Saturday, June 7, marks 121 years since one of our history's most damaging fires, the Great Fargo Fire of 1893. 

Fargo only had 6,000 residents during this era of dirt roads and horse drawn carriages. June 7, 1893 was a typical Wednesday with winds gusting at approximately 30 miles per hour. The local firemen were going about their regular duties and hosing down the dusty streets to prevent dirt from blowing throughout town.

The unexpected tragedy began around 2:15 p.m. with a fire in the 500 block of Front Street (now Maine Avenue). It is undetermined exactly where the fire started but reports say it was either Herzman's Dry Goods Store or Little Gem Restaurant. With the high winds, the fire spread quite rapidly.

Southeast from Front Street (NDSU Library)

Unfortunately, the firehouse across the street was empty due to the firemen hosing down the streets. The neighboring gun store caught fire causing a powder keg to explode which intensified and spread the flames even further. Many places did not have fire alarms, as they were in a state of transition, resulting in the fire burning for a full 45 minutes before an alarm was sounded.

The fire continued to spread further northwest. Most buildings were destroyed on the east side of Broadway and the fire eventually made its way to the prairie west of Fargo. In total, 31 blocks of businesses and over 350 buildings were destroyed including City Hall.

Corner of Broadway and NP Avenue (NDSU Library)
northwest Front Street (Main Avenue) and Fourth Street (NDSU Library)

Firefighter W.H. Johnson died from burns he sustained while fighting the fire.

A local businessman, Alexander Stern, led an effort to rebuild what was destroyed just a short while after the great fire. Almost one million dollars was spent to replace roughly 250 buildings with fire-resistant brick.

Fargo used to celebrate their rebuilt city by hosting the Fargo Fire Festival. After the 40th anniversary of the Great Fargo Fire, the festival ended. Even so, many still talk and take time to remember this tragic event that brought the community of Fargo together.

Day after the fire (NDSU Library)
Day after the fire (NDSU Library)

[Ghosts of North Dakota]