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Here are the stories behind downtown Fargo's historic buildings

Have you ever walked along Broadway, admiring the beautiful historic buildings that line that thoroughfare and wondered about the people whose names grace them?...

The Black Building on Broadway Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
The Black Building on Broadway Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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Have you ever walked along Broadway, admiring the beautiful historic buildings that line that thoroughfare and wondered about the people whose names grace them?

Those are the names of industrious pioneers who came to North Dakota with nothing and ended up building an entire city out of the dust of a flat, desolate prairie.    

 

Black Building, 114 Broadway  

Irish immigrant George Black came to Fargo in 1912 with the intent to open a dry goods store. After early success, he and his father built a new store following the stock market crash and called it the Black Building. They sold it to Sears in 1930 along with the namesake, so when Black decided to open another store at 621 First Ave. N., just a few months after “retiring” from the Sears store in 1934, he called it “The Store Without a Name”.

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George Black

Black retired in 1967 as president of the store and the Graver Hotel Company, and he  died five years later . Soon after, Sears left downtown for the new West Acres Mall, the brainchild of William Schlossman, Black’s son-in-law. His grandchildren still operate the mall today. Kilbourne Group recently bought the Black Building and the adjacent Scan Design building.

 

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Loretta Building, 210 Broadway N. This revitalized building is named for Loretta Elliott, the second youngest daughter of Fargo pioneer and hotel owner Peter Elliott, who came to Fargo in 1873. Elliott originally opened a restaurant on Front Street (now Main Avenue) before leasing a three-story hotel on NP Avenue.

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Peter Elliott

Unfortunately, that building burned down in the fire of 1893, but Elliott rebuilt along Broadway in a building known as the Syndicate Block. In 1909, Elliott drew up plans for the Loretta Block in the southern half of the 200 block of Broadway. The Loretta Building was completed in 1912, and information about its namesake is scant after Loretta left the area in the 1930s. She showed up in U.S. Census records in California in 1940, but the trail runs dry after that.

 

Today, the Loretta Building is owned by the Kilbourne Group and is home to The Boiler Room , Prairie Petals , Stumbeano’s Coffee Bar and Rosey’s Bistro as well as the Downtown Community Partnership, Arthur Ventures and the Kilbourne Group itself .

 

 

 

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The McKone building was built in 1905 and today houses Blackbird Woodfire Pizza. Forum file photo

  McKone Building, 206 Broadway This building is another one of the few historic buildings in downtown Fargo named for a woman - another one of Peter Elliott’s daughters and Loretta’s older sister. Margaret Elliott married J.Frank McKone, a cigar and beverage business owner in Fargo in 1909. The building was actually completed a few years before the union legally occurred. Today, the McKone Building is home to Blackbird Woodfire Pizza .

   

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The Dixon building (left) and the neighboring Moose building now offer apartment space and The Toasted Frog restaurant.
  Dixon Building, 305 Broadway In 1905, J.E. Dixon moved his laundry shop to this location – which was, thankfully, far away from the fur and hides store he used to neighbor, which left clean clothes smelling of animals. It also housed a Turkish bath on the first floor and hotel rooms on the second floor . The building was remodeled around 2011 (along with its neighbor, the Moose building) and offers apartments and serves as home to The Toasted Frog restaurant.

  

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The Powers Hotel is now apartment housing for seniors and the disabled. Forum file photo

  Powers Hotel, 400 Broadway N. Thomas Powers ended up in Fargo three years after the fire of 1893 destroyed much of the new city’s downtown. He found an abundance of work rebuilding the city, and his construction company was involved in several major projects, including the Cass County Courthouse, the Black Building, the Fargo Theatre and the downtown Fargo post office.

He built his namesake hotel in 1914, with two floors being added by 1919. The hotel has been converted to apartments, and his construction company continues to operate today.

 

Interestingly enough, this building also has connections to the Elliott family; the youngest child and last daughter, Elizabeth, married F. Urban Powers in 1929. Peter Elliott died the year before, so Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, Frank McKone, walked her down the aisle with Loretta serving as maid of honor for her younger sister. F. Urban and his brother, Tom Jr., bought their father’s Powers Hotel in 1925 .

 

 

 

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The Bismarck Tavern has been a resident of the Aggie Block since 1948. Forum file photo

Aggie Block, 514 - 524 Broadway Samuel Reid Aggie emigrated from Lebanon as a 12-year-old child and found work in New York City as an interpreter (he learned to speak seven languages). At age 16, he came to Fargo and founded a real estate company called Aggie Investments , a company his family continues to operate today.

 

The building went up in 1926 and has served as home to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store and a shoe rebuilding store in the past. Today, its residents include Beyond Running, Outermost Layer, Josie’s Corner Cafe  and the Bismarck Tavern – which has been located in the Aggie Block since 1948.

Some buildings aren’t on Broadway, but they offer an interesting history lesson.

 

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deLendrecie's is now known as Block 6. Danielle Teigen / The Forum

deLendrecie’s, 624 Main Ave. This grand building gracing Main Avenue and Seventh Street South hearkens to Fargo’s earliest days. A Canadian immigrant named Onesine Joassin “OJ” deLendrecie ended up in Fargo in 1879 after having spent time in Paris, Chicago and Missouri.

He immediately scouted the new city for a place to set up a dry goods store, and he selected a site far west on Front Street (Main Avenue) because he accurately predicted the city’s rapid expansion. He built a small store but when the fire of 1893 wiped out much of the city, deLendrecie capitalized by buying additional lots for expanding his store.

The current building was erected in 1894, with the top floors being added in 1904. deLendrecie retired to California in 1914, handing over management to his brother. deLendrecie’s remained an integral part of downtown Fargo until 1972 when the store moved to the new West Acres Mall.

The building found new management in 1975 as a mixed residential and commercial space, serving as home to The VIP Restaurant, a hair styling salon and other businesses. It is now called Block 6 , in reference to its original townsite location.

 

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The Gardner hotel, 26 Roberts Street, was built in 1909 by Frank Gardner. Forum file photo

The Gardner Hotel, 26 Roberts St. Another cigar salesman named Frank, Gardner moved from New York and built the Gardner Hotel in 1909. Gardner also co-owned (and co-founded) the Merchants National Bank, the Fargo Foundry, the F.C. Gardner Cigar Co., and the Lewis Vidger Fruit Co. According to his 1963 obituary, he also founded the town of Lake Alfred, Florida, (having originally named it Fargo) and ended up retiring there. He also owned a large cattle ranch and timber interests in Cuba.

By 1935, the Fargo’s major hotel family, the Powers, purchased the building after having leased it for two years. Gardner’s niece, who had lived with his family from the age of 9, was married to Joseph Powers, an attorney.

During its life as a hotel, the Gardner welcomed many famous guests , including Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Charles Lindbergh, Carl Ben Eielson, William Jennings Bryan, Charlie Chaplin, Sophie Tucker and Lawrence Welk.

The Powers family sold the building in 1969, and ownership changed several times over the next decades. After being renovated in the 1980s, the building is now home to apartments with commercial space on the first floor.

 

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The Stone building used to be home to the Avalon Event Center. Forum file photo

The Stone Building, 613 First Avenue N.
Named for Charles R. Stone, this building served as the third home for its namesake’s piano company, which brought music to residents throughout the area during a time when people created their own entertainment. Stone’s natural musical ability was evident as a child, and he became an accomplished accordian played by the age of 7. He created a band in his home state of Indiana at the age of 13, and he headed west after graduating with a music degree. He landed in St. Paul where he worked as a piano company salesman before he ended up in Fargo in the late 1890s. He opened his store in 1894, an operation believed to be the first exclusive retail piano and music business in the state of North Dakota. He erected the Stone building in 1908 and also operated a music store in Minneapolis from 1919 to 1925.

Stone died in 1935 and his son took over ; he was joined by A.J. Daveau, who ended up going into business with Charles Stone, Jr. In 1956, Daveau purchased the building and operated music companies out of it until the 1970s. The building was renovated and opened in 2000 as the Avalon Events Center, which closed a few years ago. In 2016, Kilbourne Group purchased the building .

To learn more about the historic buildings in downtown Fargo, embark on a walking tour or pick up a copy of “ Hidden History of Fargo ” at Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway N.

 

Related Topics: HISTORYFARGONORTH DAKOTA
Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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