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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published July 28 2013

As I Recall: Nothing lasts forever, not even stone

When it was constructed, the building that once stood on Broadway at the corner of Fourth Avenue North was described in a story in the Fargo Forum and Daily Republican:

“The building will be of brick occupying the space of 75x130 feet. It will be four stories in hight and will have a full basement. The building … will be faced with pressed brick, probably Hebron of Dickson brick of a light color and will be trimmed with Kettle River red sand stone … ” (The size of the building was later given as 50x125 feet.)

The three-story building was built for the Fargo Mercantile Co., a wholesale grocery outlet established in 1895. Principals in the company were John Croil Hunter, Thomas A. Quirk, Clarence O. Follett and Charles H. Reineke.

The Renaissance-style structure was designed by Hancock Bros., a Fargo architectural firm. The local contractor was J.H. Bowers.

Except in the basement, which was used for storage, hard maple flooring was installed throughout. Company offices were fitted with quarter-sawed oak and steel ceilings. I give these details to emphasize the tragedy of razing such a building.

A loading platform and a Great Northern railroad spur were at the rear of the building to facilitate the unloading of stock from railroad cars. These spurs ran through the alleys behind the stores on Broadway down to First Avenue.

A large electric freight elevator served the building and an iceless refrigerator was in the plans. In 1909, when the Fargo Mercantile was built, blocks of ice cut from the Red River and stored were still used for cooling many refrigerators.

Across the country

Hunter came to Casselton, N.D., from Canada in the late 1870s, later moving to Fargo and building a home at 803 8th St. S. It is still there. He was secretary and treasurer of the Fargo Mercantile. He was the father of Croil Hunter, who was instrumental in creating Northwest Airlines.

Quirk, born in northeastern New York, he came to North Dakota in 1881 when he was 22. He was president of Fargo Mercantile. His home was at 1123 5th Ave. S. and still stands.

Follett was born in Illinois in 1877 and came to Cass County with his family when he was 2. He was vice-president of Fargo Mercantile. He later established a wholesale dry-goods business – Smith, Follett and Crowl.

Reineke was born in Illinois and came to Fargo in 1884. He had a cigar business with J.F. McKone, as well as an early interest in the Fargo Mercantile. His son was Earl C. Reineke, founder of WDAY.

Fargo Mercantile continued under several other names through the 1950s – Griggs, Cooper & Co. and M.J. Sullivan Food Distributers – but the building was vacated in the early 1960s.

I remember the building looking like a fortress on the corner, seeming like something that would last forever. It was razed in 1966.


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Sources: Institute of Regional Studies at NDSU; Forum library files