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Why this house in the middle of Fargo was painted like an American flag

The most patriotic of paint jobs had Fargoans talking in the mid-1970s.

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Fargo's "Bicentennial House" was a work of art to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday.
State Historical Society of North Dakota/WDAY-TV collection
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FARGO — With the Winter Olympics in full swing, here’s an idea to show your support for Team USA — paint your house like an American flag.

It’s what one homeowner in south Fargo did in 1976. While it was an Olympic year, the red, white and blue house undoubtedly was more a nod to the nation's bicentennial.

Dubbed “Fargo’s Bicentennial House,” it was located at 113 12th St. S. The patriotic paint job was done by local artist “Modern Man,” formerly Lalo, formerly Lelando Bruvinsky, born Leland Bruns.

He is also the artist behind the huge farming mural on the south and west sides of the former Piepkorn Building on Main Avenue in Fargo. Modern Man is also known for other provocative and creative projects in the area.

The Bicentennial House drew mixed reviews from neighbors in the area, with some loving the tribute to America on its 200th birthday, and others finding it to be an eyesore.

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WDAY-TV interviewed the artist upon completion of the house. This clip is courtesy the State Historical Society of North Dakota/WDAY-TV collection.

While the bicentennial was over by 1977, the patriotic house still stood at least until October 1977. Prairie Public Television profiled the house on its 1977 news magazine show “Spin,” with anchor Cal Olson.

For those of you not around in 1976, the flag house might seem like a little much, but it was really par for the course that year. Americans went completely nuts for the stars and stripes — the Spirit of ‘76 and all of that. You couldn’t swing Bicentennial Barbie by her little powdered wig without hitting commemorative items at every turn, from lunchboxes and collectible coins to Uncle Sam nutcrackers and Founding Father shot glasses.

I remember waking up the morning of July 4, 1976, and seeing my dad walk in the door with red, white and blue doughnuts from a local doughnut shop. As I nibbled on the chocolate-covered pastry (probably while drinking Tang), I watched the daylong coverage of the bicentennial on ABC. Back then, my favorite part was the tall colonial ships sailing into New York harbor.

Looking back at this clip now, it's fun to go back in time, see what news was like then, watch the commercials for the 1976 Olympics and even catch a young Ted Koppel in action.

I have great memories of the bicentennial, but despite growing up in Fargo, researching this story has been the first I'd heard of Fargo’s Bicentennial House. I had the red, white and blue doughnuts and the tail ships in the harbor that day, but I’m sorry I missed the spectacle of the flag house before it was eventually repainted.

But maybe we have another shot. If you think about it, in just four years, the United States will be celebrating its 250th birthday. That's plenty of time for someone out there to get red, white and blue paint and get busy.

Readers can reach Forum reporter and columnist Tracy Briggs at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com.

Tracy Briggs is a News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 30 years of experience.
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