Several of my friends kept talking about how they were taking their wives to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Florida, and all that. Well it was March and here in Wausau, we were anxiously awaiting spring, though we knew it was a far piece away. I finally tired of it all, and told my wife, "Marcia, we're going on a trip, no not to Florida, nope on Hawaii, of course not the Caribbean. None of that. I'm taking you to Fargo, North Dakota! It's only a one day drive. What a guy, eh?" She roared with laughter, and a few days later we went up there from Wausau. We drove through pouring rain all the way through Minnesota, got to Fargo, it was dry but overcast. Most of the photos I took were of the downtown area, which I learned reflects the importance the citizens place on preservation of historic buildings. All kidding aside, we really had a lot of fun.
January 18, 2016
The City of Fargo has published a wonderful guide to walking around historic Fargo, "Look Around Downtown." It tells us that "Many historic buildings have been lost over time to fires, urban renewal, or other circumstances, (but) Fargo is fortunate to have so many fine buildings (that) still remain … The City of Fargo was first platted in 871 and experienced its first building boom in 1878, we 50 ew buildings wee erected in as many days." At one point, in 1893, 90 percent of the the city's center was burned down by fire.
I should start with two rail depots that initially had me confused — why two?
It turns out Fargo was once served by two rail lines, the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern Railroad, and it's easy to get confused over the two old depots, though they are designed quite differently.
This building is known as the Great Northern Depot, built in 1906, and it served the Great Northern Railroad which ran through North Dakota to Glacier Park, Montana. It was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by St. Paul architect Samuel Bartlett, a friend of James J. Hill, the founder of the Great Northern railroad. The building, pictured in the 1909 real photograph postcard above, is on the National Register of Historical Places. Richardsonian Romanesque is a style of Romanesque Revival architecture named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Wikipedia says, "This very free revival style incorporates 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics. It emphasizes clear, strong picturesque massing, round-headed "Romanesque" arches, often springing from clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling."
The city's guide "Look Around Downtown." talks about the Richardsonian Romanesque style, saying, "This style is weighty and massive, often achieved with large rough-faced stone blocks and contrasting heavy stone trim.
The Great Northern Railway took its name in September 1889, when the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba railroad of James J. Hill was renamed. In 1970, the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific merged to become the Burlington Northern Railroad. In 1971, the passenger business became part of AMTRAK. AMTRAK later began to use a newer, smaller building.
The Great Northern Bicycle Co. is in this building, started in 1987 by Tom Smith.
This building is known as the Northern Pacific Railway Depot, built in 1898. It is also on the National Register of Historical Places. It served the Northern Pacific Railroad. This rail line, like the Great Northern Railway, merged to become the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1971. Freight trains used the Northern Pacific tracks, while passenger trains used the Great Northern tracks. Therefore, passenger trains no longer stopped at the Northern Pacific station.
Cass Gilbert Railroad Buildings has said this about this depot. "The design of the Fargo Depot is based on a typical railroad depot plan that calls for the central portion of the building to be two stories with flanking single-story wings. Most small depots were designed in Richardsonian, Stick, or Queen Anne styles. Here, the Italian Renaissance and the Romanesque are Gilbert's inspiration."
In 1971, Burlington Northern deed this depot and its grounds to the City of Fargo, It became the first building in Fargo to be entered into the National Register in 1975, and work started to renovate its interior. In 1981, a movement began to renovate the park, gardens and fountain. It is now known as the Depot Plaza, dedicated in 1984, and is used by the Fargo Park District, a symbol of pleasure and pride on Fargo's heritage.
Welcome to Fargo!
I next took a ride up and down Broadway.
The Old Broadway grill and tavern, corner of NP Ave and Broadway
A look up Broadway from the Corner of NP Ave and Broadway
Approaching the Fargo Movie Theater
The red brick building is called Johnsons Block, designed by Jacob Friedlander for the Johnson Brothers, housing a bicycle ship and apartments for many years. "Look Around Downtown." notes, "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." You might also focus on the yellow brick building next to the Johnsons Block. It is a commercial building built in 1903. It 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.
The Fargo Theater really got my attention. I drove around the block to come back to it and get a closer look. Well no wonder it attracted me. Read on from "Look Around Downtown:"
"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."
I started to drive around a little bit and while crossing this bridge on Maine Ave. over the Red River between Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota I noted the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The emblem of each military service is at the base of each spire.
This is another look from downstream the Red River.
And speaking of the Red River, thar she flows.
We wound up our car tour at North Dakota State University, a beautiful, and quite large campus, with some 14,500 students enrolled. North Dakota State University is a land-grant, research university, ranked by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education among the top 108 public and private universities in the country. NDSU is in the elite category of "Research Universities/Very High Research Activity," with several programs ranked in the Top 100 by the National Science Foundation. NDSU is fully accredited as an institution by the Higher Learning Commission.
The university was founded in 1890.
Of course, we found some nice places for fun and food.
The Blarney Stone Pub boasts that it isthe only authentic Irish Pub in Fargo. We sure had a great time.
If you're a beer drinker, which I am, you've come to the right place!
And we also hung out at Lucky's 13 Pub. It was packed the night we were there.
We had a fabulous time telling tall tales with this wonderful group of people who didn't mind at all that we were from Wisconsin. In the middle is Dr. Brenda Barfield who, in 2003 opened her own dental practice in Fargo, called Friendly Smiles Cosmetic Dentistry. She talked me into getting an implant, assuring me it was painless. She had a tough job convincing me but she did it, and I'm thankful to her.