Fargo Arena and Island Park, Then and Now

Island Park Pool

This strange, seemingly out-of-place structure on the site of the Island Park pool is a remnant of the Fargo Arena.

The structure above was once the entryway to the Fargo Arena, a giant indoor recreation facility which only existed for five years in Fargo. Essentially a massive quonset, Fargo Arena was huge.  According to a note written on the back of an early photograph, Fargo Arena was purported to be the largest building in the United States by floor space. It was reportedly dismantled after the flood of 1943 and moved to Hector International Airport for use as an airplane hangar.

*Edit* A Facebook follower has clarified that the original structure was replaced with a smaller structure that may have also been known as the Fargo Arena, before it was supplanted by the Island Park pool.

Fargo Arena

Fargo Arena

Through photos housed at both the NDSU Institute for Regional Studies and the North Dakota State Historical Society, we can follow the life of the place — here’s a photo of the building under construction. Here’s a photo of the building in all its glory, and here’s another angle. Here’s a photo which shows it flooded (1943). Here’s a photo from approximately 1945 which shows the building after the actual arena had been dismantled and removed, with only the former entry remaining. Please feel free to correct or add any information you might have in the comments below.

Fargo Arena

The WPA plaque above says the structure was built in 1939, but NDSU’s Institute for Regional Studies says it was 1938. Where the arena once stood, the Island Park Pool now resides.

Island Park Pool

The Island Park area has changed significantly over the course of Fargo’s history.

Island Park, 1920
Island Park, 1920

Below: an animation created from a 1939 aerial view, transposed with a 2017 image from Google Earth. You can see how the river channel was rerouted for flood mitigation, and the Fargo Arena went away to be replaced with Island Park Pool.

Island Park, Then and Now

Island Park Animation
Click the image to see it full-size.

If you have any information about Island Park and the former Fargo Arena, please make a comment below.

The Old Fargo Fairgrounds: Then and Now

Before it was in West Fargo, the old Fargo Fairground was in North Fargo, on the site where University Village and Fargo North High School now reside. Barnett Field, the home of Fargo’s former minor league baseball team, the FM Twins, was on the site too. It’s something I wrote about in the book, Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found, but I just recently ran across an old map that shows the area in great detail circa the early to mid 1960s, and I was prompted to do this comparison.

See it larger. (Click, then give it a moment to load)

As a person who didn’t come to Fargo until after this place had been demolished sometime around 1967, a couple interesting things hit me right away.

  • 10th Street North was not always a through-street to 19th Avenue North. I never knew that.
  • The driveway through the south parking lot of Fargo North High School follows the path of a former through-street that once separated the fairgrounds and Barnett Field.
  • Washington Elementary School on the far-right has been thoroughly expanded over the years.

I recognize the slider image above is a little bit small, so if you’d like to see the view in a larger .gif animation, click the image below and, depending on the speed of your web connection, give it a moment to load.

What do you remember about the old Fargo Fairground?

A Frightful Accident

Union Light Heat and Power Company, Fargo

I have a collection of newspapers (The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican) from the first half of 1898, and the June 19th, 1898 issue contains a story about a terrible accident that occurred at the Hughes Electric Company in downtown Fargo.

Night Engineer Champlain of the Hughes Electric Co. Has His Left Arm Torn Off. He Was Nervy.

About 11 o’clock last night people in the vicinity of the Hughes Electric Co. were startled by a shriek. It was such a terrible one that those who heard it knew someone had been hurt, and there was a rush for the company’s plant. N.P. Officer McIntyre was the first to reach the place and found the night engineer, Boyd Champlain, with one arm in the commutator, being slowly ground to a pulp, and the unfortunate man in the most intense agony.  Continue reading “A Frightful Accident”

Deadliest Air Disaster in Fargo-Moorhead History Had a Sole Survivor

The early morning hours of October 30th, 1941 were cold and misty in Fargo-Moorhead, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.  Continue reading “Deadliest Air Disaster in Fargo-Moorhead History Had a Sole Survivor”

Fargo’s Historic Neighborhood Store Map

This morning I read a piece in the Fargo Forum about the New Urbanism movement, and how it relates to the scarcity of neighborhood stores in our present suburban, car-centric society. In short, the neighborhood store has disappeared, usurped by the supermarket and big box retailers.

While the story by Tu-Uyen Tran is interesting, and the interview with New Urbanism proponent Joe Burgum enlightening, the part that most captivated me was the accompanying map showing Fargo’s neighborhood shops from 1928 to present. The shops are color-coded by purpose, you can show or hide different overlays to represent 1928, 1948, 1968, and present day, and you can see the name and street address for each former shop.  Continue reading “Fargo’s Historic Neighborhood Store Map”

13th and Broadway, After the Tornado

In the book, I labeled this photo from 1957 as “location unknown,” but thanks to a comment from Tracey Braeger, I was able to identify this location as the corner of Broadway and 13th Avenue North.  Continue reading “13th and Broadway, After the Tornado”

Chicago Hairdressing Academy

Looking northwest from the Great Northern Depot, 1939. Chicago Hairdressing Academy is across the street, and the St. Mary’s steeple is barely visible behind the steam locomotive.  Continue reading “Chicago Hairdressing Academy”

The Fargo Waldorf Hotel

Fargo Waldorf Hotel

The Waldorf Hotel was built in 1899 on the corner of Front Street and 7th Street. Below: The Waldorf Hotel as it appeared in its original four-story configuration.  Continue reading “The Fargo Waldorf Hotel”

Front Street, 1909

A view from Broadway and Front Street, 1909, looking west-southwest. The four-story Waldorf Hotel can be seen at the end of the block, opposite a two-story deLendrecies building.  Continue reading “Front Street, 1909”

A 1910 Parade on Front Street

Moody's 1910

These photos were found in a local antique store and depict a parade as it travels west on Front Street (Main Avenue) and then turns north on Broadway. Judging by the American Flags in the crowd and in the windows of the structures in the background, this is likely a 4th of July parade.  Continue reading “A 1910 Parade on Front Street”