In the 1870s, the Northern Pacific (NP) Railway was rapidly advancing across Dakota Territory with tracks running from the present site of Fargo westward to the James River. Along this track, about thirty miles east of the James River, the often renamed town of Valley City was founded in 1874. During the First Great Dakota Boom (1878–1890), richly productive farmland was aggressively promoted by the NP and by the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line). In 1891, the Soo completed construction of its depot on the eastern edge of Valley City.
The growth of Valley City was typical of many North Dakota service-centered communities. Its population doubled during the Second Great Dakota Boom (1898–1915), largely due to a wave of European immigrants. The downtown district grew only minimally in the 1930s with institutional buildings like the Armory and Auditorium (BA3). Valley City continued to welcome business travelers by investing in the “Great White Way” street lighting system that illuminated U.S. 10 where it passed through the community and the late Art Deco Omwick Theater (1950, Olaf M. Wick, builder) at 165 2nd Avenue SE. Valley City’s downtown buildings are impressive in that they are less eclectic than those in most North Dakota towns, and in such identifiable styles as Renaissance Revival, Second Empire, Streamline Moderne, and Art Deco.
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