ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'Y' sign outside downtown Fargo YMCA gains National Register of Historic Places status

"It's always wonderful to acknowledge our special places, and when we can go outside the box a little bit with objects and things that people don't always immediately connect with as being historic, that's always wonderful as well," said Lorna Meidinger, national register coordinator with the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Review Board.

020222.N.FF.YSIGN.1.jpg
The YMCA in downtown Fargo on Feb. 1, 2022. The large "Y" sign that has stood outside the facility since 1962 has gained a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — It is now official; the large letter "Y" that has stood outside the Fercho YMCA in downtown Fargo since 1962 has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That's according to Lorna Meidinger, national register coordinator with the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Review Board, who along with the review board helped officials with the YMCA Of Cass & Clay Counties submit an application to the national register.

Meidinger said the sign is a somewhat unusual addition to the register as it is an object by itself, but added she thinks it's a great thing.

"It's always wonderful to acknowledge our special places, and when we can go outside the box a little bit with objects and things that people don't always immediately connect with as being historic, that's always wonderful as well. It just shows the broad spectrum of what can be historic and what can be special to different people," Meidinger said.

She noted North Dakota has more than 400 individual properties and about 28 historic districts on the NRHP, including a number of historic districts in Fargo.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those districts include the downtown historic district, a district on the North Dakota State University campus and a historic district on Eighth Street.

Meidinger said the primary benefit to gaining NRHP status is bragging rights, but she added it may also open doors to grant funding if the sign is ever in need of major repairs or upgrades.

In promoting the Y sign's inclusion on the national register, officials at the YMCA said they strongly identified with the Y symbol and they argued the sign was a prime example of the sign art of the early 1960s.

But perhaps the main reason they wanted the sign included was that it might save the highly visible symbol from demolition, according to Anna Sather, vice president of marketing and communications at YMCA Of Cass & Clay Counties.

Sather has said the national YMCA organization has decided the sign no longer fits with the organization's branding efforts and it was at risk of having to be torn down if NRHP status wasn't obtained.

Also, according to Sather, the look of the sign "proves the rich history of the organization and that it has survived and thrived in the community through challenging times, like the Great Depression, Word War II, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic."

Regarding the news that the sign now has register status, Sather said: "We are beyond grateful that it has been officially listed on the registry.

"Throughout the application process, we received an overwhelming amount of guidance, support, and encouragement from the State Historical Society, Y patrons, and local community members and we are forever indebted," Sather added.

ADVERTISEMENT

When the building that would become the Fercho YMCA was being planned in 1961, the community raised about $1.2 million for the project. It was the first time, according to Sather, that $1 million had ever been raised for a community project in Fargo.

She also noted that when the sign went up in 1962, the local Y had already been in the community for nearly 70 years.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
What to read next
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
Follow this Fargo-Moorhead news and weather podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
The 12 plaintiffs suffered injuries including bruising from less-lethal munitions, lingering respiratory issues from tear gas and psychological trauma, the ACLU said.