As I Recall: DeLendrecies building has a rich history
On Nov. 3, 1929, a Forum story told of the golden jubilee of the deLendrecie department store. "On the day the Fargo Forum was to print its first issue, Mr. (O.J.) deLendrecie came to the office and gave Major A. W. Edwards, publisher, a check fo...
On Nov. 3, 1929, a Forum story told of the golden jubilee of the deLendrecie department store.
"On the day the Fargo Forum was to print its first issue, Mr. (O.J.) deLendrecie came to the office and gave Major A. W. Edwards, publisher, a check for $500 and ordered a full page advertisement for his store. It was the first full page ad in The Forum's first newspaper, which went to the subscribers on Nov. 17, 1891."
By that time O.J. deLendrecie had been in business in Fargo since the day of his arrival in 1879 when he purchased a parcel of land at 618 Front St. immediately east of where the deLendrecie building still stands on the southeast corner of Main Avenue and Seventh Street South.
He erected a small, wood frame building and in October 1879 he opened the Chicago Dry Goods store. His brother Eugene J. deLendrecie, born Jan. 14, 1860, joined him in the business.
Onesine Joassin deLandrecie was born Dec. 11, 1845, at Cedars, Quebec. In early local reports of his dealings, his name was spelled deLandrecie rather than deLendrecie. I cannot determine when it was changed, but in the 1881 Fargo city directory, he is listed as O.J. De Landrecie and his business, the Chicago Dry Goods Store, is called The O.J. deLendrecie Co.
The 1881 directory also says, "Besides being a leading merchant Mr. De Landrecie is also one of Fargo's interprising (sic) milliners. He keeps on hand a fine and tasty selection of hats trimmed to order and ladies costumes generally, and in his establishment employs altogether about 16 hands during his busy season."
A biographical sketch from "History of the Red River Valley" published in 1909, says, "The family is an old one and emigrated from their ancestral home at Landrecie in the north of France."
In "History of North Dakota" by William B. Hennessy published a year later, he is called De Lendrecie and not deLendrecie as it came to be.
The Chicago Dry Goods business was so successful that in 1884 deLendrecie erected a two-story brick building. He first called it the Mammoth department store. In 1904 three floors were added to the building and in 1905 the business was incorporated as the O.J. deLendrecie Co. with O.J. as president and his brother E.J. as vice president.
DeLendrecies sat across Front Street from the Northern Pacific depot, which still stands, and across from the Waldorf Hotel on Seventh Avenue South, which does not.
E.J. deLendrecie became president of the company at the time of his brother's death in 1924. Two nephews, O.J. Campbell and Duncan J. Campbell, became vice president-manager and secretary-treasurer, respectively.
The Campbell brothers sold deLendrecies to Mercantile Stores Co. of New York in 1955, bringing to an end 76 years of family ownership. In 1972, the store moved to the new mall west of town.
Unfortunately most of the records of deLendrecie's stay in downtown Fargo were lost or destroyed during the move. On Oct. 1, 1998, it closed.
The deLendrecie and Campbell brothers were innovators. The store underwent several expansions and renovations. Forum headlines tell the story:
E 1930: "DeLendrecies put in air tubes to handle money"
E 1936: "New tea room opened in deLendrecie Store"
E 1937" "DeLendrecie to enlarge store"
E 1939: "DeLendrecie's will remodel building, store in $40,000 job, whole exterior and interior of block to be renovated"
E 1951: "DeLendrecie joins telegift merchandise-by-wire plan."
I have wonderful memories of deLendrecie's from the 1940s until they moved. I recall the glove counter near the front door. Desk-height wooden cases with glass tops held individual pairs of gloves. The customer sat on a chair to view them.
Your hand was measured for size and after choosing a style from the glass case, you put your elbow on a little satin pillow and the sales lady put the glove on your hand, stretching it carefully over each finger.
I also remember buying a formal gown at deLendrecies. On one of the upper floors there was an open space with sofas and tables. Large dressing rooms ringed the area. After choosing a gown, you went to the dressing room to put it on.
The sales lady came in to help. Of course, you had to have the correct undergarments for strapless or backless gowns. When properly attired, you waltzed or tiptoed - depending on your mood - into the carpeted area where your companion, usually your mother, awaited your entrance.
I still have a black taffeta formal with red satin ribbons that I bought at deLendrecies and I remember well the day I picked it out.
And while I don't remember the tea room, I fondly recall the wonderful hot roast beef sandwiches in the deLendrecie Coffee Shop.
The building has undergone several renovations since it was vacated by the deLendrecie Co. in 1972. In 1975, it became a commercial complex known as Block 6 of the original town site.
In the 1980s, Block 6 fell on hard times, but with an infusion of $7.4 million in 1987, International Center Ltd. Partnership renovated the building into retail space and apartments.
In 1995, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosed on Block 6 and it was purchased by an out-of-state investment group.
It was and remains an anchor in downtown Fargo. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. And I still call it the "deLendrecie building."
Resources: Forum files, Institute for Regional Studies, www.fargo-history.com/downtown/delendrecies.htm , Institute for Regional Studies, "History of North Dakota" by William B. Hennessy, published in 1910 by the Bismarck Tribune, "History of the Red River Valley" published in 1909 by Cooper, Pub Co. of Chicago and the Grand Forks Herald, The de Lendrecie advertisement came from "The County of Cass, North Dakota, 1906" published by R.L. Polk, of St. Paul, Minn. The cover title reads "Atlas of Cass County, North Dakota, 1906."
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at email@example.com