Victorian Medallions in Downtown Bismarck

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A 2014 photo of the southwest elevation of the Bismarck Auditorium (Belle Mehus).

Yesterday I took a jaunt around downtown Bismarck to capture some images of historic buildings. Autumn has turned to winter, and this means the glorious deciduous leaves are no longer. At least until spring. This also means that it is a great time to take photos of historic buildings (or buildings in general): just like the presence of leaves gives some good angles for photography, so does the absence of leaves. I ended up sauntering around the beautiful Bismarck Auditorium, renamed the Belle Mehus some years ago during a much-needed and -deserved rehabilitation and restoration. An excellent history of the Belle is linked to here on the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony’s Orchestra’s website.

Erected in 1913 and opened in 1914, this auditorium was typical for its time, at least in the sense that opera houses provided the entertainment before the rise of television, radio, movies and iPhones. Traveling opera companies would make the rounds on railroad, stopping in one town after another (much like touring bands today). When visiting historic opera houses, take note of how close they are to the historic railroad: one can imagine an opera company arriving by rail with all the graceful bustle of offloading at the train depot, making their way to a hotel and preparing for one or three days wortOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAh of performances.

It is fantastic to see opera houses restored, or repurposed. It is literally hard to come by this type of stone and brick monumental architecture, at least today. So that’s what I did yesterday: enjoyed the rehabbed and preserved aesthetics of the Belle Mehus, the Bismarck Auditorium in historic downtown Bismarck, North Dakota. I snapped a photo of the copper Victorian medallion centered at the top of the Belle, too. Michael Gilbertson even drove by, managing to roll down his window in time to give me a drive by “Hi Aaron!”

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The large copper, shield medallion with Victorian ornamentation centered on the west elevation at the top of the Bismarck Auditorium. In winter, it is possible to get this photo due to the absence of the leaves.

 


2 responses to “Victorian Medallions in Downtown Bismarck

  • Richard Rask

    Do you know who built that building??

  • Aaron Barth

    Richard, all of what I know comes from the public plaque on the southwest corner of the Belle. The commissioners are A.W. Lucas, A.C. Hinckley, E.G. Patterson, R.C. Batty, Chris Bertsch, Jr.; the architect was Arthur van Horn (he produced numerous works and is recognized by the US Secretary of the Interior as a significant force in the architectural history of North Dakota); and the builders are listed as Bismarck Construction Co., with Andrew Person and H.J. Milsted (sounds like a couple Scandiwegians).

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