The Archaeology of Fargo’s Hotel Bison

In preparation for the transition from summer to winter (which, on the northern Great Plains, is often preceded by at least two solid weeks of autumn), it is necessary to pull all a/c units from the windows and take them to hibernate, usually in basement storage rooms. While doing that this evening, I decided to photograph the hand-painted signage next to my storage space, a grand piece of commercial radio artwork that reflects some of the

Early and undated Bison Building signage, when KVOX 1280AM occupied the building.

earlier years of Hotel Bison, or the Bison Building, this located about the 400 block on Broadway Avenue in downtown Fargo. The angle the art portrays is of the northwest corner, and the Art Deco facade affixed to this commercial brick building reflects what had to be one of the earliest phases of modernization to the original Bison Hotel. In the painting, the facade and marquee notified passersby of the good food and coffee within. That marquee, at least in 2012, has long since been removed, as have any large or small KVOX radio towers on its roof. A quick search and cursory sampling this evening of the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies (Fargo) database for “Bernie Ostrum” did not yield any specific results (just a broad barrage of digitized daily papers from North Dakota Agricultural College’s The Spectrum, among other items). You’ll note the radio persons on the painting as well, “Rod” the Disc Clerk, Manny Marget, Bernie Ostrum and Loehle Gast (quite likely radio namesakes).

Then and today, the Hotel Bison is situated immediate to the railroad passenger train in Fargo (this just across the parking lot to the north), and a person can imagine how many Fargo arrivals and outgoing passengers utilized the hotel. For a variety of reasons, the historic private and public economic and city forces of Fargo decided to continuously re-adapt and re-use Hotel Bison, so as of today it stands as one of the recognizable building-marks in the downtown area. In many ways this sign can be thought of in the same way as a cross-section of stratigraphy is in an archaeological test unit. The signage preserves particular perceptions in space and time, and so long as it is around (either in material or digitized form), we can glean information from it. I’ve been meaning to digitize that signage for a while, and it’s fascinating to capture how this building was used — and perceived — at a particular place and time in history. Finally got around to doing it in preparation for winter.

2 responses to “The Archaeology of Fargo’s Hotel Bison

  • Darcy Herman

    Larry Bosma let me photo the same thing yesterday! I hope he can find the pictures to finish the puzzle. What a cool piece of history. Anyone have picutes of the issing?

  • John Ostrom

    That should be Bernie Ostrom. Bernard Wesley Ostrom Sr. Was my grandfather and played at the hotel and for KVOX with a band named the Minnesota Woodchoppers. For more information, I can be reached at 801-592-1308.

    John Ostrom,
    Gilbert, AZ

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