Great Northern Railway Depot

Great Northern Railway Depot (1909).

The Great Northern Railway took its name on September 18, 1889, when the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba railroad of James J. Hill was renamed. The Great Northern Depot, built in 1906 at 425 Broadway, was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by St. Paul architect Samuel Bartlett, a friend of James J. Hill, the founder of the Great Northern railroad. The building, pictured in the 1909 real photograph postcard above, is on the National Register of Historical Places. (The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.)

In 1970, the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific merged to become the Burlington Northern Railroad. Freight trains of the Burlington used the NP tracks and passenger trains used the Great Northern tracks. In 1971, the passenger business became part of AMTRAK. AMTRAK later began to use a newer, smaller building for their passengers and the depot pictured above was no longer used after 1986.

Magic City Financial Group bought the depot in 1994. According to the city assessor’s office, it was worth $303,000 in 1995, with the rundown building worth $35,000 of that. Magic City then received permits for more than $1.39 million in remodeling. The city supported that work with a $140,000 community development loan for roof repair and another $200,000 loan other improvements.

It was opened as the Great Northern Restaurant and Brewery in late 1995 and was considered a major event in the revitalization of downtown Fargo. The 12,680 square-foot establishment opened with seating for 300. Fargo building permits indicate the extensive remodeling and installation of the microbrewery cost at least $2 million. But the high debt load, combined with high food and labor costs, sank the first establishment and it closed in mid-September 1997.

It reopened in early January 1998 as JJ’s Bistro and Brewery with Mark Nelson and Dale Anderson as owners. They expanded seating to 350 but closed six months later.

The White Earth (Minn.) Band of Chippewa Indians reopened the Great Northern in the spring of 1999, hoping to parlay food and beverage business there into into a staging area for bringing visitors to the tribe's Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center at Mahnomen, Minn. The restaurant closed on February 24, 2001.

After standing empty for several years, it re-opened July 1, 2004. The owner/managers were Heather Gibb and Paul Sadosky. This business also closed on Oct. 5, 2005.