Wish you were here! Fargoans once sent postcards of Island Park to their friends

Early residents of Fargo were clearly proud of their grand park in the middle of the city.

island park postcard stroll.jpg
This is the postcard featuring Island Park that Elizabeth Iwen sent to a friend in Wisconsin in 1910. Island Park was a source of great pride for the young city of Fargo, as many postcards of the park were produced.
Contributed / Linda Tobin / Joanne Wilson

FARGO — All of the talk recently of reinvigorating Island Park in Fargo sparked a sweet memory for 87-year-old Joanne Wilson of Moorhead.

Wilson recently found an old postcard her mother wrote to a friend in Wisconsin in 1910 featuring the park.

“My mother (Elizabeth) was just 14 when these cards were written,” Wilson said. “Helena was 17.

In the postcard, Elizabeth describes the weather that August day in Arthur, N.D. (where she lived).

“We have been having nice weather for harvesting, but not for anything else because we haven’t had any rain. Maybe we will have some soon,” she wrote.


Helena (Briese) Iwen held onto this Island Park postcard for decades. In it, her friend Elizabeth talks about the weather and farming.
Contributed / Linda Tobin / Joanne Wilson

The teenager went on to tell her friend, “I guess we will start to thresh soon, if we can get some men.”

Who knew the hot topic of conversation for teen girls in 1910 would be harvest weather and the shortage of hired men?

Anyway, whether Helena held onto the card for the weather-speak on the back or the lovely photo of Island Park on the front, she held onto it.

A source of pride

It appears that Elizabeth and Helena weren't the only people corresponding via Island Park postcards in the beginning of the 20th century. North Dakota State University Archives has several postcards featuring scenes from the park in its collection.

island park boating.jpg
Boating on the river was a popular activity to people visiting the park as evidenced by this 1911 postcard. The chimney on the right side is from the old Fargo water plant which stood in the park just south of today's Fargo Moorhead Community Theater building.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Archives
island park wading pool.jpg
Park visitors cooled off in Island Park's wading pool.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Archives
island park greenery.jpg
Residents who sent this postcard of greenery in the park were probably trying to convince out-of-town relatives that Fargo wasn't just vast, flat prairie land.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Archives
island park statue.jpg
This statue of Norwegian hero Henrik Wergeland was unveiled in Island Park on June 17, 1908, as more than 3,500 people watched. According to Forum newspaper reports, businesses closed early so employees could attend. Wergeland was known as "the Abraham Lincoln of Norway." The statue in the park was a reflection of the area's Norwegian heritage.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Archives

The young city (just 35 years old in 1910) was clearly proud of its oldest and grandest park, choosing it as the image to share of Fargo to out-of-town relatives.

You can only imagine what these people 112 years ago would think of the revisions and improvements coming to the park in the 2020s.

elizabeth and helena.JPG
Elizabeth Iwen (left) sent a postcard to her friend Helena Briese. Helena would later marry Elizabeth's brother.
Contributed / Linda Tobin / Joanne Wilson

So whatever happened to Elizabeth and Helena? Helena ended up marrying Elizabeth’s brother Edmund in 1919. Both raised families, lived and farmed in North Dakota for many years.

It’s safe to assume that as the years went by, the two women were able to talk about harvest weather and hired men over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table instead of on a postcard.


Tracy Briggs (right) and a friend throwing imaginary hats in the air in front of the Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis.
Tracy Briggs

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
What To Read Next
Get Local