Downtown Fargo Audio Walking Tour

Southern Route

Stop 1: Civil War Soldier Statue – Island Park

This statue of a Union soldier, almost hidden in a small grove of spruce trees, stands guard at the entrance to Island Park. It was dedicated on Decoration Day, forerunner to our present-day Memorial Day holiday, in 1916. Governor Louis B. Hanna and the Grand Army of the Republic (a Civil War veterans group) raised the necessary funds to commission the monument. The inscription at the base of the statue reads: “To the Dead a Tribute, To the Living a Memory, To Posterity an Inspiration.”

Stop 2: Island Park Pool – Island Park

Originally built as the Winter Sports Arena in 1938, the 200’ x 300’ building was difficult to maintain and was dubbed a “white elephant.” It was dismantled in 1943 and relocated to Hector Airport to be used as a hangar, but the front facade, with its ribbon windows and curved corners, was left in place. A second arena was built in its place and incorporated the facade from the original arena. When the second arena was demolished in the 1970s, the two-story concrete facade survived again. The facade now serves as the north face of the Island Park Pool with the words “Fargo Arena” inscribed above the entrance.

During the Great Depression, the federal government created various agencies that hired the unemployed to construct public buildings. This increased the nation’s infrastructure and gave people much-needed employment. These agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration, built a number of structures in Fargo, of which the Fargo Arena facade is one of the few still standing.

Stop 3: Webster and Cole Building – 21 8th Street S. (National Register)

This two-story red brick building was built in 1900. Note the elaborate corbelled brick cornice and shallow brick piers separating the window bays.

Stop 4: McHench Block – 17–19 8th Street S. (National Register)

This building has a corbelled cornice and high-arched windows, a hallmark of the Hancock brothers firm.

It was built in 1902 at a cost of $9,200.

This building was named for Andrew McHench, a surveyor who served on Fargo’s first school board.

Stop 5: Floyd Block – 15 8th Street S. (National Register)

This brown brick building, built in 1910, has a corbelled cornice with dentils. The front displays a plain brick parapet with stone coping and metal name block “Floyd.”

Stop 6: F. O. Knerr Block – 13 8th Street S. (National Register)

Before 1900, there were few dairies in the Valley. With only ice available for refrigeration, milk spoiled easily, and most farmers stuck to the more lucrative crop of wheat. With the advent of modern refrigeration and higher dairy prices with World War I, more local dairies emerged.

This two-story brick building with stone lintels, corbelled cornice, and arched parapet was constructed in 1912 as the Knerr Creamery. In 1921, Frank O. Knerr moved his dairy from this location to a larger building at 824 Main Avenue.

Stop 7: Masonic Block – 9 8th Street S. (National Register)

This building was erected by Andrew McHench in 1884 to house the Masonic Shiloh Lodge No. 8 with stores on the first floor. The building was associated with F. L. Watkins and his Dakota Business College from 1891 until 1978.

It is an outstanding example of High Victorian Gothic commercial architecture, designed by architect Charles N. Daniels; note the elaborate cornice and parapet topped with finials. This building was listed in the National Register in 1979.

Stop 8: Watkins Block – 806 Main Avenue (Contributing)

F. L. Watkins built this north wing in 1906 as his Dakota Business College grew. It has a distinctive Classical Revival facade with arched keystone windows, a wide Chicago-style three-part window on the second floor framed by Ionic capital pilasters, and white marble string courses.

Stop 9: Burlington Northern Headquarters – 801 Main Avenue (Contributing)

This 1925 building was constructed in the Colonial Revival style, with a gabled roof and parapet projecting over the roof line. The architectural decoration on the headquarters is limited to cream brick trim at the lintels, sills, and water table.

Stop 10: Shields Block – 714 Main Avenue (Contributing)

The Shields Block, circa 1905-1910, features stamped metal spandrel panels under the windows between each floor. David W. Shields, a shoemaker and investor, was the son-in-law of Peter Luger, owner of the next-door store building. The Shields Block is virtually identical to the building at 220 Broadway.

Stop 11: The Luger Furniture Store – 716 Main Avenue (Contributing)

The 1882 Luger Furniture Store is one of the best remaining High Victorian Gothic commercial examples in Fargo. The building has high vertical massing, with a very elaborate tall cornice and parapet in corbelled brick. Its center bay has a recessed Gothic arch inset with window.

Stop 12: Northern Pacific Railroad Depot – 701 Main Avenue (National Register)

Cass Gilbert, who was also the architect for the Minnesota State Capitol, designed this Richardsonian Romanesque style depot in 1898, and it was completed in 1900.

The walls are dark-colored St. Louis pressed brick with Lake Superior brownstone trim and a red tile roof. Note the arched windows and deeply overhung hipped roof with bracketed supports. The depot was listed in the National Register in 1975.

The Northern Pacific was the first railway to go through Fargo, and the only one whose main route went through the town. The Great Northern Railroad track was a spur of the main line.

The railroad passed through the town in 1872, before its financial collapse caused the Panic of 1873. When the railroad reorganized and began rebuilding in 1879, Fargo started to prosper.

Fargo remained pivotal to the Northern Pacific when it reached the West Coast in 1883. Fargo became a divisional headquarters for the railroad, a position that spurred much construction, notably the famous Headquarters Hotel, which survived the fire of 1893, only to be destroyed by another fire in 1899.

Stop 13: deLendrecie’s Building – 620 Main Avenue (National Register)

This elegant five-story, grey, pressed brick and brownstone structure was built by the St. Louis Pressed Brick Co. It features red mortar butter joints and red sandstone trim from Portage Entre, Michigan, and is topped with classically inspired pressed metal cornice and brick and sandstone parapet.

The building is closely associated with Eugene and Onesine deLendrecie, pioneer merchants and founders of one of North Dakota’s premier department stores. It was listed in the National Register in 1979.

The first two floors were designed by McMillan and Tenbusch and built in 1894. The top three floors were designed by Fargo architect Andrew O’Shea and added in 1904.

The deLendrecie’s Department Store relocated to West Acres Shopping Center in 1972, leaving the building vacant. Three years later, after an interior renovation that created apartments and small retail spaces, the building reopened as “Block Six of the Original Townsite.”

Stop 14: 600 Block – 600 Main Avenue (Contributing)

These buildings represent Fargo’s greatest concentration of Italianate commercial structures. The region experienced a period of rapid growth known as the Great Dakota Boom, which began with the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Most of these buildings were constructed when Fargo was still part of Dakota Territory; North Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889.

These buildings reflect the architecture in downtown Fargo during that time, before 90 percent of it was destroyed in the Fargo fire.

Key architectural features in this style are paired bracketed cornices, arched windows, hood molds and drip molds. Few examples of this style are extant in the state.

Stop 15: Herbst Building – 16 Broadway

Isaac Herbst’s original store was destroyed in the Fargo fire. He rebuilt at 16 Broadway. This building was also damaged by fire in 1894, but the structure survived, and Herbst’s business grew into a thriving department store.

When Isaac died in 1910, his wife, Emma, took over as president of the store, an unusual role for a woman at that time. She stepped down when her son took over in 1918, but remained as vice president until her death in 1925.

In the early 1970s, Herbst established branch stores throughout North Dakota, in Bismarck, Devils Lake, Jamestown and even at the new West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the store gave all city children a present on their 12th birthday. Fargo citizen Jim Landblom recollected that he received a Brownie camera from Herbst for his birthday in 1930.

Stop 16: First National Bank Building – 15 Broadway

This bank was built in 1926 in the emerging Art Deco or Moderne style. The strong vertical thrust of the projecting piers, combined with the absence of a traditional cornice, lends the 6-story building an aura of soaring height. Though the street-level facade and the windows have been altered, the original masonry piers and relief decoration remain.

The carved stone marquee over the front entrance (now covered) proclaimed it “The oldest bank in North Dakota.” Louis B. Hanna founded the First National Bank in 1878. He went on to serve in Congress and as governor of the state.

First National Bank was previously located at 602 Main Avenue.

Stop 17: Fargo National Bank Building – 52 Broadway (Contributing)

This structure was built in the Classical Revival style in 1911 with cream brick and butter joint. Note the pedimented and bracketed stone entry flanked by Greek Ionic columns on engaged piers.

The Fargo National Bank was one of the oldest banking houses in the state. It was organized in 1897. Martin Hector, who moved to Fargo in 1872, was elected as the bank’s first president and O. J. deLendrecie as its first vice president.

Hector served as president of the bank for 41 years. He had previously been engaged in city politics, serving some time as mayor. Fargo’s international airport is named after Hector.

Stop 18: Gate City Block – 73 Broadway (Contributing)

This is one of the earliest buildings on Broadway, dating from the first generation of post-fire construction in 1894. It was originally built as the O’Neill Block, but in 1923 became Gate City Building and Loan, which was founded by the architect W.D. Gillespie after he left the architectural partnership of Haxby and Gillespie. In 1940, the building was totally refaced for Gate City in Art Moderne style by architects Braseth and Houkom.

Stop 19: Commercial Building – 520 1st Avenue N.

This elegant 1907, two-story brick building has four bays and an elaborately corbelled brick cornice. It also features stone lintels and parapet coping.

Stop 20: Syndicate Block – 64–74 Broadway

Built in 1893 by a syndicate of businessmen, this building was one of the very first post-fire buildings and housed the Elliott Hotel.

The building originally had an ornate cornice and parapet, with corner hexagonal towers on the north and south corners. The building was heavily damaged in a 1941 fire that gutted the interior, and many of the fine exterior features were also damaged and removed.

The original Elliott Hotel, built by Peter Elliott, was burned in the Fargo fire of 1893. After that, Elliott erected a large tent as a temporary restaurant for the town until this building was completed. It featured all the most modern conveniences of the time, including steam heat and electric lighting.

Elliott had come to Fargo as a carpenter in 1873, but abandoned that profession to work on the steamboats that traveled between Fargo and Winnipeg.

The building is currently (2006) undergoing a storefront rehabilitation project in an attempt to restore some of its historical integrity.

Stop 21: Elliott Hotel Annex – 606 1st Ave N (Contributing)

This building was designed in the Classical Revival style; although it is now painted, it was originally cream brick with red sandstone trim. It was built in 1899 as an annex for the Elliott Hotel around the corner at 64-74 Broadway.

Stop 22: Gardner Hotel – 16 Roberts Street (Pivotal)

This hotel was designed by the Hancock brothers and built in 1908. This is the most elaborate Classical Revival structure in downtown Fargo.

Note the paired bracketed metal cornice and foliated metal frieze, the brick quoins at the corners of the walls, the stone balustrade over the Roberts Street entrance, the egg and dart trim at the tops of the corner piers above the first story, and the stylized Corinthian capitols at the tops of the pilasters.

The hotel was completely financed, planned, built and furnished by Fargoans, and its original cost was $150,000. It catered to “drummers,” salesmen who traveled throughout the nation in the early 20th century selling their products. The building had steam heat, a public dining room, a barbershop, and a billiard room.

Its illustrious guests included politicians Franklin Delano Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Robert LaFollette; entertainers Charlie Chaplin, Sophie Tucker, Will Rogers and Jack Dempsey; and businessman James J. Hill.

Stop 23: Federal Courthouse Building – 655 1st Avenue N. (Contributing)

This Neo-Classical 1929 building is constructed of dressed stone, with a two-story arcade of fluted Ionic columns between the second- and third- story windows. Note the plain stone frieze, cornice and balustraded parapet.

Built for $600,000, it served as both post office and courthouse. (The first federal judge after North Dakota achieved statehood in 1886 was Alfred Delavan Thomas, who served for seven years until he died in 1893.)

The first settlers in Fargo had to go to Moorhead for their mail. When early Fargo residents eventually received their own post office, it was established in a grocery store. The post office was housed at the courthouse building from 1929 until 1969, when a new post office was constructed at 657 2nd Ave. N.

The large courthouse addition (Quentin Burdick Federal Courthouse) to the west of the building was constructed in 1996. It more than doubled the size of the original building and allowed the federal functions it  houses to remain in the downtown area.

Stop 24: International Harvester Building – 704 1st Avenue N.

The three-story International Harvester Building was constructed in 1904, in the utilitarian style of the day. It is characterized by masonry exterior bearing walls and large window openings to provide daylight deep into the structure. The interior structure consists of heavy timber, capable of supporting the large machinery that was housed on each floor. A freight elevator provided access to all floors.

Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper, founded the International Harvester Company in Chicago in the early 1850s.

With the bonanza farms of the Red River Valley producing huge quantities of wheat for the Minneapolis market, the International Harvester Company decided to establish a branch in Fargo. Their first building in 1879 was two stories high, including office space and three warehouses. Located near the Northern Pacific tracks, the branch was able to supply mowers, reapers, corn harvesters, rakes, corn huskers and corn shredders to North Dakota and western Minnesota.

This 1904 building was renovated in 1996 to house the Plains Art Museum, which maintains the premier collection of regional art, as well as hosting touring exhibits.

Stop 25: Union Storage and Transfer Company Building – 806 NP Avenue (Contributing)

The walls of this warehouse are red wire-faced brick. The entrance is decorated with white, green, red and black terracotta tiles in a geometric design. Each window bay is separated by brick piers.

Stop 26: Swift & Company Building – 10 8 St N. (Contributing)

This 1913 building and several others on NP Avenue were large jobbing and meatpacking houses raised along the NP tracks in response to favorable rates in Fargo in the 1910s and later.

The two-story building features a raised basement, red brick, stone sills and coping on its parapet.

Stop 27: Robb Lawrence Building – 650 NP Avenue (Pivotal)

Built in 1903, this four-story, red brick building with red sandstone trim was designed by architect William C. Albrant in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Note the stamped metal fan-shaped motif in arches on third-story windows.

The building is a testament to Fargo’s premier position as a regional distribution center for agricultural implements at the beginning of the 20th century. Originally used as a farm implement warehouse, it features massive post and beam construction on the top three floors to accommodate the large farm machinery it housed.

Vacant for much of the 1990s, the building was literally just hours away from the wrecking ball when it was purchased by software developer Doug Burgum and given to North Dakota State University for the Art, Architecture and Landscape Architecture programs. After a $10 million rehabilitation, it reopened in 2004 as North Dakota State University’s downtown campus.

End of Tour – Back to Tour Home Page

The Southern Route of the Downtown Fargo Audio Walking Tour begins and ends on the North side of Island Park on Broadway and 1st Ave. S.

Map oriented North at top