James Holes House, 1230 5th St. N.

James Holes home, circa 1915. Courtesy NDSU Archives, Photo 2093.40.26.

The James Holes House is built in a style that was popular in the 1870’s called Italianate, which drew inspiration from late-16th century Italian architecture. The October 11, 1879 Fargo Times had a detailed write-up about the home, as its grandeur surely was a novelty to the some of the rough-hewn settlers of the prairie.  “One of the handsomest and most conveniently arranged residences in Dakota Territory. The building is of brick, laid in double walls, with a three inch air space in between, making the wall 15 inches thick. A beautiful continued rail platform staircase at the end of the spacious hall connects the upper and lower floors. The cellar is an immense affair… containing over 2,300 square feet of space. A 200 barrel cistern in the bottom of the cellar affords an abundant supply of filtered water for the house. The whole affair was superintended by John Pray, formerly of Ogdensburgh, New York, who has had 28 years’ experience in the building of first class residences.” [1] Someone asked Holes why he built such a big house, and he explained, “to catch lots of rain water.”[2]Following the death of James Holes, Sr., in 1916, his children, James Jr., and Marguerite, took over the family business concerns. Marguerite married Charles Finkle, and the farmhouse became the Holes-Finkle House, as it was known for many years in the community. As Fargo grew, Broadway was rerouted, changing the address to its present designation, the 1200 Block of 5th Street.  The house remained in family hands for over one hundred years.  It now stands oddly recessed from the street, remaining proudly among the newer, more modest single-level dwellings of its residential North Fargo neighborhood.

– Zach Jendro, Digital History, 2012

[1] “A Model Residence.” The Fargo Times, October 11, 1879.

[2] Johnson, Roy P. “Pokin’ Around in Your Home Town”, Fargo Forum, February 4, 1964.

The Holes Family

Bernard and Marguerite Holes seated at piano in Holes home, circa 1900. Courtesy NDSU Archives, Photo 2093.4.3.

The first parcel of land that James Holes purchased in North Dakota was originally owned by Ole Hanson. This transaction between Hanson and Holes, dated July 26, 1871, at a cost of $76.60, was the first purchase of land of any kind in Cass County. [1] It was upon this wheat field that Holes built a farmhouse for his family, which at the time consisted of Holes and his mother.  Holes would eventually own 180 acres of land adjoining the limits of Fargo, as well as 1740 acres near Hunter, North Dakota.In 1887, he wed Rhonda Harrison and they had three children: James, Bernard, and Marguerite.  According to Lounsberry in North Dakota: History and People (1917),  Mrs. Holes was a “beautiful and intellectual lady who possessed exceptional talent as an artist, which fact demonstrated by the many attractive canvases painted by her which adorn the walls of the home.” [2] After Mrs. Holes’ death in 1908, the North Dakota: History and People reports that Marguerite took over the household duties for the home.  “She had the careful rearing of her mother. (She) has the mother’s artistic temperament as is shown by the exterior embellishments and the interior decorations of the home.” [3]

– Zach Jendro, Digital History, 2012

[1]Finkle. Marguerite. “James Holes.” WPA Historical Data Project, by Stella Halsten Hohncke.

[2]Lounsberry, Clement A. North Dakota; History and People; Outlines of American History. Vol. II. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Company, 1917.


James Holes

Lithographic engraving of James Holes (1845-1916), circa 1900. Courtesy NDSU Archives, Photo 2093.2.6.

The James Holes house is one of the oldest buildings in Fargo to be standing in its original location. Built in 1879, the home attracted considerable attention due to its size and quality of construction. At the time it was built, the house was approximately one mile north of town.  The 1880 City Directory lists the address as “Broadway. North of city limits.” It was surrounded by a healthy wheat field, dotted with barns and sheds.  The owner, James Holes, combined hard work with luck and business intuition to build a farming empire in the area. This fine home stands as a testament to its original owner, as well as the staying power of the community it is a part of, for the home is now completely swallowed in a sea of homes, nowhere near a barn or a stalk of wheat.

James Holes was born in Warren, Pennsylvania on January 29, 1845. His parents immigrated to the United States from Derbyshire, England in 1832. After the death of his father when James was 15, he followed the advice that Horace Greeley gave to plucky young boys at the time: “Go West, young man.” He took his inheritance and settled in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Holes first came to North Dakota driving a covered wagon for the government in 1868 or 1869. His route was St. Cloud to Fort Abercrombie, the former being the end of the Northern Pacific Railroad at the time. He returned in 1871 as a land agent for the Puget Sound Company, to build and run a supply store in the area that would become Fargo.  Legend has it he was greeted by the sound of a man playing violin and a woman dancing outside a tent. They turned out to be Captain and Mrs. George Egbert. The Captain would become Fargo’s first mayor. Holes became a very influential land owner and citizen of Fargo.

– Zach Jendro, Digital History, 2012


JamesHolesAudio Click the icon above to hear a reading of James Holes’ memories of arriving in Fargo in May of 1871.