Post Office Box 144, Hope, North Dakota 58046
Phone: (701) 945-2394


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In 1882, the same year the Great Northern Railway completed a branch line as far as Hope, Dakota Territory, Dustin P. Baldwin erected a large general store at the main intersection of the new town and called it “The Grand Arcade.” Just three years later Baldwin moved on to start his own town, but the building and the name remain at the corner of Steele Avenue & Third Street in Hope, North Dakota. Over the years, Baldwin’s Arcade has housed hardware and furniture dealers, undertakers, a grocery store, and the lodge halls of the Masons and the Oddfellows. Today the building serves as a community cultural center and as the headquarters of the Steele County Historical Society. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.




The creation of Steele County clearly demonstrated that the people in the area were quick to reform if situations did not meet their desired needs or outcome. Steele County is located in the eastern portion of North Dakota. It was established in June of 1883.


The story of the agitation of Steele as a separate county reflected the eagerness of each fledgling town in the area to be the biggest and the best. Hope had been the county seat of the larger Griggs County; but in 1882 the county seat moved to Cooperstown. With this event the seeds of the “secession movement” to establish Steele County were firmly planted. The residents of southeastern Griggs County did not want to see Hope forego the prestige and possibility for growth that being a county seat provided for the town.


In Traill County, to the east, another county seat waged war, this one between Hillsboro and Traill Center.  Since a new Steele County would take much of rural population that supported the Traill Center as the county seat, Hillsboro residents were all for Steele County.  The Hope Pioneer newspaper was full of pro-Steele County articles in the months before the June 2, 1883 election to decide if the new county would be established. 


On Election Day an effort was made to have every eligible male in the Hope area cast a vote. The Hope Paper reported election irregularities in Traill Center, including a mob of men who allegedly drove the election judges out of town. When the poles closed there was a clear line of how voting in the town processed.


Although the grueling creation of a county was completed, the citizens were faced with the monumental task of setting up a county government.  Nevertheless, the development of Steele County was the reaction of the citizens to reform if certain situations did not meet their desired outcome.


STEELE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY - Our Mission …To discover, collect, preserve, and share the historical and cultural resources of Steele County and the State of North Dakota.


The Steele County Historical Society is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1966 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and making accessible to the public, information and objects relating to the history of Steele County.


Although incorporated and granted tax-exempt status in 1966, the group’s origin can be traced to about 1957, when local historians gathered to help celebrate Hope’s 75th anniversary. This group evolved into the Hope Community Historical Society, which then became the countywide organization in 1966.


The organization has grown and developed over the years, and now operates a historical museum, archives, and cultural center at its facilities, which are located on one block in the center of Hope, North Dakota. Hope is a tiny town (population 280) in one of the smallest counties (population 2400) in North Dakota. Yet this organization continues to thrive and has earned a reputation as one of the most active local historical organizations in the state.


The group has more than one hundred members, a board of nine volunteer directors, and operates on a budget of approximately $40,000 per year. A part time Museum/Artistic Director oversees operations and supervises staff and volunteers, which normally consist of one senior worker and one youth worker (working under Job Service North Dakota programs), a summer intern, and about ten active volunteers.


The collections have been donated by the people of the county, and include home, school, church, and lodge furnishings, buggies, sleighs, vintage clothing, quilts, needlework, general store merchandise, newspapers, journals, family histories, photographs, toys and dolls, books, folk art, farm implements, musical instruments, cook stoves, churns, windmills, spinning wheels, looms, and much more.


Services offered include individual guided tours, assistance with historical research, weaving demonstrations and workshops, period style shows, space for meetings and luncheons, and tours for groups of all kinds.


The museum is open year round with hours varying by season. There is a suggested donation of $2.50 for adults, with free admission for children. In a typical year, approximately 1,500 people visit the museum – usually representing thirty or more states and several nations.


The historical society has an up-to-date computer network and has computerized collections records and will digitize much of the archives in the coming years.




The Steele County Historical Society maintains numerous collections including a large textile collection with items dating from the 1880s, a toy tractor collection with more than 900 pieces, and a collection of artifacts from the Masons and Odd fellows, and more.  The Society also maintains an archive collection that includes diaries, correspondence, and personal/business records of early pioneers in Steele County.  The Museum houses an extensive collection of genealogical records of Steele County residents throughout the past century.  Please feel free to come and research in Hope.  We would love to have you and offer all possible assistance!





Monday through Thursday

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Memorial Day through Labor Day

Other times by appointment if possible




Lance Hites, President

Gail Hauge, Secretary

Betty Johnson, Treasurer

Jerry Flickinger

Truman Thykeson

Dina Splettstoesser

Larry Butler

Dennis Lund

Larry Jacobsen


Director: Pam Montag




Updated 1:47 PM 10/6/2014