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Powers building has rich history

Although the Hotel at 319 Broadway was built in the 1920s, it served as an annex to the Powers Hotel until it was remodeled and became The Fargoan in November 1930.

Although the Hotel at 319 Broadway was built in the 1920s, it served as an annex to the Powers Hotel until it was remodeled and became The Fargoan in November 1930.

The building, which housed the hotel as well as a number of street level businesses, is called the deRicci block and was named for one of the daughters of Thomas F. Powers.

When the Fargoan Hotel opened, F. Urban Powers, a son of Thomas F. Powers, and general manager of the Powers hotel interests, said, "We believe we are now in position to offer to the public accommodations to suit almost any purse and any type of demand which may be made upon us, either for transient or permanent living quarters except large sized apartments for permanent dwellings of large families."

Mr. Powers was explaining the purposes of the Powers hotel organization, which also owned the Powers Hotel at 400 Broadway and the Gardner Hotel at 26 Roberts St.

The headline on Friday Nov. 14, 1930, announcing the opening of the new hotel said, "Fargoan Hotel Will Be Formally Opened Saturday, EVENT WILL BE OPEN TO PUBLIC, Newest Hostelry In City To Be Thrown Open From 12 Noon to 10 P. M."


The story said that in the opinion of F. Urban Powers, the new hotel, together with the Powers hotel, "offers to the public of the northwest such a variety of hotel accommodations as has never before been available under one management," and the public was invited, "to inspect the new hostelry ..."

The story tells of the hotel's interior design: "To carry out his ideas of a modernistic lobby and lounge that would not clash with good taste, Mr. Powers secured the services of Carl Olson, noted Twin city artist, who has designed the interiors of some of the finest hotels and other public buildings of the northwest."

Olson had visions of the future. As a mural painter he executed three panel paintings in The Fargoan's lobby and lounge. The first was a portrayal of the city of the future, "towering structures of such simple line and imposing strength, as even now are rising into the skylines of some of America's great cities."

Another painting surrounded a mirror backed with gold rather than silver. It was thought to be the only mirror of its kind in the state.

A third painting, placed in a recessed alcove, was of a young woman, depicting modern youth "taking the stage of life - her face aglow with the wonder of what the future may hold."

The ceiling of the lounge was finished in silver leaf. It was located at the rear of the lobby to offer a sense of privacy to guests. Hidden lights presented, "an exceptionally beautiful and pleasing effect." Chair lamps furnished light for reading. A stairway separated the lounge from the lobby.

The two upper floors provided everything from single rooms without bath to efficiency suites to small apartments with kitchenettes. Some rooms had fireplaces. The combination living-sleeping rooms were furnished with convertible beds, easy chairs, gate leg tables and reading lamps and, "other conveniences usually found in modern homes."

Rooms were wired for radio attachments. Throughout the hotel, combination reading lamp and ashtray stands were evident.


In the bathrooms, a combination medicine cabinet, towel rack and convenience receptacle was touted as, "one of the most compact and complete units yet built."

"This piece of furnishing takes up little more room than the old fashioned medicine closet, yet at the top there is a very handy towel rack with separate compartments for bath and hand towels, a hook for razor cloth, a razor strop hook, receptacle for used razor blades and a very complete medicine or toilet article closet."

The bathroom sinks, tubs and showers were equipped with a faucet that mixed hot and cold water and a safety device automatically cut off hot water if the cold water stopped which was a precaution to prevent scalding.

Each floor was equipped with, "a modern refrigerating ice plant which makes 144 cubes in one freezing, with a compartment to hold a surplus supply."

Rooms with kitchenettes also had a small breakfast nook and were equipped, "with the modern Murphy cabianette, a piece of equipment which combines a large cupboard, refrigerator, gas stove, sink and drain board in one unit."

Under a drain board which served as the refrigerator top, was a pull-out wooden shelf which provided a worktable.

I wish I had been around to take a tour of the Fargoan hotel. The news story made me think of what we take for granted that was new and innovative in 1930. And also how news writing has changed. Another example from the story follows:

"The new Fargoan has been completely modernized, the entrance, lobby and lounge being finished in the modernistic design but, while color has been used lavishly, it is not the ultra-bizarre, jazzzy conglomeration of color and freak design sometimes seen."


"In every appointment in the hotel from the marquee over the front entrance to the tiniest closet space under one of the seats in the breakfast nooks in the kitchenette of the efficient apartments, there is evidence of the most careful planning to make for beauty, comfort, convenience and restful harmony."

"The hotel is finished in walnut, with furnishing to harmonize throughout."

The Powers family sold the hotel in 1972 to Orlando Scherling (owner of Scherling Photography) and Erwin Beilke of A.B. Shaver Shop. Both businesses occupied space on the street level of the hotel.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrrimson@forumcomm.com

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