Recreating history in style: Spirit Lake Motel does throwback classic car photo shoot

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Sometimes, a throwback of sorts is necessary to help illustrate any particular aspect of the past. 

More importantly, a throwback can also emphasize how the present can sometimes mirror a memory. 

Or, in this case, postcard

During Patrick Schmid’s seven+ month renovation (August 2021 - March 2022) of the newly minted Spirit Lake Motel – formerly called City Center Motel – such an idea for a throwback came to be after he found a postcard from the 1960s. 

And so, the idea was only natural – why not recreate it at a venue with history attached to it? 

More than half a dozen classic cars took part in a photo shoot at Spirit Lake Motel on June 22.

“It has been here so long,” Schmid said. “We’ve got all these postcards from the late ’50s, early ’60s. The motel has been on a postcard before. I blew it up and put it on the wall and lounge and kept looking at it, and I was, like, ‘I have to do a then-to-now.’ It would only make sense because there are still a lot of people who remember [what] it used to be, and then even before that…I don’t know. I got so much into it. I love the place.” 

And so, Schmid reached out to Stan Orness, who recruited more than a dozen classic car owners to help rewind the clocks to that same period on June 22. Although weather hampered the group’s initial photography shooting date (June 21), more than half a dozen cars were still able to make the showing Wednesday evening. 

“They contacted me to see if I would be interested in gathering up some cars and doing a photo shoot because obviously, those cars aren’t available anymore,” Orness said. “But we can recreate with the same era of cars and recreate that postcard, and they have a large blowup in the lobby area of the 1964 one, and they wanted to do another large blowup for the recreation.” 

The idea for the photo shoot came from a postcard found in the motel dating back to the 1960s. A picture of the postcard can be found inside Spirit Lake Motel.

As each respective car lined up to their predetermined spot for the photoshoot, Orness and Schmid saw that very same postcard picture come to life for good. 

To Orness, the photo shoot helped show history in a way any classic car owner would love to help. With his 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, it only seemed natural to Orness, after all. 

“With driving these older cars and stuff, we are always recreating it,” Orness said. “I mean, that’s just our lifestyle and things like that. He enjoys his Thunderbird. That guy enjoys his Chevelle. That [1956] Chevy there. A [1957] Pontiac. You know, it’s just reliving your youth, I guess. Memories of your youth.” 

Meanwhile, Schmid saw the postcard recreation as a way to unite two communities. With the motel now under the ownership of the Spirit Lake Tribe, the photo shoot allowed both communities to come together in a way everyone could get behind. 

And so, it only seemed right to take part in a throwback to history in conjunction with the motel’s reinvigoration back to life. 

“It just kind of seemed natural to want to recreate that, you know, and put the side-by-side on there [and] photos to display that,” Schmid said. “And then [to] have the story of what it was, you know, and how my tribe came to purchase it. It’s kind of like the molding and joining of two communities. There has always been that animosity across the lake, back-and-forth. It’s like, let’s be transparent. Let’s open it up, you know, and let’s change some minds…So, we did, and that’s what we have.” 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email ( or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.