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Renaissance Hall, North Dakota State University (Robb-Lawrence Warehouse, Northern School Supply Building)
Constructed as an agricultural warehouse, this building served for most of the twentieth century as home for Northern School Supply, a regional distributor of textbooks, school furniture, and supplies. It is one of several prominent buildings constructed during the brief career of architect William C. Albrant (1871–1905), a native of Winchester, Ontario, who completed his academic training in Mechanic Arts at the North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC) in 1899, and designed a Carnegie library (CS41.2) at NDSU in Fargo and a library in Mayville (TR3). Albrant’s approach to structure seems to have been largely intuitive, but the exteriors of his buildings reflect a more practiced design sense, as is apparent in the Romanesque Revival sandstone entrance motifs and stamped-metal fan-shaped arches atop the third-floor windows at Robb-Lawrence. In 1904 Albrant married the sister of Fargo architect William D. Gillespie, but Albrant’s sudden death from typhoid pneumonia at the age of thirty-three occurred less than a year after his marriage and after only three years of practice, cutting short a promising career. Gillespie later withdrew from the practice of architecture for a more lucrative specialty, establishing Gate City Savings and Loan, a regional mortgage lender.
This building was vacant for most of the 1990s and was understood to be within hours of demolition when it was purchased by software developer Doug Burgum and gifted to NDSU as a home for the visual arts, architecture, and landscape architecture. The building’s conversion celebrates a range of historic details in the interior. The building is LEED certified for energy efficiency and its rehabilitation was realized using Renaissance Zone incentives (targeted redevelopment funds backed by the state Industrial Development bonding authority). This project and subsequent investments of NDSU in its downtown campus have contributed to revitalization of the historic downtown district.
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