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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published August 16 2008

Block has rich history

A headline in The Forum from early in 1981 says, “Fargo’s 8th Street business block targeted for renovation.”

The first paragraph reads, “Fire and the wrecking ball have scorched Fargo’s memory in the past. Pioneer-day churches, houses and other landmarks have had a mixed success at survival.”

The story, about the renovation of four brick buildings on the south half of the block at Main Avenue on Eighth Street by owner Duane Rogne and architect Seth Twichell, tells a different tale.

The first buildings on the site were completed in 1884 about the same time the former Dakota Business College was built as a Masonic Temple.

Fire insurance maps indicate the first set of buildings vanished between 1886 and 1901, probably because of damage from the floods in 1897 and 1898.

The second set of buildings was built during the early 1900s. Those four structures consisting of six businesses on the first floor and apartments above were scheduled for a complete overhaul including gutting the interiors and removing materials added to the fronts of the buildings more recently.

In the past the buildings were sometimes referred to as the Dutch Maid block. The Dutch Maid, located at 13 8th St. S., began life as an ice cream parlor selling products of its parent company, Knerr Dairy. The store was in business from 1934 until 1991. It is now Nichole’s Fine Pastry.

At the time of the renovation in 1981, the business on the south end of the block at 23 8th St. S. was a Stop-N-Go food store and had been a grocery store.

The buildings are on land given to Northern Pacific Railroad Co. by the federal government. In 1875 when the railroad was trying to come out of bankruptcy, they sold the tract to Edward Kopper of Crow Wing County, Minn.

The land was subdivided and changed hands many times.

Rogne bought the Dutch Maid (Frank O. Knerr) building in 1969 and by 1980 had purchased the remaining buildings in the row. It was the first time since the early 1880s that the property had been under a single owner.

The objective of the remodeling was to preserve part of the city’s history and to provide office space, retail space and apartments at a reasonable price.

With the help of the North Dakota Historical Society, the buildings were listed on the National Registry of Historical Buildings, which entitled the project to federal tax credits. North Dakota Housing and Economic Development in Fargo and First Bank Fargo supplied loan funds for the project, which cost a total of $350,000.

In the fall of 1983 the project was completed, the deteriorating buildings were made functional and provided 14 apartments on the second floor and space for six businesses that rented the main floor quarters.

At that time occupants of the street level businesses were Stop-N-Go, TV Central, Eighth Street Interiors, the institute of Meditation and Research, the African Queen and the Dutch Maid café.

Today Nichole’s holds down the north end of the row and Le Esther’s Lamp and Clock Shop occupies number 17, Inside 515 is at number 19 and Total Picture – Interior Design Group is at the south end.

Source: Forum files

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