Hotel Donaldson

A Look Around Downtown Fargo

Hotel Donaldson

Fargo, North Dakota 58105, United States

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.


  1. Fargo Historic Preservation Commission. A Look Around Downtown: Fargo Heritage Discovery Walk. Second. Fargo, North Dakota: Fargo-Moorhead Heritage Society, 2006.
  2. “Hotel Donaldson | Fargo History.” Accessed November 28, 2016.
  3. Tim Holzkamm, and Dean Dormanen. The History and Growth of the City of Fargo: Historic Context Study. Edited by David B. Danbom. Fargo, North Dakota: Fargo Historic Preservation Commission, 2001.
  4. “Sleep - The Hotel Donaldson.” Accessed December 5, 2016.
  5. Troy Larson. Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found: Vintage Views and Local History from the Gateway to the West. Fargo, North Dakota: Sonic Tremor Media, 2016.

Photo Sources:

  1. Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (2051.8.1)
  2. Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (2006.36.18)
  3. Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (2006.12.5)
  4. “Sleep - The Hotel Donaldson.” Accessed December 5, 2016.
  5. Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (2054.15.28)

This point of interest is part of the tour: A Look Around Downtown Fargo


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