Created By: North Dakota State University
The building at 521 1st Avenue North, now known as the Hotel Donaldson, was built in 1894 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows as a meeting hall. It is one of the earliest post-fire buildings in Fargo. The hall provided a much needed meeting space for the community and also served as temporary office space for many regional architects who had moved to Fargo during the post-fire building boom. The laying of the cornerstone was a major community event and was accompanied by speeches of prominent Fargonians and a parade.
The third floor was completed in 1916 and these 17 upper rooms became the Donaldson Hotel, named after owner Horace Donaldson. Mr. Donaldson died in 1917 and the business was purchased by Lydia Wendt who continued to run it under the name the Donaldson Hotel as a working man's hotel.
In 1943, Mr. & Mrs. Carroll Ligon bought the hotel from Ms. Wendt. The Ligon's ran the hotel for 7 years before selling it to Sidney M. Melbye and his wife Deborah. Mr. & Mrs. Melbye ran the hotel from 1950 to 1974 making a few updates to the marquee and the lobby. As the interstate was completed hotels popped up along the I-94 and I-29 corridors, the Donaldson hotel saw a drop in stays and began to accept long term and permanent residents.
Tom Bell purchased the property in 1974. He set out to complete many major renovation projects including installing new carpets, painting, updating the plumbing, installing cable television, and fixed up a small room as a lounge. By 1984, the hotel was primarily an apartment operation but still offered a few rooms for rent by the night.
The street level commercial space of the building was home to Mary Elizabeth Frock Shop from 1928-1976, a business owned and operated by Mary E. and Ellen V. Johnson.
The hotel once again changed hands in the spring of 2001. Local investor and philanthropist Karen Burgum Stoker bought the Donaldson and gave it new life, giving it a thorough renovation. Stoker partnered with Minneapolis architecture firm Barbour and LaDouceur to transform it into an upscale boutique hotel with a lounge, upscale restaurant and roof top bar.
The architectural style of the building is Renaissance Revival with a Palladian motif over the 1st Avenue entrance, framed by freestanding Corinthian columns.
This point of interest is part of the tour: A Look Around Downtown Fargo