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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published March 24 2012

Halgrimson: A brief history of Fargo’s Leef Cleaners building

This past week, the The Forum reported on the vacated Leef Cleaners building in central Fargo to be refurbished into a single-family home.

That transformation will give the building, at 1002 1st Ave. S., Fargo, yet another distinct remodeling for a property that dates all the way back to the early 20th century.

The property’s story began when the city of Fargo issued a “Permit To Build Outside of Fire Limits,” on April 14, 1923, to the Fargo Laundry Co. for the construction of a building on Lot 1, Block 15 of the original town site.

The structure was to be built of brick. The manner of construction is listed as “Mill.” T. F. Powere & Co. was the contractor and Keith & Kurke, the architects.

Fargo’s parcel information site gives the building’s dimensions as 21,693 square feet and the lot size as 42,000 square feet.

A story from The Forum on March 20, 1937, provides a brief history of the Fargo Laundry:

“The original Fargo Laundry was established at 110 Ninth St. S. In 1913 the Hegge brothers bought out the Red River laundry, located at 27 Ninth St. N., and they operated the two concerns until 1918, when they consolidated them and conducted the combined business at the old Red River laundry location.

“It was in 1923 that the new building was erected at Tenth Street and First Avenue South, and in March 1924, there was an opening ceremony at which more than 5,000 visitors were entertained.”

The address of the building was 1002 1st Ave. S.

The Hegge brothers were Orlando and Albeck who, having been employed in a laundry at LaCrosse, Wis., came to Fargo to open their own business in 1922. They purchased the business from Loomis and Son. Fred B. Loomis and his father, Henry L., founded the Fargo Steam Laundry in 1897.

The 25th anniversary story mentions a number of longtime continuous employees among the 43 workers at the plant. They include Ole Locken and Bertha Holman, both with the firm for 25 years, and Gertrude Berg, C. C. Spear, Oswald Lee and Forrest Lee all with 24 years.

The Hegge brothers were active in community affairs. Both were members of the chamber of commerce and Albeck was in the Lions club. Orlando served as chamber president and was a director of St. Luke’s hospital, the YMCA and the First National Bank, an Elks club trustee and a member of the Episcopal Church.

Orlando Hegge died in 1940 and another brother, Hirsm, entered the business.

In 1945, Albeck and Hiram sold the laundry to R.A. Samels and F.R. Gamble, both of Minneapolis. Samels was in charge of the business in Fargo.

In 1947, The Fargo Laundry branched out into the dry cleaning business with the installation of a large, modern capacity cleaning unit.

In 1972 Pat Smith, owner of the Park Laundry, bought the Fargo Laundry from the Gamble Corp. Smith planned to remodel the building, add new machinery and modernize production methods.

A fire in May 1987 in a room that contained clothes dryers and baskets of clothing caused moderate damage to the building.

In 1987, Fargo Laundry was sold to Leef Brothers Inc., a second-generation family business in Minneapolis.

In 1992, Leef began a

$1.5 million remodeling and expansion project. A 10,600-square-foot, one-story addition was built on the west side of the existing building. The customer parking area was enlarged and a drive-up window was installed. This portion of the structure has now been razed.

The original Fargo Laundry building will now become a private home. Keith and Rondi McGovern have been given tax breaks by the Fargo City Commission to renovate the structure. Improvements include replacing all windows and the existing terra cotta, a new roof and restoring the entrance to its original appearance.


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