Saturday, June 21, 2008

Noyes Roadside Parking Area

If only it was that simple, eh?!

Sadly, the days of driving through the border with only a wave and a smile are long gone.

The site is located on the international border within the small village of Noyes.

Noyes is surrounded by a largely agricultural area. In general, the site is surrounded by Canadian farmland to the north, U.S. farmland to the east, the U.S. Border Station to the west, and residences to the southwest and southeast.


In circa 1929, prior to the construction of the Noyes Roadside Parking Area, a granite marker in the shape of an obelisk was apparently erected at the border. No further information on this marker is currently available.

The Noyes Roadside Parking Area was constructed in 1937 by the Roadside Development Division of the Minnesota Department of Highways. The 692'-long project was designed to create a small wayside rest directly across T.H. 75 from the U.S. border station. The wayside rest was undoubtedly designed to encourage and support early auto tourism, to welcome Canadian visitors, and to provide a resting point for motorists who were crossing the border. At the time the wayside rest was built, the border station building was only six years old, having been built in 1931. The same building exists today.

The roadside parking area was developed as part of a larger highway project in which about 19 miles of T.H. 75 were paved. T.H. 75 was a gravel road at the time. Within Noyes, the highway was widened to six lanes between the customs station and the proposed wayside rest. The three miles leading southward from the Canadian border were paved with concrete, while the next 16 miles (to a point one mile north of the town of Hallock) were paved with bituminous.

The T.H. 75 improvements were built during the 1937 and 1938 construction seasons. The wayside rest was apparently built in 1937.

The T.H. 75 project had been supported by several northern communities who lobbied for the improvements. For example, in May 1936 while planning was underway, representatives from northern Minnesota towns including Crookston, Hallock, and Warren, as well as nearby Canadian communities met to discuss signage and methods of "securing traffic" for T.H. 75. Proponents hoped to entice tourists to travel T.H. 75 and to encourage travelers to cross the Canadian border within Minnesota, rather than using a North Dakota highway located a few miles to the west. Highway improvements on the Minnesota side were met with improvements on the Canadian side including the paving of the highway from Winnipeg to the border.

In June of 1937, the proposed roadside park -- which would be Noyes' only park -- was described to the public by the Kittson County Enterprise:

Noyes to Have Beautiful Park

Efforts of beautification sponsored by the Minnesota State Highway Commission, will soon be appreciably recognized at Noyes, Minn., where work is steadily progressing on what will perhaps be the most attractive park in the northwest corner of the county. An asset to Highway 75 and its tourists will be this triangular formed garden of nature, now taking shape on the left side of the highway, upon entering Noyes from the north. A rare sight to greet tourist Canadians.

The land, a donation to a worthy cause by Mr. McKay of Noyes, is receiving the hands of experts in tree and shrubbery planting. Beautiful elms, spruce and many other lovely plantings numbering 2,000 individual sets, will make their home in the rich soil. Ideal walks and an inscripted monument will form a border for the numerous flowerbeds. We urge you to make a visit to this lovely park, that symbolizes America's welcome to Canadians ("Noyes To Have" 1937).
The park was designed by A. R. Nichols, the Roadside Development Division's Consulting Landscape Architect. As befitting the importance of a site on an international boundary, Noyes Roadside Parking Area Noyes site is among the most formal of his MHD wayside rests. The original plans even include a drawing of an elegantly dressed man and woman standing near the flagpole.

Plans for the roadside parking area were presumably drawn in 1935 or 1936. Among the signatories on the plan's cover sheet is Harold E. Olson, head of the MHD Roadside Development Division. The plans were approved May 4, 1936.

The T.H. 75 highway project was apparently built mostly by private contractors. Federal dollars probably helped fund the highway project, but there is no direct evidence of Depression-relief labor being used. If built in another part of the state, the accompanying wayside rest would probably have been built using unemployed workers under a New Deal federal relief program such as the WPA. There is no evidence, however, that federal relief workers were used for the Noyes Roadside Parking Area. It is possible that, because of low population in this remote rural area, there were too few unemployed workers available. (During the Depression the MHD Roadside Development Division encountered this situation in some rural areas where there were not enough unemployed workers to use federal relief labor on construction projects.)

Details of the proposed highway work were reported in the Kittson County Enterprise in September of 1937. The article stated in part, The paving will start at a point where the international boundary line intersects the highway, which is a few yards beyond the customs and immigration buildings. From this point east and south three miles of concrete will be laid and from the point of the beginning of the concrete for a distance of 400 feet the pavement will be six lanes wide with a parked boulevard dividing each three tier section, making in all a total width of 83 feet. Throughout the length of this 400 foot stretch of wide paving the intersection will be provided with trees and flowers, beautifully set off with concrete curbing ("Highway Dep't." 1937).

The Enterprise article concluded, "When the concrete is completed at Noyes, an excellent road bed will present itself to thousands of tourists who have for years been patronizing the Dakota highway on the other side of the Red River" ("Highway Dep't." 1937).

The highway project at Noyes was completed in July of 1938, with the Enterprise commenting: "The new highway is a beautiful auto road and a great improvement to Noyes. Canadians entering the U.S. at Noyes should get a good impression of neighboring country if a good road creates a good impression" (Kittson County Enterprise, July 13, 1938).

The Noyes work was completed about the same time that The WPA Guide to Minnesota was published in 1938. The Guide wrote about Noyes, Noyes is a small village and a United States port of entry, with an almost cosmopolitan air of bustle and excitement emanating from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Offices. The American and Canadian flags flying not far apart, the trim uniforms of the officials, and the constant commotion usual to international boundaries contrast with the quiet of this remote north-woods country. A large force of railroad officials is necessary to take care of incoming and outgoing passengers and freight on both the Soo Line and the Great Northern Railway passing through Noyes (WPA Guide 1938/1985:335).

Mn/DOT Site Development Unit files indicate that in 1961 the wayside rest had an entrance and approach marker, a parking area, a pump or well for drinking water, three tables, three picnic fireplaces, one refuse container, a flagpole, and an informational marker highway.

In the 1980s Mn/DOT apparently drew plans to rehabilitate the site that were not implemented (S.P. 3709-17).

The site was rehabilitated in 1997 by Mn/DOT (S.P. 8809-198). The project included cleaning and repairing the stonework, installing some new vegetation, and adding a metal interpretive marker.

Because of current U.S. security concerns at international border crossings, visitors are no longer allowed to stop at the wayside rest, to stop on the highway shoulders near the site, or to take photographs in the vicinity.

This property may require further evaluation for potential archaeological resources.


The St. Paul and Pacific Railway (later called the Great Northern) built a line through this portion of Kittson County in 1878-1879. The line met the Canadian Pacific Railway near present-day Noyes and thus linked Minnesota railroads with lucrative markets in Winnipeg and other Canadian cities. The village of Noyes did not yet exist, and the U.S. customs office and the St. Paul and Pacific depot were located in the nearby town of St. Vincent.

A competing railroad company, the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie, constructed a line to the international border at present-day Noyes in 1904. The village of Noyes was then established in 1905. In 1905 the U.S. customs office was moved from St. Vincent to Noyes. (The village, in fact, was named for J. A. Noyes, a U.S. customs official.) The village of Noyes remained small. A post office was established in 1927. Noyes was platted Nov. 15, 1933, but has never been incorporated. Noyes has a current population of about 65 people.