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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published March 01 2014

Halgrimson: In search of long-forgotten Fargo homes, neighborhood

Until I came across a 1928 clipping in The Forum’s library, I hadn't imagined a neighborhood of family homes on Eighth Street North between First and Second avenues.

A headline on a story from 1928 caught my eye.

“Discard of Landmarks Is Seen With N. P. Purchase.

“The announcement that the Northern Pacific railroad has purchased the half block of property on the east side of Ninth Street North between First and Second avenues and the contemplated removal of 11 buildings, means that some of Fargo’s old landmarks will go into the discard.”

When I went in my car to look for Ninth Street, it was just an alley. But John Hallberg, Institute for Regional Studies archivist, set me straight. He wrote, “In October 1949, the Fargo city commission renumbered the streets in an area bordered by Roberts Street on the east, 10th Street North on the west, and N.P. Avenue on the south and 7th Avenue North on the north.” Ninth Street became Eighth Street. And there is no longer a Seventh Street between First and Second Avenues.

An old brownstone house built in 1905 still sits on the northwest corner at 124 and is now the office of the High Plains Reader.

And it’s the block across the street where the Sons of Norway now sits on the Second Avenue end with Dawson Insurance facing First Avenue on the south end where the following houses once stood.

The story stated that the property was one of the most historic in Fargo having several houses built in the 1880s and only saved from the great Fargo fire of 1893 because the wind changed the direction of the fire and the homes were spared.

One of the houses was owned by E.A. Perry who came to Fargo from Maine in 1880. He was a grocer and had a store on the northeast corner of Broadway at First Avenue North. It was destroyed in the fire and Perry rebuilt at the corner of Second Avenue North and Broadway where the Merchants National bank was later built. That building is now the King House Buffet at 122 Broadway.

Two of the houses were owned by Charles Wilson – he live in one and the other he rented out. Wilson was considered a town character. He had been a sheriff and then secretary of the North Dakota Fair Association.

C.N. Brown, an express company agent, Henry Rausch and tailor Peter Pickton were also homeowners, and W.B. Howland owned property occupied by other houses.

But the most historic house was the Swart House at 109 9th St. N., owned by Charles N. Swart, a Northern Pacific railroad engineer, and his wife, Sarah. The house was considered one of the best boarding houses in Fargo. Living there were successful young businessmen and leading citizens.

Built in early 1879, the house was also occupied by wealthy people from around the country and from Europe who came to Fargo to take up the brief residence required to obtain a divorce.

The Swarts’ own residence was behind this house and was still standing in 1949 just to the north of the old Elks Club.