Fargo, North Dakota
I have attended the F-M Community Theatre and have had surgery at Dakota Hospital. Both would be in the front yard of Fargo College if it still stood. But even today, one can look westward up the slope and imagine the hilltop crowned with the buildings of the old college. The Institute for Regional Studies in Fargo has the copies of the Wau-Bun, the school yearbook.
Fargo College, a Christian liberal arts college, was founded by the Congregational Church in 1888, before North Dakota became a state. Its first graduating class in 1896 contained two people. At its peak it numbered 600 students, and in 1917 it had a graduating class of 25. Fargo College offered both A.B. and A.M. degrees, and it had a preparatory department. However, it was plagued by low enrollment and financial difficulties throughout its history. In 1909 it had the same enrollment as the Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University); its enrollment declined while that of the AC increased. In its final year, Fargo College enrolled fewer than 100 students. In a dissertation, Adrian Denley Alstad argued that Fargo College was unable to change with a changing society, and so it was passed by.
The 1922 Wau-Bun shows that most students were from the Fargo area. The school had an acclaimed Conservatory of Music, and students participated in glee club and were members of a musical sorority. The Liberal Arts division sponsored debate and oratory as well as a Writers Club. There were two social sororities and a fraternity.
In 1922 Fargo College closed because of financial difficulties. Throughout the 1920’s, the school made attempts to raise funds to reopen, but the stock market crash ended those hopes. In 1930 it merged assets with Yankton College in South Dakota.
Bricks and Mortar
The Fargo College campus, called the Hilltop, was located in Island Park in the middle of Fargo. It ultimately had four buildings. Jones Hall, the administration/classroom building, was built in 1890 at a cost of $30,000. Dill Hall, which housed the gymnasium, was added in 1908. A Carnegie Library was dedicated in 1910, with former President Theodore Roosevelt in attendance. There was also a Conservatory of Music, which was not a part of the hilltop cluster. After the school closed, the buildings were idle until Good Samaritan Society purchased the property. For the next eight years Jones Hall was used as a school and hospital for crippled children. In 1940 the property was sold to the Fargo School Board and Western Life Insurance Company. The Carnegie Library served as home office for Western Life until it was razed in1964. Jones Hall had been razed in 1942 and Dill Hall in 1946. Today the old Conservatory of Music is the office of the Fargo Art League. The sports fields are still used by the Fargo Public Schools as practice fields.
The Conservatory of Music in a 2009 photo
Fargo College campus in 1910. Dill Hall (left) and the Carnegie Library (right) flank Jones Hall. Image from the North Dakota State University Archives
Colors: Blue and Gold
Yearbooks show both football and basketball teams. Fargo College fielded football teams from at least 1900 through its closure. The schedule was both modest and local. The 1921 schedule included only five games, beginning the first week in October and finishing the first week in November. It was local because three traditional rivals were the AC, Moorhead Normal and Concordia, all only a few blocks from the Hilltop. In 1921 The Hilltoppers also played Jamestown College and the University of North Dakota. Except for a 70-0 thrashing in 1917, Fargo College was able to compete with the AC on even terms, winning three games in a row 1908-10. The 1921 team, Fargo College’s last, won two games (Moorhead Normal and Jamestown), lost two, (University and AC), and tied one (Concordia).
The 1904 football team. Note the mascot and the variety of uniforms. (Photo courtesy of the Institute for Regional Studies)