Downtown Fargo Audio Walking Tour

Northern Route

Stop 1: Great Northern Depot – 425 Broadway (Contributing)

Samuel Bartlett, a friend of Empire Builder James J. Hill, designed a string of depots, including this one, along the Great Northern Railway through North Dakota to Glacier Park, Montana. The depot was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, in dark red brick with a rusticated sandstone foundation and tile roof. The American Railway Express Building to the east of the depot was built to match the depot. James J. Hill’s 36,000-square-foot home in St. Paul is also a Richardsonian Romanesque building. The depot was constructed in 1906.

Stop 2: Viking Hotel – 413 Broadway (Contributing)

Constructed of cream brick with a butter joint, this building has rough stone sills, a belt course, and an elaborate bracketed metal cornice. The parapet has the name block. Since 1940, the hotel has been variously known as the Northern and the Bison.

Stop 3: Derecci Block – 311 Broadway (Contributing)

This 1913 building is of red Hebron brick with a butter joint, giving the façade a smooth appearance. It is decorated with a molded metal cornice and stone trim. The lobby is in beautiful Art Deco style, with murals and black marble trim, well-worth seeing. Although smaller and plainer, the style is reminiscent of the Powers Hotel, and Derecchi was related to the Powers family.

Stop 4: Sons of Norway Lodge – 309 Broadway (Contributing)

This is a Classical Revival building with three recessed bays, egg and dart stone trim above the third story, stone sills and sill courses, and an elaborate brick parapet with a center cartouche (French Renaissance motif) in carved stone.

The Sons of Norway fraternal organization was founded in Minneapolis in 1895 by a group of 18 immigrants who wanted to preserve their Norwegian heritage. The movement spread quickly in Minnesota and North Dakota and, in 1905, this lodge was erected in Fargo.

Stop 5: Dixon Block – 305 Broadway (Contributing)

One of the most handsome at the north end of Broadway, this building has a Classical Revival facade, faced with cream-colored brick with a butter joint. The central bay has three brick-arched windows and a dentilled metal cornice. Built in 1905, it was designed by the Hancock Brothers. Prior to 1928, it housed the Dixon Hotel and Laundry.

Stop 6: Commercial Building – 301 Broadway/515 3rd Avenue N. (Contributing)

This two-story, yellow brick building has stone sills and coping atop a low parapet, and a simple brick cornice. Built in 1900, the bricks are laid in Flemish bond.

Stop 7: American Legion Club – 505 3rd Avenue N.

Built in 1949, this building is a good example of the post-war modern style of architecture. It is characterized by abstract styles and simplified geometric forms. The American Legion has owned and occupied the building since it was built.

Stop 8: Merchants National Bank Building – 122 Broadway (Pivotal)

This 1921 Commercial Colonial Revival brick building is decorated with cream-colored glazed tile trim, a name and date block, and Jacobean tabs around the windows.

The Hancock Brothers, who built this building, dominated post-fire construction in Fargo. Their other notable buildings are the Graver Hotel and the Hancock building, but they built many more. The firm offers a good example of how Fargo profited from its disaster. Rebuilding after the fire provided a livelihood for many Fargoans, including architects George and Walter Hancock.

Stop 9: Black Building – 114 Broadway (Pivotal)

This is the tallest downtown building in the Historic District and is an outstanding example of the Art Moderne style. Faced with Indiana limestone, the Black Building has dark metal window spandrel panels between the windows forming recessed vertical bays. The Art Moderne interior lobby and elevator doors are worth seeing. The building was designed by the Minneapolis firm of Lang, Raugland, and Lewis, with Braseth and Houkom of Fargo as consulting architects. It was built in 1930.

George Black, son of an Irish immigrant, came to Fargo in 1912 to investigate the possibility of opening a dry goods store. Finding the city thriving, he and his father founded a store; Black stayed to run it, and the business grew. He had various attractions in the store, including sales where every garment buyer received a free dish of ice cream. The store also released live turkeys from its roof before Thanksgiving—an event that tied up traffic in the whole town.

In 1929, after the stock market crash, Black decided to build a new building for his store—the Black Building— and sell the business to Sears. Sears occupied the basement and first two floors, with George acting as manager. The remaining six floors were office space for tenants such as WDAY and numerous doctors, lawyers and dentists.

Stop 10: Hancock Building – 109 Broadway (Contributing)

This 1903 building and the adjacent Douglas Block at 113 Broadway were built in the Classical Revival style. The Hancock Building has particularly beautiful stamped metal spandrel panels and a bracketed metal cornice. The exaggerated keystones above the window are typical of the period.

Stop 11: International Order of Odd Fellows Hall – 521 1st Avenue N. (Contributing)

This is one of the earliest post-fire buildings, dating from 1894, with a third story added in 1915-16. The hall, originally located on the second floor, provided early Fargo with much-needed meeting space. It also served as temporary office space for many of the regional architects who relocated to Fargo during the post-fire building boom. The style is Renaissance Revival with a Palladian motif over the 1st Avenue entrance, flanked by freestanding Corinthian columns. The laying of the cornerstone was accompanied by a parade and many speeches.

Stop 12: Stone Building – 613 1st Avenue N. (Contributing)

Built in 1910 in Classical Revival style with yellow brick and a butter joint, this building is decorated with stone trim and has pilasters between the bays with egg and dart molding. The foliated frieze and the elaborately dentilled cornice with paired brackets are metal. This grand structure was the third home of the Charles R. Stone Piano Company. Stone brought music to residents all over the Red River Valley and organized classes in stringed instruments andpiano in small towns throughout North Dakota, Minnesota, eastern Montana and Idaho. In the days before mass entertainment, people made their own amusement. Many more played musical instruments than today. Stone’s Music store helped to make Fargo a major retailing center.

Stop 13: Pioneer Life Insurance Building – 625 1st Avenue N. (Contributing)

This 1910 four story, dark yellow brick building is decorated with stone trim. It has square corner towers that form a parapet above the cornice.

Stop 14: Porterfield Block – 109–111 Roberts Street (Contributing)

This block was designed by the Hancock Brothers and built by Stewart Wilson in 1917. It is a Jacobean commercial-style building, constructed for the wholesale drug company of Fout and Porterfield. The stone
“tabs” on the end windows are typical Jacobean design elements, loosely part of the Colonial Revival style after the turn of the 20th century. Fout and Porterfield was a well-established Fargo company, and both men possessed degrees in pharmacy—not required for druggists in the late 19th century, but becoming increasingly desirable.

Stop 15: Grand Lodge of the AOUW – 112 Roberts Street (National Register)

This building was designed by the architectural firm of Haxby & Gillespie and built in 1915. Originally built for the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, it is now known as Federal Square. It is a Classical Revival, three-story, brick ornamented building, with Palladian windows and engaged Tuscan pilasters. It was individually listed in the National Register in 1979.

Stop 16: First Presbyterian Church – 650 2nd Avenue N.

This impressive church was built in 1929 in the Scottish Gothic Revival style. The church was designed by Minneapolis-based Lang, Rauland and Lewis Architects and Engineers, with Fargo’s William F. Kurke serving as associate architect. The church features buttresses, pointedarch windows with tracery, and lofty interior spaces, which are hallmarks of Gothic architecture. The exterior is constructed of Faribault (Minnesota) limestone, laid in an ashlar pattern. Window openings are framed with dressed limestone, including the tracery of the larger stained glass sanctuary windows. The church was constructed when First Presbyterian’s existing structure was purchased by the federal government to allow for expansion of the post office. A “Committee of Fifty” was charged with overseeing the design, construction and furnishing of the new church. The first service was held in the new facility in 1930. It was said at the time that “Practical building and religion unite in simple, dignified lines.”

Stop 17: Graver Hotel – 113 Roberts Street (Contributing)

This building was designed by William F. Kurke and built by T. F. Powers in 1918. Built as apartments and originally known as the Equity Building, this five-story building has red wire-faced brick decorated with cream-colored terracotta tiles.

Stop 18: Commercial Building – 202 Broadway (Contributing)

Originally built by T. F. Powers in 1908, this building was refaced in 1940 to its present appearance by Braseth and Houkom for Edwin A. Clapp. It is one of the few Art Moderne buildings today in the historic district.

Stop 19: McKone Building – 206 Broadway (Contributing)

This building was designed by Andrew J. O’Shea in the Classical Commercial style, with Ionic capitals on the corner pilasters and three-part windows. It was built in 1905.

Stop 20: Loretta Block – 208–212 Broadway (Contributing)

The Loretta Block was planned by Peter Elliott, and was named after his youngest daughter. Elliott was a businessman of note who owned several downtown hotels and was also an early Fargo mayor. The building was originally purchased by J.B. Bergstrom and George R. Crowe when their furniture store ran out of space. They moved into the building in 1909 and built an extension in 1916. The north one-third of the Loretta Block, which is now covered over at the storefront level, was built in 1912. These Classical Commercial style buildings were built in two stages because of business entanglements.

Stop 21: Johnsons Block – 216 Broadway (Contributing)

Designed by Jacob Friedlander for the Johnson Brothers, this building housed the Johnson bicycle shop, as well as apartments, for many years. Made of brick, it is decorated with an elaborate corbelled brick cornice and was built in 1900. Johnson Brothers claimed to have the only complete repair shop in the northwest. The business started in Moorhead in 1887, relocating to Fargo two years later. Bicycles were very popular in the 1890s, both as quick, convenient transportation and as a form of exercise. Another Fargo bicycle dealer, George D. Brown, kept several hundred bicycles in stock along with the new invention, the horseless carriage.

Stop 22: Commercial Building – 220 Broadway (Contributing)

This elegant 1903 building has two arched bays with paired windows set in the recess. Stamped metal spandrel panels are inset in the arches over the third-story windows.

Stop 23: Fargo Theatre – 314 Broadway (National Register)

The architects for this theatre were Liebenburg & Kaplan and Buechner & Orth. The best of its era in downtown Fargo, this 1926 red brick theatre was listed in the National Register in 1982.

Its front facade is decorated with floral stone trim, stone gargoyles, palmettes, and egg and dart trim. The second-story windows form an arcade on the front facade. The marquee is original; the Art Moderne interior is well worth a visit.

The theatre had a Wurlitzer organ built especially for it in New York. The organ has been restored and can be heard before shows on the weekends.

Initially, the theatre hosted vaudeville performances, with performances from among others, Babe Ruth and Tom Mix and his horse, Tony.

In 1937, the theatre interior was completely renovated in an Art Moderne style.

Stop 24: Powers Hotel – 400 Broadway (Contributing)

This is a handsome Classical Revival style building whose first three floors were built in 1914-15. The owner and builder was the Powers Construction Company, one of Fargo’s largest volume builders and contractors. Business boomed around the First World War and by 1919, the top two floors were added. The alteration included removing the original parapet and inserting the name block between the third and fourth floors where it now sits.

In 1927, the Powers Hotel purchased the champion steer from the state fair, then held in Fargo, and exhibited it in the lobby.

Stop 25: Lowman Block – 406–410 Broadway (Contributing)

Designed by the architectural firm of Haxby and Gillespie and constructed in 1914, this building has a decorative stone parapet, stone coping, stone sills and a name block. Powers Construction Company was the contractor for this building, which bears some similarity to the Powers Hotel next door.

Stop 26: Commercial Building – 420 Broadway

Built in 1929, this two-story, four-bay, multi-colored brick building features a cornice of decorative brick inset with concrete diamond-shaped blocks. This building was the home of Leeby’s Food Market and Delicatessen until 1990. It is now an upscale variety store with a period lunch counter.

Stop 27: Aggie Block – 520 Broadway (Contributing)

This two-story, red brick, 1926 building has stone trim and a central arched entrance with a keystone, stone coping on the parapet, and a name block. It was named for real estate investor Samuel Aggie.

Stop 28: St. Mary’s Cathedral – 604 Broadway (National Register)

The church was designed by Bassford & Company of Minneapolis in a Gothic Revival style. It was built by a company from Duluth, and the Hancock Brothers, a local architectural firm, supervised construction.

The first Catholic bishop of North Dakota, John Shanley, purchased the land for the cathedral and building started in 1891. Construction was halted by the Fargo fire, and the building was finally completed in 1899. It was the only Catholic church in Fargo until 1917.

The three stained glass windows are focal points in the building, which has numerous windows to maximize the natural light, a key element in Gothic architecture.

Two fresco paintings were recently uncovered after being hidden for over 50 years by acoustic tiles.

Stop 29: First Lutheran Church – 619 Broadway

This church is early English Gothic Revival style and was built in 1919 by the firm of Magney and Tussler of Minneapolis. The building has a fine pipe organ, installed in 1927, and cathedral chimes.

The congregation of this church dates back to 1871. The early congregation members were predominately Norwegian immigrants who moved from Goodhue and Rice Counties, Minnesota, to the Red River Valley in the early days of Fargo.

The laying of the cornerstone was done by Reverend I. D. Ylvisaker, president of the Norwegian Church of America.

Stop 30: Ford Assembly Plant – 505 Broadway (Pivotal)

This handsome 1914 building is faced with red brick and light cream glazed tiles, with a polished granite water table in the Chicago School style. Its walls are punctuated with large expanses of broadly-arched windows. Located along the Great Northern tracks, the plant had a spur line running inside the building. Cars were assembled, then taken to the roof by elevator and washed. Returned to ground level, they were loaded on rail cars, still inside the building. The structure was built by John Graham of Seattle who built similarly designed plants for Ford in other cities, including Minneapolis.

End of Tour – Back to Tour Home Page

The Northern Route of the Downtown Fargo Audio Walking Tour begins and ends at The Great Northern Depot at 425 Broadway.

Map oriented North at top