An Inventory of Midcentury Housing in Grand Forks, North Dakota

This summer, I’ve been working with the local Historic Preservation Commission here in Grand Forks to prepare an inventory of mid-century housing in community. For my part, I’ve mostly been doing the data and GIS side of the project, while Susan Caraher has been handling the field work side of things.

I know that I’ve blogged on this post before (here and here) and posted the following images as well, but since we’re directing some members of the Historic Preservation Commission who were not about to do video or attend last night’s meeting, we thought it would be useful to post them again.

Our work had three goals: (1) to identify any notable houses associated with prominent local or regional architects, (2) to inventory existing housing from this period, and (3) to make a contribution to the history of the growth of Grand Forks in the post-war period.

The first three images below show the expansion of Grand housing from 1945 to 1970. The first image shows 1940s housing in green and the empty squares represent pre-war housing as it currently exists in town. 

HPCM 1940s June6

As I noted last night, in Riverside, the Baukol Subdivision, at the very top of the map, represents one of the earliest and best preserved post-war subdivisions and it would make sense, in the future, to add this to the Riverside neighborhood historic district. At the southern most part of the 1940s development is the innovative Lentes’ Subdivision with its curved street which is another well preserved development of the immediate post-war period. The final area of growth is infill between the downtown and campus. 

The 1950s saw the area between downtown and campus to continue to infill and expand to the north following the street grid established at the turn of the century. The most vigorous area, of growth, of course was south of town (i.e. the “Mid Southside”) on both sides of Washington Street.

HPCM 1950s June6

Note the appearance of curving streets suggesting new ideas of urbanism influenced by suburban developments elsewhere in the US, but also the persistence of alley ways which were fundamental feature of Grand Forks from its earliest development.

The 1960s saw both infilling to the west of Washington Street (the Burke’s addition) which continued to feature alleyways between blocks. South of town (between 24th Avenue S and 32nd Avenue S) continued the trend toward curved “suburban streets” with developments that embraced many of the modern trends in planning.

HPCM 1960s June6

Over the last three weeks, we’ve also worked to identify the types of houses present in Grand Forks between 1945 and 1970. To do this we used established typologies common the region.

HPCM TYPES June6

It will hardly surprise anyone that that ubiquitous North Dakota “Rambler” is the most common type of house in the post-war era. It is, however, worth noting that areas developed in the 1940s and early 1950s were characterized by pre-war housing types including Cape Cods, Hip-Roofed Boxes, and the Plain Residential styles. Desert Contemporary style homes with their flat roofs, deep eaves, and recessed entrances were clustered in areas developed in the mid-1950s and in more affluent areas of town such as Belmont Drive and Chestnut Street. It is interesting that houses in the Plain Residential style make a return to popularity in the later 1960s.

We identified a number of houses that are worth follow up documentation owing to their distinctive styles or their representative types from various periods. The red blobs on the map below show houses identified for further documentation.

HPCM NOTE June6

As we noted at the onset of this project, this is just one step in our effort to understand, document, and hopefully preserve the mid-century landscape of Grand Forks. 

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