Resilience and Rebound: Virtues of Building in Brick

Looking southeast from the Fargo, N.D. Post Office Tower, 1898

An elevated view looks southeast from the top of the Post Office building. A portion of the roof top on Marsh & Loomis Livery building is visible in the lower right corner. There is an Amercian flag flying from a pole on the rooftop. Lower Roberts Street is visible with C.A. Everhart & Co. fronting on the east side. There is a pile of wood stacked along the north side of the Everhart building, and a wagon and some bicycles are parked out front. The ext building to the south is the Fargo City Hall and Firehouse. Also visible in the scene is the rear of Key City Laundry, the ruins of the Headquarters Hotel, the Martin Hotel, and buildings along Front Street. (Main Avenue) [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs000796]

Wood continued to provide the framework for more and more business buildings in downtown Fargo and it was not without its merits for other building or business endeavors. However, a majority of the post-fire structures shifted toward predominantly brick or stone constructions.  At the same time, technological advances allowed for increased sophistication and more architecturally sound developments for new commercial and privately-owned businesses in the area. Clearly, the people of Fargo were there to stay despite having faced the worst challenge thus far.

-Stacy M. Reikowsky, Digital History 2012

Flooding, Sewage Management, and Early Plumbing

Chesley & Lovejoy Lumberyard at high water from Red River flood, Fargo, N.D., Downtown, 1881

Looking northwest at Chesley & Lovejoy Lumberyard, east end of 2nd Ave. N. during Red River flood. Residential area in background above water. Lumber floating between buildings [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs000968]

In the first decade of Fargo’s settlement,  concerns for sanitation and waste management quickly rose to the forefront of city operations. As an infrastructure  developed, the need for  a sewage system for Fargo was clear and the city council investigated the system and its cost.  On  January 13, 1881, council members solicited city engineers for a sewage system that best met the needs of the flat city. On September 14, 1882, voters approved, 136 to 25, a $50,000 issue of 7-percent bonds for a system based on the existing structure in Chicago. Fargo’s city engineers adapted that to a more modern system with 36-inch brick trunks fed laterally by 12-inch pipes throughout the main center of the city as opposed to Moorhead’s flush tanks that initially sent waste directly to the river.[1]Nevertheless, Fargo’s sewers continued to empty into the river and taint water supplies until 1892, when improvements began.

Proximity to the river greatly facilitated day-to-day business activities and steamboat landings and served nearby warehouses and granaries. Due to the overall unsanitary nature of the river water during the early developmental periods, that proximity could also cause problems. Therefore, the ongoing need for revising the existing systems of irrigation and sanitation remained at the at the forefront of concerns of the city council and local citizens alike.

Chesley & Lovejoy Lumberyard at highwater, Fargo, N.D., Downtown, 1881

Chesley & Lovejoy Lumberyard, at the east end of 2nd Ave. N., is shown during the Red River flood. The Union Elevator cam be seen in the background and lumber floats between  between buildings. The man standing in foreground is looking east at the view. [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs000967]

Although the Red River provided ease of access and transfer of goods and lumber coming and going from Fargo, it also created instances of immense loss and devastation during high water times. Flooding affected any and all structures and businesses along the banks including lumber yards and granaries originally founded close by for quick and efficient transactions.

-Stacy M. Reikowsky, Digital History 2012



[1] Englehardt, Gateway, 267.

Rivers and Railroads

Steamboat Pluck at the Alsop Line warehouse in Fargo, N.D. 1878

A steamboat is docked at the Alsop building on the Fargo side of the Red River. Several men are visible standing on the deck of the boat. Large lettering on the side of steamboat reads Henry W. Alsop, Pluck. On the extreme right is a Grandin Line Elevator on banks of river. The view taken from Moorhead on the eastern bank of the Red River. [North Dakota State University Archives, Digital ID: rs005367]

 The Anson Northop was the first boat on the Red River, but the Alsop was among the first boats doing business on the river during the early boom days of Fargo’s infancy.  Likewise, lumberyards and granaries erected near the river or on its banks facilitated efficient transfer of goods and services arriving and departing along the Red River and accommodated around 300 railroad car loads of lumber and tons of refined grain products.

-Stacy M. Reikowsky, Digital History 2012

William H. White

W.H. White

William H. White, Fargo, Lumber, Fuel, etc. Proprietor of one of the Oldest Businesses in North Dakota

As the target for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company’s (NPRC) river crossings became clear, an enterprising business proprietor, W.H. White, secured the contract for the timber for the approaches to the NPRC bridge at Fargo in December of 1871. The timber arrived from the east by May 1872 and was used in building the bridge that spanned the Red River and connected the railroad with the town of Fargo. Large scale settlement could then ensue.[1]

Although much of Fargo’s initial lumber came directly from the nearby banks of the Red River, natural resources, like much of the timber on the Plains, were finite. White supplied additional lumber resources not only to Fargo, but also to all of the early towns on the Red River. This included shipping lumber to new points on the NPRC line and on flat boats along the intricate inland river systems.  White is also credited with the procurement and dissemination of fuel oil and for having fixed himself as the sole owner and operator of one of the oldest mercantile businesses in North Dakota.

-Stacy M. Reikowsky, Digital History 2012


[1] “Fargo Souvenir,” folder 1, box 2, Fargo, North Dakota Historical Collection, IRS-NDSU.