Updated: Jul 4
By Sharon Laxdal
Gardar is a small community in northeast North Dakota, with its original Icelandic settlers homesteading here in 1879. The community, located along a branch of the Park River, was initially named Park. The name changed to Gardar when a post office was established in 1881.
As with a lot of other small communities, our population has dwindled. We are left with two beautiful old Icelandic churches, a cemetery, and a township hall to maintain. The Gardar Township Hall has recently been renovated and has hosted several events. However, a small number of people are left to maintain these wonderful pieces of Icelandic history. We have relied upon friends both far and near with connections to Gardar to help maintain these buildings and the cemetery. Donations are always greatly appreciated.
A little more history on each of the entities mentioned earlier:
Gardar Pioneer Lutheran Church: The Vikur Church in Mountain is the oldest church building, but the first congregation in the North Dakota Icelandic Communities was formed in Gardar in November 1880. The Gardar Pioneer Lutheran Church was erected in 1888, along with its adjacent cemetery. The building is now maintained as a memorial to the pioneers of the community. It is used occasionally for funerals, weddings, and the annual Memorial Day service.
Gardar Cemetery: Although the Gardar Cemetery was established along with the Pioneer Church in 1888, it was later incorporated as a separate organization to benefit the entire community.
Gardar Lutheran “Town” Church: The Gardar Town Church was built in 1911 and was originally named "Luther's Church". The original Gardar Congregation at the Pioneer Church was one of many Icelandic congregations in the US and Canada to organize an Icelandic Synod. The congregation voted to withdraw from the Synod in 1909. A minority group wishing to maintain ties to the Icelandic synod separated and formed a new church known as Luther’s Congregation. The two congregations merged in 1926. The Gardar Lutheran Church dissolved in 1984, with most of its members transferring to the newly organized Pembina Hills Evangelical Lutheran Church, with services being held May through September in the Gardar Town Church.
Gardar Township Hall: The Hall was built in 1898 originally for the IOF (International Order of Foresters) lodge. A few years later, it was switched to AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workmen). To our knowledge, these orders provided insurance for the families of its members. Eventually, the local lodge was disbanded and the building was sold to Gardar Township School District. The Hall was the site of many community activities, including the Gardar Community Club, which hosted many dances and performances through the 1980s. The Hall also served as the gymnasium for the Gardar School and was known as the home of the Gardar Grizzlies basketball team. Over the years, the weather and disuse had taken their toll on the old building. However, in 2016, a renovation of the Hall was started. Through volunteer labor and financial donations, the hall was moved to a new foundation and has been fully repaired and restored. A new addition, the “Eldhus” (the Icelandic word for kitchen), has a complete catering kitchen, handicapped-accessible restrooms, a wide corridor to the main building, the township office, and a small gathering area. The Hall has been used for several events since being renovated.
The Gardar County Club 10th Hole and the Gardar Campground: We are also excited to have some new businesses established in Gardar – The Gardar County Club 10th Hole and the Gardar Campground. The Gardar Country Club “10th Hole” was established in 2019 and is known to be the first “legal” bar Gardar has ever had. The beautiful building was built in 1908 as a mercantile that sold everything from groceries to horse harnesses. The building has been renovated throughout the years and now displays unique furniture and lots of memorabilia from Gardar and the surrounding area.
Follow them on Facebook (Gardar Country Club) for days and hours when they are open and upcoming events.
The Northern Dakota Railway Disc Golf Course and Campground was put in approximately three years ago. It is a 9-hole course that is challenging and fun for all ages. It is free to play any time of the day and discs are available at the bar for use. Overlooking a little creek that runs by Gardar is a full hookup campground with bathrooms and showers. It is a quiet area with lots of room to run, play, have campfires, or put up tents.
Maintaining these historic buildings takes a lot of community effort and fundraising. If you would like to financially support this historic preservation project, you can donate through Icelandic Roots, which is an official 501c3 nonprofit. Please enter on your form where you would like the donation to go - one of the churches, the cemetery, the hall, or just to the Gardar community.