FARGO — Every June, Fargo marks the anniversary of the 1957 tornado that killed 12 people and damaged more than 1,000 homes — but June also marks the anniversary of another devastating disaster that forever changed the city.

The 126th anniversary the Great Fargo Fire of 1893 was just last Friday, June 7.

The blaze destroyed nearly all the homes of Fargo's 6,000 residents at the time, obliterated Fargo's growing downtown and changed the way future buildings would be constructed.

According to the North Dakota State University Archives, the fire broke out around 3 p.m. and spread from Front Street (now Main Avenue) north along Broadway to Fifth Avenue North and west to what was then the prairie. More than 160 acres were in ashes and 31 blocks of homes and businesses were leveled by the time it was done.

The Fargo Forum released a special edition that day, reporting on one of the theories about its origins. Some believed that the fire began when someone threw ashes from the rear of the Little Gem Restaurant on Front Street and started a fire in the rear of Herzman's Dry Goods Store, which was also on Front Street. A second theory suggested the fire started when the Herzmans were burning cardboard boxes behind their store.

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One of the reasons the fire spread so quickly was because the majority of buildings built prior to 1890 were constructed of wood. After the fire, city leaders required new buildings to be made of brick. Because City Hall was destroyed in the fire, many records from prior to 1893 were lost.



But Fargo cleaned up and rebuilt. In fact, Fargo's population nearly doubled from 1890 to 1900.