New Palace Hotel, Fargo, ND

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The New Palace Hotel was a 2-story building at the southwest corner of 4th Avenue North and Broadway in Fargo, ND. Not the most auspicious of area hotels, it gained little recognition until its destruction February 5th, 1990. It was also known as the Schmidt Building.

Contents

Origins

The "Schmidt Building", as the cornicepiece read, was built in 1882. The Fargo Fire destroyed the building in 1921, but it was rebuilt in 1922.

1950s

The 1954-1955 city directory shows the main floor of the building unoccupied, while the New Palace Hotel has the address of 324½ Broadway.

1980s

In the 1986, the building was purchased by William Powers. At that time, the hotel was known as the New Valley Hotel, catering to low-income tenants, mostly retired men. The street-level was divided into a number of retail spaces. At the end of the 1980s, these spaces were occupied by Mr. Don's State College of Beauty, Golden Razor barber shop, and The Rage, a vintage clothing store.

1990

At around 7pm on February 5, 1990, passerby Mary Lindstrom noticed smoke rising from Mr. Don's State College of Beauty, on the first floor of the New Palace Hotel building. She alerted authorities and helped the residents of the hotel to safety. Fire crews arrived quickly, but found the blaze uncontrollable. The building was an utter loss and was razed. The Rage moved to Roberts Street, adjacent to the Gardner building. The Golden Razor moved across the street to 313 Broadway, into a space now being renovated along with the Fargoan Hotel. Mr. Don's ceased to exist.

Arson

Initial opinion from residents was that the fire must have started at the furnace, but fire inspectors quickly discovered evidence of arson. While all residents were interviewed about the fire, Donald Gooselaw, owner of Mr. Don's State College of Beauty, seemed an early suspect for arson. Lindstrom observed that smoke originated in the beauty college, and Gooselaw's shop was pending eviction from the retail space due to four months' back rent, totalling $2,144.99; the eviction was scheduled for the Monday following the fire. Another witness, who had her hair done in Gooselaw's salon, said Gooselaw was complaining about the furnace's poor performance, even though the building's owner said it had been recently serviced. I could find no outcome of the arson investigation at this time.

Disposal

Powers was given a certain amount of time by the City to clear the debris and repair or remove the remaining structure. Powers did indicate that, while he felt he would not rebuild the New Palace Hotel, he had no intention of paving it over and turning it into a parking lot.

The lack of cleanup also hindered any investigation of arson at the point of the fire's origin -- the basement -- because most of the building's structure collapsed into the basement, covering evidence.

After a month, there had been no progress on removing any of the building's remains, so the city inspector asked the city council to take action on having the city remove the debris. Powers insisted that he had no ability to proceed -- the best bid for removal was approximately $35,000, and his insurance company had not completed his claim at that time. If the city was to undertake the cleanup, they would hold the expense as an assessment against the value of the property.

Today

The area is a parking lot for the neighboring building at 322 Broadway, which was saved from destruction during the fire. The absence of the New Palace Hotel allowed an additional doorway to be added to the 322 Broadway, on the north wall, providing an entrance for upstairs offices.

References

The majority of the content came from various editions of the Fargo Forum from February and March, 1990, regarding the fire.

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