The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) constructed a building in 1894 at 521 1st Avenue North (the northeast corner of Broadway and First Avenue) to serve as a meeting hall.
A third floor was added in 1915-1916 and the upper floors became the Donaldson Hotel, named after its first owner Horace Donaldson. Even though Mr. Donaldson died in May of 1917, his name has remained a part of the business. When Lydia Wendt took it over, she made it into a workingman's hotel. The illustration above is taken from Donaldson Hotel letterhead in 1920. It shows the third floor and the entrance on First Avenue.
Mr. & Mrs. Carroll Ligon bought the 60-room hotel from Lydia Wendt in 1943. The Ligon's sold the hotel to physics teacher and band man Sidney M. Melby and his wife Deborah in 1950 and ran it until 1974. The Melby's modernized the marquee and updated the lobby. At first, the Melby's catered to a transient (one-night) client-base but as the interstate began siphoning off downtown business, the hotel began accepting permanent residents. At one time, the Melby's had ten Donaldson employees.
The hotel was sold to Tom Bell who installed new carpeting, paint, plumbing, cable television, and fixed up a small room as a lounge. He also removed the phones from the rooms and did away with the lobby. By 1984, the hotel was primarily an apartment operation although it did offer a few rooms for rent by the night. Prices at that time were $12 per night, $45 per week, and $135 per month.
The street level commercial space on Broadway was for many years (1928-1976) home to Mary Elizabeth Frock Shop, started by Mary E. and Ellen V. Johnson.
In the spring of 2001, Karen Burgum Stoker bought the property and began working with the architectural firm of Barbour and LaDouceur of Minneapolis to convert the Donaldson to an upscale boutique hotel. For information about the present Hotel Donaldson, visit its website.
"Fargo Odd Fellows decide to keep up with the procession and will commence to build this fall" Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (23 Aug. 1893): 4.
Polk’s Fargo and Moorhead City Directories. St. Paul, MN: R.L. Polk and Company
"Donaldson services in charge of Masons" Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (22 May 1917): 5.
Fargo and Moorhead City Directory. Fargo, 1881-1927.
Souvenir of Fargo, North Dakota, 1906. Fargo, N.D. : Porte Printing Co., c1905.