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January 24: Huff Bar

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On the west bank of the Missouri River, about halfway between Mandan and Cannon Ball, sits the tiny town of Huff. The area was first homesteaded in 1888 by John S. Huff. A Northern Pacific Railroad station was built in 1910, and a post office opened in 1911. Huff never had a population that exceeded 60 people, but at one point there was a school, grain elevator, dance hall, store, restaurant, and motel. Rail service ended in 1966, the school closed in 1976, and the post office closed in 1985.

Despite Huff’s dwindling size, on this date in 1994, business was booming at the Huff Bar. The previous month the Prairie Knights Casino had opened south of Cannon Ball. The Huff Bar was not only the midway point of the 50 miles between Bismarck and the casino, but it was the only business on the route. People on their way to the casino would stop for drinks -- and a smoke if they were riding the smoking-free shuttle bus to the casino. The traffic passing through Huff grew from 550 cars in the summer of 1993 to about 8,000 cars the last 15 days of December 1993.

Lorraine Millar, the owner of Huff Bar, was delighted by the increase in business. She had purchased the bar in 1966 when it was in an old boxcar. She built a new bar and brought her husband Gary on board when they married in 1969. Running the bar was an adventure. In 1976 a seven-person brawl broke out and spilled out into the parking lot, where one customer shot a pistol into the ground to stop the melee. One time, Lorraine helped a woman give birth in the parking lot. The bar also proved popular with people in Bismarck because Huff was in the Mountain Time Zone. So, when bars closed in Bismarck, people would head to Huff for an extra hour of drinking.

In 2001 the bar was sold to Dave Castillo, a chef from Pennsylvania. It was expanded to include a restaurant and was renamed Castillo’s Huff Bar & Grill. Travelers could now stop for food, as well as drinks, but that all ended in 2007 when the bar burned down.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa

Sources:

  • Author Unknown, “Aggravated Assault Rap Filed in Pistol Incident.” The Bismarck Tribune, February 25, 1976, pg. 21.
  • Author Unknown, “Lorraine Millar.” The Bismarck Tribune, January 5, 2006, pg. 7A.
  • Hanson, Mark. “Castillo’s Brings Find Dining to Huff,” The Bismarck Tribune, October 18, 2002, pg. 3C.
  • Michael, Jenn. “Huff Bar ‘Total Loss’ After Fire,” The Bismarck Tribune, April 24, 2007, pg. A1.
  • Salter, Peter. “Huff Bar on Road to Prosperity,” The Bismarck Tribune, January 24, 1994, pgs. 1A, 10A.
  • White, Dustin. “Rediscovering the Town of Huff, N.D.” Miswestern Scout, https://www.midwesternscout.com/rediscovering-the-town-of-huff-n-d/, March 12, 2017.
  • Wick, Douglas A. North Dakota Place Names. Bismarck, N.D.: Hedemarken Collectibles, 1988.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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