It is easy to find your way around Fargo. Streets run north and south and are numbered. Avenues run east and west and are also numbered. If you know the address, you know the cross-street or cross-avenue. Not very imaginative but very practical. But not all streets and avenues are, or were, so named.
You may noticed on some of the early maps of Fargo that a variety of street names appeared that no longer exist.
On December 2, 1887, Fargo City Ordinance 94 was established. The Ordinance standardized Fargo street names in preparation of mail delivery. It stated:
Thoroughfares running east and west shall be called Avenues, and are divided as avenues "north" or "south" according to their location either north or south of Front Street, with a numerical prefix of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc., according to their distance from Front Street. (Note that Front Street itself ran east and west and was called a street not an avenue, an egregious error not corrected until June 1957 when Front Street was renamed Main Avenue.)
Thoroughfares extending northward and southward shall be called streets, and, like the avenue, are divided by Front Street into "north" and "south" streets, bearing a numerical prefix beginning near the river with 1st Street North and 1st Street South, and are thus named consecutively toward the west. Below will be found a few exceptions to the rule, and a list of all streets not named by number, including that part of avenues north of 5th Ave. N. and east of 1st St. N., which shall bear the affix "east" instead of north or south.
The house numbers on avenues run westward from 1st St., beginning on north side of all avenues with 101 in the first block, 201 in the second, and so on, allowing a number every 25 feet frontage. The numbers on streets begin at Front Street with number one and with 101 at First Ave., the even numbers being always on the left hand side going either north or south.
The exceptions to the above naming convention were listed as: Ash, Bluff, Broadway, F, Front, G, Maple, Northern Pacific, North Terrace, River Road, Roberts, Short, and South Terrace. Five avenues were allowed to be called "east" and four street were allowed to be called ½, e.g., Thirteen ½ North.
Prior to Ordinance 94, a number of streets had different names. For example, north of Front Street, all avenues were numbered but south of Front Street all avenues were named:
- Washington Avenue is now First Avenue South
- Adams Avenue is now Second Avenue South
- Jefferson Avenue is now Third Avenue South
- Madison Avenue is now Fourth Avenue South
- Monroe Avenue is now Fifth Avenue South
- Tyler Avenue is now Sixth Avenue South
- Roberts Avenue (not to be confused with Roberts Street downtown) is now Seventh Avenue South. Roberts Avenue was the southern city limits of Fargo in 1880
An exception to the avenue numbering was Levee Avenue which was between Third and Fourth Avenues North.
South of Front Street, all streets were numbered but north of Front Street, all streets were named or used alphabetic letters:
- A Street is now Fifth Street North
- B Street is now Fourth Street North
- C Street is now Third Street North
The city fathers wanted a more orderley naming convention, and Ordinance 94 ensued. A few notable changes have been made since.
In October 1949, the Fargo city commission renumbered the streets in an area bordered by Roberts Street on the east, 10th Street N. on the west, and N.P. Avenue on the south and 7th Avenue N. on the north. In this renumbering, 8th Street became 7th Street, and 8 ½ Street became 8th Street.
Main Avenue was named Front Street for over 100 years. It was the first and main thoroughfare of Fargo. The name was changed to Main Avenue in June 1957. It was to be named for then-Mayor Laskowitz but the city commission voted for Main Avenue.
Thirteenth Street but was changed to University Drive on April 22, 1961 in honor of the change in name of North Dakota Agricultural College to North Dakota State University.