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Great Northern (Great Northern Hotel)
The diagonal route of the Great Northern Railway across northeastern North Dakota yielded a triangular plat for the wonderfully crisp and well-detailed Great Northern Hotel. The hotel provided a gateway between the railroad corridor and the center of commercial and civic activity. The three-story hotel takes a flatiron shape to fit its triangular site. With its rounded corner, arched fenestration, metal cornice, and classical detailing, the building is a landmark in downtown. It is constructed of dark brown hard-fired brick with an unusual “branding-iron overburn”—a surface pattern of randomly blackened diagonal stripes made by iron bars laid across the bricks in the final kiln-firing process that is seen on few buildings in the region. The long facades are arranged into three divisions, with principal entrances in bays contained between slightly projecting piers. The grand ballroom was the scene of numerous social and civic affairs. Politicians such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman addressed throngs from the ornate balcony at the south side of the building.
The Great Northern Hotel could have suffered the fate of many grand hotels that dot the landscape of rural midwestern towns. The building remained vacant for a few years after the owner failed to pay property taxes. In 1978 the hotel was renovated into residential apartments and business offices, including the headquarters of MetroPlains Management. This former hotel instead became one of North Dakota’s first preservation success stories, and a model for many subsequent adaptive-use projects.
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