the stage in the Service Building.
On my second or third trip, the cross had broken in the wind.
Fall fog swept up from the river valley, making the building look more like it felt–a ghost, out of time and place.
The great entrance to the Service Building shows the detail once present in the old hospital.
Chairs facing the stage in the old cafeteria. Fuji FP100c in Fuji GX680.
When I first visited the chapel, it had a projection TV, two organs, Bibles, and more. Now these are mostly ruined, except for the tapestries, which have somehow survived.
Outside the Chateau, where the fuel oil tank blocks the chapel.
Colleen on the roof.
A typical Chateau wall. Kodak Tri-X 400 in Leica M7.
A self portrait on a tire swing outside the Service Building.
Elsie finds her makeup brush across the hospital in the middle of the hallway. How did it get there?
A broken roof drain turned the fourth floor into a skating rink. Frost covers every surface. Kodak Portra 400 in Voigtlander Bessa.
Some small candles light one of the few surviving tunnels that once linked buildings on the campus with the steam plant. In winter, it was common for patients to be transported through these to avoid the cold, and during the Cold War these served as nuclear fallout shelters.
A breeze and broken window has animated one of the few curtains still hanging in Nopeming as of 2015.
The entrance to the cafeteria when I first saw it (around 2004) still had coats on the hanger. Now the walls aren’t even white anymore because water has removed all the latex paint.
The modern morgue, a replacement for the original morgue which has since been turned into a kitchen area.
A hand drawn map found deep in the hospital, perhaps the last of its kind. Author’s collection.
The chapel (left) and surgical suite (straight on) move in an out of view as fog rolls up from the St. Louis River valley.
A tunnel that brought heat from the power plant to the Hart House. Since that building was demolished, this only served as a fallout shelter. To my knowledge, this was never used to move bodies to the incinerator. That was probably done with a vehicle and the lower entrance to the power station, which did dispose of TB victims for some time.
Between blizzards on the hill, I look out over the Chateau. Kodak Portra 400 on Voightlander Bessa.
2005. The stage in front of the cafeteria, as it was.
2015. Water damage hastens the decay of the annex and its stage. Every time I visit this room, the chairs are in different places. Kodak Portra 400 in a Voigtlander Bessa.
An original, minimally remodeled bathroom above the cafeteria reminds us what the whole complex once looked like.
The old boilers of the steam plant have been mostly gutted to remove loose asbestos.
The kitchen in the services building has a beautiful red and white checkered tile floor. Kodak Portra 400 in a Voigtlander Bessa.
Peeling paint reveals the room numbers of the past.
Peeling paint reveals the room numbers of the past. Kodak Trix-400 on Canon T40.
Not ghosts. Slow-moving explorers’ shadows create a ghostly effect in the ‘Old Ward’–the second floor of the Service Building.
Part of the unremodeled hospital, above the Service Building, where employees would stay sometimes.
The St. Louis County Sheriff constantly patrols the property looking for trespassers.
Looking to the chapel addition from the Chateau.
To run new gutters through the building, some of the plaster walls of the Chateau had to be smashed through.
On the roof, looking toward Jay Cook Park over the ruins of the Hart House. You can see how Nopmeing (“out in the woods) got its name. Fujicolor 100 on Leica M7.
The steam plant at Nopeming is an iconic (and crooked) smokestack. Kodak Pro 400 on a Fuji GX680.
The top floor of the Chateau was the original surgical suite. Later, hydrotherapy took place here. When Nopeming was converted to a nursing home, it was a place where residents watched movies. Portra 400 on Voigtlander Bessa.
2006. A section of the third floor that has changed a lot over the years. Compare to 2015 shot.
2016. A section of the third floor that has changed a lot over the years. Compare to 2006 shot.
Employee lockers near the stage, Service Building.
2. North Dakota’s only tuberculosis hospital, so big that it appeared on the map as its own town, San Haven State Hospital.
3. The abandoned orphanage in rural Michigan, where Native American children were isolated from their families and taught to be more white, Holy Family Orphanage.
Abt, H. (1974). The care, cure, and education of the crippled child. (p. 109). Ayer Publishing. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=0NfO6RDH2I0C
American Medical Association. (1913). Journal of the american medical association. (Vol. 61, pp. 878-8). American Medical Association. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=h68hAQAAMAAJ
American Medical Association. (1922). The Journal of the American Medical Association, 79, 470. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=DvkbAQAAMAAJ
American Medical Association. (1970).http://books.google.com/books?id=w5ohAQAAMAAJ, 78(2), Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=w5ohAQAAMAAJ
Board of County Commissioners, (2012). Report. Retrieved from St. Louis County website: www.stlouiscountymn.gov/Portals/0/Library/government/Board-of-Commissioners/Meeting/2012-07-Minutes.pdf
Carlson, C. (2009, Dec 08). A disease, a sanitarium, and an unusual minister. Fon du Lac Reservation Paper. Retrieved from http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2009/12/08/disease-sanitarium-and-unusual-minister
Carroll, F. (1990). Fires of autumn: The cloquet-moose lake disaster of 1918. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.
Conray, J., & Conroy, B. (1922). Transactions of the annual meeting. (Vol. 18, pp. 388-393). National Tuberculosis Association. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?
Contractors are trying to have it ready by dec. 1. (1911, Sep 1). Duluth Herald. Retrieved from http://archive.org/stream/sept1191103dulu/sept1191103dulu_djvu.txt
Foster, B. (1911). Saint Paul medical journal, 13, 178. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=WUOgAAAAMAAJ
Foster, B. (1916). Saint Paul medical journal, 18, Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=LUagAAAAMAAJ
National Tuberculosis Association. (1911). A tuberculosis directory. (p. 36). National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=kAdAAAAAYAAJ&
National Tuberculosis Association. (1916). What local organizations are doing. Journal of the outdoor life,13, 294. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=XsqzAAAAIAAJ
NEMHC. (2003). Nopeming sanatorium: Records. Duluth: NEMHC. Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/lib/nemhc/guides/s6046.htm
Tuberculosis sanatorium. (1910, Aug 1). Duluth Herald. Retrieved from http://archive.org/stream/aug1191001dulu/aug1191001dulu_djvu.txt