The city of Fargo is the crossroads and economic center of a large portion of eastern North Dakota and a portion of northwestern Minnesota. Fargo is a retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and educational hub for the region. Fargo is home to North Dakota State University. The local newspaper is The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The city motto is "Gateway to the West". Fargo was founded in 1871.
A major fire struck the city on June 7, 1893 when the proprietor of a grocery store accidentally started the blaze as she emptied ashes behind her store on a windy day. The fire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. However, Fargo was quickly rebuilt with new buildings made of brick, new streets, and a water system. The North Dakota State Agricultural College was founded in 1890 as North Dakota's land-grant university, becoming first accredited by the North Central Association in 1915. In 1960, NDAC became known as North Dakota State University.
Fargo-Moorhead boomed after World War II and the city grew rapidly despite being hit by a violent tornado in 1957. The tornado destroyed a large portion of the north end of the city. The coming of the two interstates (I-29 and I-94) revolutionized travel in the region and pushed growth of Fargo to the south and west of the city limits. In 1972, the West Acres Shopping Center was constructed near the intersection of the two Interstates. This mall would become the catalyst for retail growth in the area. It would also spell the beginning of a time of decline for the downtown area of Fargo.
In recent years, Fargo has seen relatively strong growth both in population and economic activity. Several businesses now have major operations in the community including Microsoft, Alien Technology, Navteq and PRACS Institute. The city's major retail districts on the southwest side have seen rapid expansion as has the downtown area due, at least in part, to investments made by the city and private developers in the Renaissance Zone. City leaders would like to see an addition of five-hundred new housing units in the downtown area within the next five years. Planning agencies have also been active in promoting housing rehabilitation in older sections of the city such as the Roosevelt neighborhood to stem blight and strengthen the core of the city. Indeed, during the 1990s most inner city neighborhoods such as Hawthorne, Jefferson, and Horace Mann actually lost population even as rapid growth occurred along the edges of the city in sprawling new developments. As Fargo has grown and matured, however, the city has placed a growing emphasis on long-range urban planning. Furthermore, several developers desiring to bring in additional "big box" retail stores on the far south end of Fargo have been rebuffed by planning officials and nearby residents alike arguing that the developments do not conform to new long-range planning guidelines.
Since the late 1990s, the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Statistical Area has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates among MSAs in the United States. This, coupled with Fargo's low crime rate and the decent supply of affordable housing in the community, has prompted Money magazine to rank the city near the top of its annual list of America's most livable cities throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Fargo was also awarded in 2006 for having some of the cleanest air in the United States, for a city of its size.
Nevertheless, Fargo in the early 21st century faces some challenges. Articles published in the summer of 2006 by The Forum, have noted that the supply of affordable housing in the city is shrinking due to area wages and incomes not rising as fast as housing costs in the city. Moreover, research conducted by the North Dakota State Data Center and the U.S. Census Bureau document that the city's population growth may be stalling after decades of steady growth. In fact, 2005 census estimates showed a decrease in the population of Fargo proper, albeit an increase in the metro area as a whole. These numbers, however, have been disputed by city officials as the Census Bureau in recent years has been faulted for significantly underestimating the population of some North Dakota cities. Be this as it may, Richard Rathge, the state demographer, has warned that Fargo may very well be losing its primary pool of new migrants as outlying areas of North Dakota, traditionally the geographic area upon which Fargo draws for new migrants, have been rapidly declining in population for decades. In fact, Fargo, for the last two decades, has relied upon international migration for a very large proportion of its new in-migration. Overall, the population of Fargo has been estimated at 92,000 (2008 estimate), but city officials believe the number is closer to 97,000 or 98,000 people.
Fargo sits on the western bank of the Red River of the North in a very flat region known as the Red River Valley. The Red River Valley was once a part of glacial Lake Agassiz, which drained away about 9,300 years ago. The lake sediments deposited from Lake Agassiz made the land around Fargo some of the richest in the world for agricultural uses. Early settlers sometimes called the Red River Valley a new "Garden of Eden".
|Avg high °F (°C)||16 (-9)||23 (-5)||35 (2)||54 (12)||69 (21)||77 (25)||82 (28)||81 (27)||70 (21)||56 (13)||35 (2)||21 (-6)|
|Avg low temperature °F (°C)||-2 (-19)||5 (-15)||19 (-7)||32 (0)||45 (7)||54 (12)||59 (15)||57 (14)||46 (8)||34 (1)||19 (-7)||4 (-15)|
|Precip in (mm)||0.76 (19)||0.59 (15)||1.17 (28)||1.37 (35)||2.61 (66)||3.51 (89)||2.88 (73)||2.52 (64)||2.18 (55)||1.97 (50)||1.06 (27)||0.57 (14)|
There were 39,268 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.8% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.2% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 19.2% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 100.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,510, and the median income for a family was $50,486. Males had a median income of $31,968 versus $22,264 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,101. About 6.6% of families and 11.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.8% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.
Fargo uses the city commission style of local government. Four commissioners and a mayor are elected at large. The current mayor of Fargo is Dennis Walaker, who was elected on June 13, 2006. The Fargo City Commission meets every two weeks in its chambers above the Fargo Civic Center. The meetings are broadcast on a local cable channel.
Although diverse politically, Fargo is by and large a Republican-leaning area. Democrats tend to do well in state elections in the older and established areas of Fargo (Districts 11 and 21), but Republicans dominate throughout much of the newer areas of the city. George W. Bush carried Fargo as well as the rest of Cass County in the 2004 presidential election, with nearly 60 percent of the vote in both areas. Although less Democratic-leaning than Grand Forks, Fargo is considerably more moderate/liberal than Bismarck where Democrats hold not a single seat in the state legislature. In the 2006 elections, several Fargo-area Republican incumbents to the state legislature were defeated.
The West Fargo Public Schools system serves most of the southwestern part of the city.
Fargo is also home to three private school districts. The Fargo Catholic Schools Network operates Holy Spirit Elementary (North), Nativity Elementary (South), Sullivan Middle School, and Shanley High School. The Oak Grove Lutheran School District serves grades K-12 in the area. Grace Lutheran School serves grades Pre-Kindergarten though 8th grade.
Fargo is also home to several private institutions, including Aakers Business College, a branch location of the University of Mary, and Masters Baptist College operated by Fargo Baptist Church. Until recently, Globe University/Minnesota School of Business maintained a Fargo Student Resource Center, now replaced by the college's Moorhead campus.
Fargo offers a wide variety of cultural opportunities for a city of its size. This is likely due, in part, to the presence of three universities in the metropolitan area. Most theatre and events are either promoted or produced by the universities, although there are several private theatre companies in the city including Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT), Theatre 'B' in downtown Fargo, Ursa Major Theatre Company, Music Theatre Fargo Moorhead, Tin Roof Theatre Company, The Entertainment Company and others. Music organizations in the metropolitan area include the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, the Jazz Arts Group, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, and the Fargo-Moorhead Youth Symphony. Fargo also boasts a dance company in the Fargo Moorhead Ballet.
The Fargo Theatre is a restored 1926 Art Deco movie house that features first-run movies, film festivals, and other community events. The Fargodome routinely hosts concerts, Broadway musicals, dance performances, sporting events, as well as fairs and other gatherings.
The Plains Art Museum is the largest museum of art in the state. It is located in downtown Fargo and features regional and national exhibits. It also houses a large permanent collection of art. There are several other museums in Fargo including The Children's Museum at Yunker Farm , The Fargo Air Museum, The Courthouse Museum, The Roger Maris Museum in West Acres Shopping Center, the North Dakota State University Wall of Fame in the Scheels All Sports store and the historic Bonanzaville village (West Fargo).
The Fargo Public Library was established in 1900 and for many years was housed in a Carnegie-funded building. In 1968, the library moved into a new facility as part of urban renewal efforts in the downtown area. In 2002, the Fargo Public Library established the first branch library in North Dakota with the opening of the Southpointe Branch. In 2004, voters passed an 18-month sales tax measure for new library facilities with 62% of voters in favor. The new Northport Branch opened in 2006 and serves the north side of Fargo. The Dr. James Carlson Library, which replaced the earlier Southpointe Branch, opened to the public on November 16, 2007 and serves the south side of Fargo. The new main library downtown, designed by Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, will open in early 2009.
Fargo is also home to several radio and television stations. Forum Communications, which also owns The Forum, owns WDAY-TV and WDAY radio. Local resident James Ingstad owns six radio stations under Radio Fargo-Moorhead, including KFGO. SMAHH Communications owns WZFN and KEGK. Cable television service is provided byCableOne and Midcontinent Communications.
Fargo is served by Hector International Airport. Hector has the longest public runway in the state and has scheduled passenger flights to Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas,and Mesa. An Air National Guard unit is also located at Hector.
The BNSF Railway runs through the metropolitan area as successor to the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railroad. Amtrak service is provided via the Empire Builder passenger train at the Fargo Amtrak station.
The city sits at the intersection of Interstate 29 and Interstate 94. U.S. Highway 81 and U.S. Highway 10 also run through the community. Some other major roadways in the city include 45th St., 13th Ave., Main Ave. and University Drive.
Inside the metropolitan area, a public bus service named Metro Area Transit (MAT) operates several routes. Greyhound Lines, Jefferson Lines and Rimrock Stages Trailways bus services also link Fargo to other communities.
The street system of Fargo is structured in the classic grid pattern. Routes that run from north to south are called streets, and routes that run from east to west are called avenues.