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Published August 14 2010

IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS: Old Fargo neighborhood enjoys a rebirth

Jo (Heglie) Burdick recalls growing up by Fargo’s Eddy Court as an “Ozzie and Harriet” existence, complete with evening games of “Ghost in the Graveyard,” a garage band’s neighborhood jams and July Fourth holidays spent shooting bottle rockets down the street.

“It was like TV,” the Fargo native says. “We sat down for supper every single night at 5:30.”

Eddy Court is one of those “character neighborhoods” that harkens back to simpler times. Much like Kennedy Court and the old Egbert Court in north Fargo, Eddy is distinguished by shallow lots, mature trees, old homes and narrow streets that run off the grid.

But “The Court” – just west of University Drive and between Third and Fifth avenues south – has seen a few ups and downs. After decades as a respectable working-class neighborhood, the barrio began showing its age in the last 20 years. Several homes became rundown rental properties, which frequented police blotters.

“There were houses that had a lot of problems,” says Jim Bachman, a stay-at-home dad who, since 2000, has lived at 1334 4th Ave. S., which intersects with Eddy Court. “There was a meth house right across from our backyard.”

In the last decade, however, Eddy Court has enjoyed a renaissance. Thanks to revitalization incentives, the block has attracted families who appreciate its reasonable property values and considerable charm.

Not to mention its rich history. As far back as 1906, it was officially listed as Eddy Court on Sanborn maps, although the first house on the block, at 402 Eddy Court, dates back to 1890.

Ron Ramsay, local architectural historian, says the street may have started out as a service drive for the grand homes that sat on the deep lots that flanked 13th Street (now University Drive).

The area was named after the Eddy family, prominent Fargoans who once lived in that mansion row along University Drive. E.C. Eddy, a former Fargo postmaster and Cass County treasurer, was the son of E.B. Eddy, the founding president of Fargo’s First National Bank. The Eddy home at 405 University Drive is now the site of Van’s Court Apartments.

Prior to Eddy Court’s development, it may have actually been a garbage dump, says Ellend J. Palmer, who has lived at 316 Eddy Court for 60 years.

Then again, residents have speculated that everything from a lumberyard to a blacksmith shop once occupied this land, as recent excavation projects still unearth objects like molten matter, hand-hammered nails, pieces of china, glass bottles, iron pieces and stoneware.

Despite its supposedly humble beginnings, the neighborhood was considered a respectable, middle-class place to live for many decades. “It was for young families growing up, like a starter place,” Palmer says. “That’s how I came into it. I grew up about two blocks from here, and I’d always admired this house (where he now lives).”

Even so, a few lawless types did live nearby. Palmer, now 88, recalls visiting the Frank Kaiser house at 1401 3rd Ave. S., just a block northwest of the court.

Kaiser “built a big, fancy house there” in the Depression, when no one else could afford to do so, Palmer recalls. “He was a bootlegger.”

According to Forum archives, Kaiser was known as “one of the leading ‘alky’ runners in this locality” and was arrested by federal authorities in 1931 after 40 gallons of bootleg alcohol were found in his car and 300 gallons of booze were found in an accomplice’s farmhouse north of Moorhead.

Even in Fargo, bootlegging was dangerous business. In 1932, Kaiser was kidnapped by two men and held for 2½ days until he paid them off with a $2,500 ransom.

Burdick, the daughter of Orville and Dorothy Heglie, doesn’t remember anything quite so dramatic during her growing-up years. What she does recall is a classic ’60s childhood.

Her family lived at 1338 4th Ave. S., right across from Eddy Court. She was one of 56 kids who lived in the several-block area.That kid-centric environment meant plenty of neighborhood games of four-square, kick-the-can and kickball.

“I was a major tomboy,” Burdick recalls. “There was always stuff to do.”

One of Burdick’s playmates was Terrie Hart (now Dahl), whose parents, Grace and Don Hart, lived at 406 Eddy Court. The Harts owned a western store in Moorhead and one in West Fargo.

Burdick remembers the two girls visiting friends who lived in a “giant, old house” along University Drive to watch the eerie soap opera “Dark Shadows.” She also recalls shooting bottle rockets down the street and getting in trouble when the two 10-year-olds wrote their names in wet cement outside a nearby apartment building.

She and Hart would sometimes pedal their bicycles to the end of the Palmer driveway to listen to his son play in a garage band. “It was pretty cool because their hair was kind of long,” she says.

Burdick lived in Eddy Court until she was 24. Before she left home, the main street became a one-way – a change that ruffled many residents’ feathers.

Through the years, Burdick continued to visit her parents there. But her mother sold the house 12 years ago.

When she did make an infrequent drive through the neighborhood, Burdick was disappointed to see the shabby condition of several properties. “It wasn’t quite the same,” she says.

But in 2001, the city of Fargo stepped in. Its Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative offered low-interest loans to rehabilitate properties.

The city also bought distressed properties and cleared lots for prospective homebuilders who could buy the land at a discount.

Through the initiative, two of the worst Eddy Court homes were razed, and a third, at 410 Eddy Court, has been restored to its former charm.

Joshua Koehnen, a 27-year-old human-resources specialist at Titan Machinery, West Fargo, bought the house after it was renovated. He and his fiancée plan to continue living there after they get married.

“I thought it was a really nice house, and I could afford it,” says Koehnen. “With the one-way street, it’s nice not to have all that traffic.”

And Koehnen has discovered that Eddy Court’s neighborly vibe is still alive and well.

“I just enjoy the neighbors, and there’s just friendly people there.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

In Our Neighborhoods

Today’s story about the history of Eddy Court starts an occasional series of stories profiling the past and present of unique neighborhoods in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo.

If you have a story to share about your neighborhood or want us to write about a particular part of our cities, e-mail Robert Morast at rmorast@forumcomm.com, or mail your suggestions to Robert Morast, The Forum, P.O. Box 6022, Fargo ND 58107.