St. John's Orphanage and Free School
The Presentation Sisters opened St. John's Orphanage and Free School on Sept. 8, 1897. The building formerly held St. Joseph's Convent and Academy until its students moved to the new Sacred Heart Academy in 1897.
On January 19, 1907, the original wooden frame structure in which the school and orphanage had been housed was destroyed by fire. The children were moved to the basement of St. Mary's Cathedral and onto Sacred Heart Academy.
On December 25, 1907, the new brick building for St. John's Orphanage was completed and dedicated at 808 7th Ave. N. There was a public reception when the orphanage opened on Thursday, January 9, 1908.
The new building was erected on the site of the old structure that had been destroyed by fire a year earlier. The new four-story, brick and stone building was built at a cost of $40,000. It accommodated 100 students, of which there were 87 on opening day.
The building was designed by the Hancock Bothers of Fargo and constructed by J.H. Powers. This building is pictured in the postcard to the right.
The number of children living at St. John's began to dwindle in the 1930s and by the 1940s only about 60 children resided at the school. From the 1940s onward, an increasing number of emotionally disturbed children came to the school and fewer real orphans.
In 1958, Fargo's Deputy Fire Marshall recommended that St. John's license not be renewed unless a new facility was constructed. The sisters took this opportunity to construct a modern facility that could care for emotionally disturbed children as well as homeless children. The result was Villa Nazareth which opened in July 1961. St. John's thus ended its many years of service to Fargo.