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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published February 27 2011

Halgrimson: Following the foundation of the Fargo Foundry

Today it’s Mid America Steel Inc. But in the beginning, it was called the Fargo Foundry. Organized in 1905 at 92 NP Ave., it still occupies the same space that it started out in.

When the Fargo Foundry opened, the original plant, which was a frame structure, housed three departments: a boiler shop, a foundry and a machine shop. The company manufactured the P & K gasoline engine and did general repair work.

At its start, the business had 12 employees and a payroll of $12,000. Thirty years later, the firm had 70 employees and the payroll was more than $100,000.

Arthur G. Kinney joined the company as its general manager the year following its founding. Also on staff in 1935 were Leo J. O’Day, sales manager; E.R. Ekern, auditor; H.G. Kornberg, plant superintendent; O.A. Stoutland, structural steel department; and N.H. Lidenberg, heating department; plus seven salesmen who covered North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

Six new departments were added during the first 30 years: structural steel, oil equipment, coal stokers, oil burners, warm air furnaces and air conditioning.

In addition to these departments, a complete machine shop was maintained for repair and machine work and the foundry manufactured gray iron castings. Steel work for large buildings was designed, fabricated and erected by the company.

In 1936, the new $400,000 Center Avenue bridge was planned to run through the northeast corner of the Fargo Foundry plant, cutting 30 feet from the building. This necessitated creating new office space, moving around departments to relocate the foundry, and building warehouse space for merchandise and equipment.

Work on the reorganization of the buildings began in September 1936 and was completed in June 1937 and included the latest air conditioning and air cleansing equipment.

By 1947, the Fargo Foundry employed more than 175 people with an annual payroll of more than $350,000.

In 1951, a flour mill, erected in 1877 and located on NP Avenue, which was a landmark fixture from steamboat days on the Red River, was razed to provide space for offices and a warehouse for the company. And in 1956, the Fargo Foundry took over property formerly occupied by Fargo Iron & Metal Co. east of First Street and adjoining NP Avenue.

After operating as the Fargo Foundry for more than 57 years, the company became the Fargo Foundry, Steel and Manufacturing Co., which was announced by E.E. Simonson, president for 25 years. At that time, the company employed 173 people with an annual payroll of nearly $1 million. The average annual volume of business was about $4 million.

Other officers were O.J. Torkelson, V.A. Paulson, C. Fred Eisle and P.M. Gallagher, vice presidents; Edward A. Simonson, vice president and treasurer; and E.A. Wiisanen, secretary.

In 1980, company President Edward A. Simonson announced that the name had been changed to Mid America Steel Inc. to reflect that the foundry department had been discontinued.

Today the company is in its 106th year of operation.

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