Downtown Bismarck Historic District
Burleigh County, ND
The Downtown Bismarck Historic District retains its integrity and is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A, B and C. The period of significance for the district begins in 1872 with the first townsite developments at Bismarck and ends in 1951, the year that western North Dakota's major oil boom commenced.
The Downtown Bismarck Historic District is significant under National Register Criterion A for its strong association with the city's evolving patterns of economic, political and social history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beginning with the city's establishment in 1872, Main Avenue served for decades as the focal point of retail trade in Burleigh County and beyond, as well as a vital hub of financial, warehousing and other commercial activity. A variety of social and civic institutions also found homes in the downtown area. These activities ran nearly the full gamut of those developed at other North Dakota communities and reflected Bismarck's perennial importance as a major urban center in the state. Although diminished, many of downtown Bismarck's important historic functions remain in place today and historic infrastructure of the area continues to reflect the city's long-time significance.
Under National Register Criterion B, the district is significant as a reflection of the primary professional activities of three of central North Dakota's most prominent early twentieth century capitalists and entrepreneurs. Alexander McKenzie, Edward G. Patterson and Edmund Hughes all committed tremendous personal effort and financial resources toward the physical and economic improvement of Bismarck's downtown core. The development of nearly all of the city's largest and most imposing private building projects of the era were directly tied to one of these three men and their powerful architectural legacies continue to survive along Bismarck's downtown streetscapes.
The Downtown Bismarck Historic District is significant under National Register Criterion C for its status as a representation of the broad patterns of architectural evolution in the northern Great Plains during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bismarck's historic downtown core features an eclectic, yet largely historic, architectural mix that includes quality examples of a variety of civic, industrial and commercial building types. Included are individual resources dating from nearly every major period of the city's history, and displaying the architectural details and construction technologies characteristic of those eras. Individually and in combination, these structures are evocative of the long history of commercial construction in Bismarck, and comprise the largest historic commercial district in south-central North Dakota. The downtown also derives significance under Criterion C for its outstanding examples of the work of numerous important architects. Chief among these players is local architect Arthur Van Horn. Van Horn completed the design work for two of downtown Bismarck's most significant landmarks-the Van Horn Hotel and the City Auditorium-as well as several important commercial blocks and auto dealership buildings.