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Belle Mehus Auditorium (Civic Auditorium)
Known for its superior acoustical qualities, the Civic Auditorium was a major commission for Arthur W. Van Horn (1860–1931), one of the most prolific architects based in Bismarck. The building also reflects the architectural involvement of Reed and Stem, who collaborated on the preliminary design phase of the project. When voters rejected the city bonds necessary to finance the more elaborate Reed and Stem auditorium design, Van Horn furnished plans and specifications and supervised construction of this more restrained result, although it seems quite elaborate for the time and place of its construction.
The auditorium’s longspan roof structure is carried on five steel trusses with lateral timber bracing. The building is composed of load-bearing masonry walls made up of hard-burnt local brick faced with pressed cream-colored brick on the facade and south side. The chief architectural distinction of the facade is its five-part composition, emphasized by five recessed entrances set between pilasters. Light brown Kettle River sandstone ornaments the keystones of the window arches and heraldic motifs on the pilasters. The building finishes with a strongly projecting cornice.
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