Moorhead Historic Preservation Tour

Points of Historical Interest in Moorhead, Minnesota to Preserve, Protect and Remember

Moorhead Historic Preservation Tour

Moorhead, Minnesota 56560, United States

Created By: North Dakota State University

Tour Information

This historic preservation tour of Moorhead, Minnesota is designed to highlight the few remaining historic structures in Moorhead. Due to urban renewal in the 1960's and 1970's, many of the gems of Moorhead architecture were lost. We have included both former and current historic Moorhead sites on this tour to generate interest and ensure the survival and preservation of the remaining landmarks in the years to come.

  • Moorhead’s Urban Renewal

In the years following World War II, changes swept across the United States, and Moorhead was no exception. Between 1946 and 1959 rapid population growth and increasing mobility brought new challenges to the city and its residents.

Large-scale residential construction was under way to meet pressing needs, but one of the largest challenges was in the city’s downtown area. Despite the city’s growth, it was becoming economically stagnant, which led to the ideas of urban renewal as a way to rejuvenate the city.

  • Beginning the planning process

Downtown Moorhead had been the traditional retail and business center of the city, but many obstacles restricted its growth. The majority of the land was owned by the railway companies that used the land for train tracks and other facilities, which limited pedestrian flow. Downtown also lacked a major department store to attract people to the area.

Because of this, as well as the fact that Downtown Moorhead was decaying, shoppers were increasingly going to downtown Fargo. Many Moorhead business owners were also reluctant to fully invest in the maintenance of their buildings, which became more dilapidated as time went on. An additional concern was that much of downtown Moorhead was prone to flooding from the Red River.

As a response, Moorhead’s city council created a planning commission in 1956 and gave it the task of establishing a comprehensive development plan for Downtown. The development plan was never finished though as the commission was soon overwhelmed as a result of inexperience. However, when the council became interested in urban renewal in 1958, it learned that a pre-requisite for any federal funds was a working comprehensive plan.

Since a comprehensive plan was now needed, the City Council agreed to disband the old Planning Commission and create a new one, a nine-member Planning Unit. The comprehensive plan would not be completed until 1965, at which point the planning commission was dissolved once again and reorganized. The new planning board developed a comprehensive plan, while the city government began to consider the future of its own downtown.

  • Rebuilding the City

In 1963, the Planning Committee released its proposal to redevelop downtown and announced their intentions to start the demolition of the majority of downtown by the end of 1966. The proposal gained approval by the City Council, and the City of Moorhead was awarded $173,464 in federal funds to begin the necessary planning for urban renewal. However, no development company was hired to implement the plans, and since no action was taken it become forgotten by 1967.The hope to finally start on construction failed once again.

This drawn out process also caused issues for downtown business owners who complained that the city officials told them not to expand or upgrade their buildings until the project was finished. This led to many buildings looking run down, making shoppers think the urban renewal process had already started, causing them to avoid the downtown area altogether.

Eventually most of the downtown area was demolished, and it lost many of its historic structures which were replaced by parking lots and large buildings. The urban renewal meant many historic buildings west of eighth street were taken town to set up the Moorhead Center Mall. At the time it was thought as progress, as older buildings needed maintenance and upgrading every few years to keep up with the modern world. However, as time went on, many residents began to regret the loss of Moorhead's historic structures. This tour aims to promote preservation efforts and raise awareness of Moorhead’s rich civic and cultural history. Through participation in this tour, you are joining countless others in the preservation effort to promote, protect and share knowledge of the history of Moorhead and the Red River Valley.


  1. Shoptaugh, Terry. Images of Moorhead. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  2. Downtown Moorhead Urban Renweal Area, 1969, Box 1, Folder 5, Historical and Cultral Society of Clay County, Moorhead Minnesota.
  3. Kate, Savageau. Urban Renwal In Moorhead. Summer (2016): 9.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

North Dakota was admitted to the union in 1889 as a dry state, meaning the sale of alcohol was strictly prohibited.  For thirsty Fargo, North Dakota customers, this news was not welcome, as it forced their saloons to close their doors.  L... Read more
Moorhead had an abundance of crimes back in the day. Crimes that included liquor of course. Just to name some with a famous name are as follows. Clarence Gillette, of First Avenue, South Moorhead, was arrested by officer Swanson. He was... Read more
“This sharp bend in the river was Moorhead’s original residential district. In the 1870s, Moorhead’s early elite built substantial homes on the high ground in the center of the Point. Working class families occupied modest homes on th... Read more
This stave church replica is a copy of the Hopperstad Stave Church in Vik, Norway, that was built around the year 1140 A.D., which is still standing today.  This church was built in 1997 by Guy Paulson, a research scientist for the U.S. De... Read more
Robert Asp was born on February 13, 1923, in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, to Charles Asp, a Swedish immigrant, and Inga Iverson Asp, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants.  Asp married Violet Rose Foldoe on June 2, 1946 and they had seven ... Read more
Discovery of a whiskey ring in Minnesota with bootleggers, moonshiners and organized crime. Bootleggers were people who sold alcohol in small amounts, either in small bottles in the pockets of their jackets, or maybe in their boots like th... Read more
In 1875, brothers George and Joseph Larkin of Winnipeg built a brewery near the site of today’s tennis courts in Moorhead’s Riverfront Park. After an unsuccessful business effort, the Larkin brother’s ale-making business was foreclose... Read more
The Flaten family is from Norway. O.E. Flaten was born November 6, 1854 in Vanders Norway. He came to America at the age of seventeen. at the urging of his uncle, Ole Boe, who sent him $45 for his passage over the Atlantic. After five long ... Read more
Moorhead has had an interesting evolution of courthouses.  As the county seat, the courthouse needed to serve the wider needs of Clay County.  Its first incarnation was built at the intersection of 5th Street and 1st Avenue North in 1872.... Read more
Jake Schumaker will be given a preliminary hearing for being in charge of selling liquor to a youth who had told police in court that he been had given the beverage to two Fargo minors a few days prior. Schumaker was arrested by police and... Read more
Oscar Henry Elmer was born on August 27, 1844 at Unionville, New York to Henry DeLancy and Julia Ann (DeKay), the second born son of twelve children. Oscar’s father was a harness maker and merchant in Unionville for many years. Elmer bega... Read more
The Federal Post Office Building in Moorhead, Minnesota, was built in 1915 to serve as both the federal courthouse and the post office.  The building architect was Oscar Wenderoth, who was a government architect who designed several federa... Read more
Of the many historic buildings torn down during the urban renewal process, one that stands out is the Carnegie Moorhead Public Library. The library was a one story Classical revival style building that was built in part to the Women’s Clu... Read more
Franklin J. Burnham spent his childhood near Norwich, Vermont and served as a Lieutenant in the Union Army with the 9th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, Companies E and K, during the Civil War from 1862 until mustering out in June of 1865.... Read more
On Thursday evening, 1926 a raid was placed on George Saumweber’s barbershop that was located on South Fourth Street began with axes and shovels. The raid found one bottle of liquor and with it the arrest of Charles Morgan who was holding... Read more
Four men were arrested in Moorhead by the federal prohibition agents Wednesday March, 15. The establishments that raided were, Peter Meehan, the soft drink parlor on 23 Fourth Street South, The Oxford club, 224 First Avenue South, Martin Re... Read more
The Kassenborg Block was commissioned by Andreas Kassenborg in 1898 after he purchased the adjacent Douglas House.  It was completed just before the turn of the century and before its architect and contractor W.H. Merritt declared bankrupt... Read more
William Henry Merritt was born in September of 1854 in Hustings, Michigan to Alexander “Alex” D. Merritt and Betsey Merritt (Davis). It appears that W.H. Merritt spent his adolescent years in Goodhue, Minnesota after moving to the area ... Read more
The Douglas House is the oldest house of its type still standing in Moorhead.  It was built in 1872 for James and Wilhemina Douglas and they lived there together until 1887.  The Douglas House was designed by W.H. Merritt, who was respons... Read more
According to Mark Peihl, the old Moorhead Flour Mill was located on the River Bank, just South of where the Main Avenue Bridge is today. In 1874, Henry Bruns built his own Flour Mill in Moorhead. The mill was successful, making top quality ... Read more
“…a newspaper is a paper printed regularly with an established place of business and real bona fide subscribers, men who pay their subscriptions in money or its equivalent; that it should contain news of various classes: local, telegra... Read more
The old Moorhead power plant provided clean water and power to the Moorhead community for over one hundred years, through the Great Depression and times of war.  In 1895, the city of Moorhead decided to build a power plant in order to ease... Read more
Minnesota has long prided itself on its education system and Moorhead was no exception.  Park Elementary School, built in 1900, was the fifth in a series of six schools the school district of Moorhead, founded in 1873, built between 1874 a... Read more
Old Main was built to house the growing size of Concordia’s student body that over grew the walls of Bishop Whipple and Academy Hall. It was used as a place for classrooms, a library, gymnasium, auditorium, and offices. The president at t... Read more
Under the leadership of Rev. Oscar H. Elmer and a local cemetery association, the Prairie Home Cemetery was founded in 1875.  A motivating factor behind forming a cemetery association was that Rev. Elmer's brother and pioneering Brainerd,... Read more
Built in 1882, in block 3 of the Highland Addition to the city, one of the highest points in Moorhead which was a sure way to avoid the annual flooding from the Red River Valley stands the Solomon G. Comstock House. Comstock used the archit... Read more
Solomon Comstock came to Moorhead in 1871. He came from a modest background, born in May 9, 1842, in Maine. His father was in the lumber business and from a young age Comstock knew that was not what he not what he wanted to do with his life... Read more
One church in Moorhead stands out among all the rest for its unique style and that is St. John the Divine Episcopal Church on 8th Street.  Its unique style is known as “shingle style” and it is the only such building in the area.  Bu... Read more
Isn't That a Dilly?  Those were the words uttered by one of the inventors of the popular ice cream treat, the Dilly Bar, in 1955 at the Dairy Queen in Moorhead, Minnesota.  Opened in 1949 by Bob and Phyllis Litherland, the Dairy Queen was... Read more
 The second county courthouse building was on the corner of 8th Street and 1st Avenue North and built for around $2100. It was built in 1878 and was torn down by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s. This was the first court... Read more
"Confidence in the future development of the Country and not the immediate requirements promoted the building of the Moorhead plant at its present site."—J.H. Deems, first Plant Superintendent of the Moorhead Fairmont Creamery, Fairmont... Read more
“Burbank Station was a simple log cabin on a high bank looking over the Red River some 225 feet southwest of the present American Legion building on Moorhead’s 1st Avenue North. Just who built it and when is unclear. Local historian and... Read more
Usher’s House, a restaurant located in Moorhead at 700 1st Avenue North, is a site that is of historic importance to the Moorhead, Minnesota community. Originally the American Legion Building, Usher’s was a public works project construc... Read more
The third incarnation of the Clay County courthouse was built on the eastern half of the land the present building sits on in 1882, on eastern half of 11th Street and 8th Avenue North.  It cost $50,000 to construct.  One of Moorhead’... Read more
Moorhead, Minnesota has the distinction of being the county seat of Clay County, and therefore has a county courthouse as well.  The current courthouse was built in 1954 for $704,000.  It was built on the same site of the third incarnatio... Read more
Bergquist Cabin in Moorhead, Minnesota is a small, 14’ x 20’ log cabin made with hand-hewn oak logs, the largest of which reaches one foot in height.  Its original brick chimney and shingle roof is still intact, although the placement... Read more
Randolph Michael Probstfield was born in Germany in 1832. When he was 22, he left Germany and traveled to the United States. He worked many odd jobs including a treasurer, clerk, school director, county commissioner, senator, and of course,... Read more
When Moorhead was just a small tent town and before then had any law and order, there was a lot of chaos. In 1872, There was a big shootout between Slim Jim Shumway and Shang Stanton in what is now known as the home goods section in Herberg... Read more


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