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Bismarck 150th anniversary series: the 1898 fire

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 10:42 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - We’re looking back at 150 years of history that shaped Bismarck, as the city holds a sesquicentennial birthday celebration this weekend.

A raging fire ripped through Bismarck in August of 1898, destroying most of the city.

The fire spread out of control extremely quickly. Main Avenue was first to be engulfed, but then it spread to Broadway and the residential area.

During the three hours that the fire raged, there was massive damage. Two entire square blocks were left in absolute ruin — the majority of Bismarck’s commercial district.

Winds carried flames as far north as the capitol building, and homes located at least six blocks from downtown were also damaged or destroyed.

The total loss was estimated at nearly half a million dollars and that’s in terms of 1898 figures.

The greatest financial loss was the massive First National Bank block.

The fire forced the city to rebuild, which transitioned Bismarck into a modern city.

Stricter fire codes were enacted. Buildings made of brick and concrete replaced the charred wooden frontier structures. Many of these new buildings were labeled as “fireproof.”

On Friday, in our special series looking at the 150th anniversary of Bismarck, we’ll look at how Bismarck turned into the bustling city it is today.

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