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Fargo preservation board recommends saving historic Stern home from levee plan

FARGO - A Fargo house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's granddaughter is historically significant and should be saved from the wrecking ball if at all possible, the city's Historic Preservation Commission determined Tuesday, Jan. 17.

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Windows wrap the entire side of the John and Sherri Stern home that faces the Red River. It reflects Frank Lloyd Wright's idea of letting the outside in and the inside out. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO – A Fargo house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s granddaughter is historically significant and should be saved from the wrecking ball if at all possible, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission determined Tuesday, Jan. 17. Paul Gleye, a member of the preservation board, said the house at 1458 S. River Road is historically significant because one of its designers, Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, was the celebrated architect’s granddaughter as well as his student. Its other designer, Gordon Ingraham, her husband, also studied under Wright. The house, Gleye said, is also an outstanding example of the midcentury Prairie Style developed by Wright and has an outstanding relationship to the landscape. Other members of the board unanimously agreed with him. Their decision could complicate the city’s plan to build a levee along the Red River to improve protection against flooding, especially for the nearby water treatment plant. The cost factor Unable to decide immediately whether to allow the demolition or to try to work around the house, which would cost significantly more, a majority of the City Commission voted earlier this month to consult the Historic Preservation Commission on whether the house is worth saving.
City Commissioner John Strand, who suggested the consultation, said the Historic Preservation Commission’s recommendation was what commissioners needed to know. To build a levee through the site of the house would cost $22,500, not including the cost of buying the house and demolishing it, according to Jody Bertrand, a city engineer who, at his department’s request, briefed the commission. To build a floodwall around the house would cost an estimated $2.2 million. Levees, because their weight threatens the stability of the river bank, cannot be built around the house. Reitan surprised as West Fargo officials poised to oust him as police chief, offer him severance The house, built in 1958, is now assessed at $347,000 but an appraisal could find it’s worth a lot more on the market. At owner John Stern’s suggestion, the city has looked at using sheet piles, basically thick corrugated sheets of steel driven into the ground, instead of traditional concrete floodwalls. Glen Krogman, a city consultant with the engineering firm HDR, reported that cables would be needed to anchor the steel sheets deeper in the river bank, which, because they’d run under the foundation, would threaten the house. No cost estimates were done because sheet piling is not considered an option, he said. Historic preservation commissioners initially focused on the cost of the floodwall but were reminded by Stern, who observed the meeting remotely by via internet, that the only question facing them was whether the house is historically significant. It’ll be up to the City Commission to weigh that significance with the use of more sales tax dollars. National recognition Stern is also in the process of getting the house on the National Register of Historic Places. He said by email that he’s working to win the support of the State Historical Society, which serves as a kind of gatekeeper for the national register. City staff has maintained that the city isn’t under any obligation to save the house even if it were on the register because no federal funds are being used in the project. The dikes being built through town, including in Stern’s neighborhood, do provide additional protection on their own but they’re also being raised to complement the federally-funded Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion by reducing the volume of water the diversion must accommodate. Bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation introduced again in North Dakota  FARGO – A Fargo house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s granddaughter is historically significant and should be saved from the wrecking ball if at all possible, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission determined Tuesday, Jan. 17.Paul Gleye, a member of the preservation board, said the house at 1458 S. River Road is historically significant because one of its designers, Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, was the celebrated architect’s granddaughter as well as his student.Its other designer, Gordon Ingraham, her husband, also studied under Wright.The house, Gleye said, is also an outstanding example of the midcentury Prairie Style developed by Wright and has an outstanding relationship to the landscape.Other members of the board unanimously agreed with him.Their decision could complicate the city’s plan to build a levee along the Red River to improve protection against flooding, especially for the nearby water treatment plant.The cost factorUnable to decide immediately whether to allow the demolition or to try to work around the house, which would cost significantly more, a majority of the City Commission voted earlier this month to consult the Historic Preservation Commission on whether the house is worth saving.
City Commissioner John Strand, who suggested the consultation, said the Historic Preservation Commission’s recommendation was what commissioners needed to know.To build a levee through the site of the house would cost $22,500, not including the cost of buying the house and demolishing it, according to Jody Bertrand, a city engineer who, at his department’s request, briefed the commission. To build a floodwall around the house would cost an estimated $2.2 million. Levees, because their weight threatens the stability of the river bank, cannot be built around the house.Reitan surprised as West Fargo officials poised to oust him as police chief, offer him severanceThe house, built in 1958, is now assessed at $347,000 but an appraisal could find it’s worth a lot more on the market.At owner John Stern’s suggestion, the city has looked at using sheet piles, basically thick corrugated sheets of steel driven into the ground, instead of traditional concrete floodwalls.Glen Krogman, a city consultant with the engineering firm HDR, reported that cables would be needed to anchor the steel sheets deeper in the river bank, which, because they’d run under the foundation, would threaten the house. No cost estimates were done because sheet piling is not considered an option, he said.Historic preservation commissioners initially focused on the cost of the floodwall but were reminded by Stern, who observed the meeting remotely by via internet, that the only question facing them was whether the house is historically significant.It’ll be up to the City Commission to weigh that significance with the use of more sales tax dollars.National recognitionStern is also in the process of getting the house on the National Register of Historic Places. He said by email that he’s working to win the support of the State Historical Society, which serves as a kind of gatekeeper for the national register.City staff has maintained that the city isn’t under any obligation to save the house even if it were on the register because no federal funds are being used in the project.The dikes being built through town, including in Stern’s neighborhood, do provide additional protection on their own but they’re also being raised to complement the federally-funded Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion by reducing the volume of water the diversion must accommodate.Bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation introduced again in North Dakota 

3070565+0B9ICSRgvo88Ib2plcEhkQ0lyOWs.jpg
Windows wrap the entire side of the John and Sherri Stern home that faces the Red River. It reflects Frank Lloyd Wright's idea of letting the outside in and the inside out. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Related Topics: FARGONORTH DAKOTA
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