Downtown Fargo architectural gem gets more time for polishing

Owner expects Greek Revival style structure to become community resource

The historic Milton Beebe house located at 717 3rd Ave. N. is at risk of being condemned and demolished by the city. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — The Fargo City Commission this past week agreed to put the wrecking ball on hold and gave friends of a historic downtown home more time to return the structure to something resembling its former glory.

The Greek Revival style building at 717 3rd Ave. N. has impressive columns on the front porch, 12-foot-high ceilings and massive windows that almost reach the floor.

Built more than 100 years ago, the home once belonged to architect Milton E. Beebe, who designed buildings and homes from New York to central North Dakota.

In recent years, the building fell into disrepair. The city warned the property's owner, Ron Ramsay, that the house was facing demolition if it wasn't brought up to city code.

On Monday, Jan. 25, the City Commission voted to require that all exterior work on the building be completed in six months and all intended restoration be completed within one year beyond that.


Ramsay, an architectural history professor who has been teaching at North Dakota State University for five decades, once lived in what has come to be known as the "Beebe house."

Ramsay, who still lives in the neighborhood, said the makeover of the Beebe house would have happened sooner, but it lacked a nonprofit that could serve as a fiscal agent, which put a hold on charitable donations to help pay for the work.

City Commissioners were told Monday the Fargo-Moorhead Heritage Society recently agreed to act as a fiscal agent for the project until a nonprofit Ramsay is creating — called Plains Architecture — receives IRS recognition of its nonprofit status. Once that happens, Plains Architecture will take over as fiscal agent.

Ramsay said the building's restoration is being financed with his own money and financial help from renowned architect and North Dakota State University alum John Klai, as well as Kilbourne Group, which is volunteering to provide project management.

Once rehabilitation work is completed on the building, Ramsay said, an initial use of the structure will be to serve as a space where he can review his personal library of more than 15,000 books, many of which he plans to offer to libraries that can use them.

He also plans to use the space to evaluate his personal art collection, much of which he said will likely go to the Rourke Art Gallery and Museum in Moorhead, where he said a good deal of the art was purchased years ago.

In addition, Ramsay plans to organize research materials he collected over the years. Much of that, he said, will be destined for the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies.

Ultimately, the building and its space could be used for a number of things, including as a place where community groups gather for meetings and seminars, according to Ramsay.


"I think there are any number of nonprofit, social-action entities in town that might be very interested in partnering in terms of use," he said, adding he plans to someday transfer ownership of the building to Plains Architecture, which would operate the property going forward.

Ramsay said the building could eventually host regular tours and possibly charge a nominal fee for groups that use the site.

"If we could rent it at a minimum cost, we could probably make enough money to pay the utilities, so the thing could become, more or less, self-sustaining," he said.

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