Sunday, June 24, 2007

Postcard: UND President's Mansion

UND President's Mansion

A reader recently mentioned an old postcard from the early 20th century that shows the former UND President's Mansion in its early days. I'm guessing that this is the postcard in question. According to UND, the mansion was built in 1902 and housed four UND presidents. The building also hosted visits from President Franklin Roosevelt and Crown Prince Olav and Princess Martha of Norway. Today, the building functions as the J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center.

Open Thread #30

I'll be gone for the next couple of days so an open thread will have to do. Have fun.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ponderosa to close

Apparently employees at the Grand Forks Ponderosa, located on South Washington Street in front of the Grand Cities Mall, have been told that the restaurant will be closing its doors for good in the next few days.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another one bites the dust

It was a couple of months ago that the old, dilapidated Transport Incorporated building out on Gateway Drive was finally torn down. Now, another Gateway Drive eyesore has been demolished. The old Weekley's Auto Wrecking building and house, located just west of the Transport Incorporated site, is no more. One metal shed remains on the property and I would assume that this structure will also be razed.

The Weekley's complex was one of the worst eyesores on the stretch of Gateway that runs through north Grand Forks. Now, if we could just get them to clean up their act at their Gateway Drive property west of the city!

I'm not here to argue whether or not a business like Weekley's is vital or not. What I will argue is that the Weekley's building that was torn down has been basically abandoned for years now. It has been battered by the elements and little if any upkeep has gone into the structure. It has been an eyesore for far to long. It's good to have this building gone and it's good to now have an empty area on Gateway Drive so close to University Village that can now be redeveloped.

Ugly buildings and properties that no one maintains properly are eyesores for the entire community. Some would argue that an eyesore here and there isn't that important, but I would argue that when we see ugliness it brings us down and casts a bad light on the rest of our city. In ways, it is really a quality of life issue. I, for one, am very happy to see blight like this eliminated.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Northside Cafe now open

The new Northside Cafe is now open for business on Gateway Drive. The restaurant is located in a portion of the old Westward Ho property. GFL first brought you news of the Cafe back in February.

I'm curious to know if any readers have been to the new restaurant yet. If you've been there, why not give us a mini review? For that matter...anyone interested in reviewing the new Al's Grill which is located just across the street from the Northside Cafe? Come Marilyn.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Open Thread #29

So, what's it gonna be this time?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Postcard: Hotel Ryan

The Hotel Ryan

This postcard isn't in my collection, but I wish it was. I love this 1930s (I guess?) view of the Hotel Ryan. I think the graphics and coloring of the card are so charming. I also think the "fireproof" statement is a little comical. If I remember correctly there were several mysterious fires in downtown hotels at one time. Does anybody else remember hearing that?

According to Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library, the Hotel Ryan was designed by prominent local architect Joseph Bell DeRemer. The library provides some very good background of DeRemer's work and his two periods of building design in Grand Forks. The first period, from 1902 to 1912, included many Classical and Renaissance Revival style buildings: the old Grand Forks Public Library (torn down for parking garage), the Ontario Store (later Griffith's Department Store), the Corliss Block (now Avante), the Widlund Block, the Masonic Temple, the New Hampshire Apartments, the Elks Lodge, and the Central High School Gym. The second period, which started in 1919, included buildings in the Art Deco and Art Modern styles: Whitey's, the Hotel Ryan, United Lutheran Church, the administration building for the Grand Forks Municipal Airport, and the Grand Forks County Courthouse addition. DeRemer also designed many buildings at UND and the North Dakota State Capitol. Talk about leaving an impact on the city and the state!

BEST OF GF: Buffet

In the first installment of BEST OF GF, I asked you which coffee shop in town is "the best." I even included a little poll and, according to the current results, Caribou Coffee is winning with 21% of the vote. You can actually still vote in that poll if you haven't yet done so.

Now, time for the next BEST OF GF question. What is the best buffet in Grand Forks? Vote and share your opinions in the comments section.

BEST OF GF: Buffet
Golden Corral
Great Wall
Italian Moon
Royal Fork

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Postcards from the past

I'm going to start a new regular feature on this blog. I sometimes think that, when I'm posting on Grand Forks Life, I focus a little too much on the present day and neglect the rich history of our community. New developments and the news of the day are great, but I'm also someone who is very interested in local history. As a lifelong resident of the area, I am pretty familiar with this community's history and I want others to also be familiar with where we come from as a city.

To include some historical content on this blog, I'm going to start posting images of vintage postcards from time to time. I collect old postcards so some of the images will come from my personal collection. I also save Grand Forks postcard images when I come across them while surfing the web. I have put them all together in a slideshow format and use that as my personal screensaver. By the way, most of the postcards that I will post on this blog are old enough (published before 1923) that they are in the public domain.

I hope that seeing what our community used to look like will be interesting and informative for those of you who are relatively new to the community or for those of you (me included) who weren't alive to see Grand Forks in the "olden days." I hope you enjoy seeing these vintage images.

So, without further ado...

Downtown Grand Forks, 1912

This is the intersecton of DeMers Avenue and Third Street looking towards the north. The Ontario Store is on the left. The Ontario Store would later become Griffith's Department Store and today is the home of Meadowbrook. The building on the right is the St. John's Block. Looking down the street, we can see the pink colored Security Building on the left side of Third Street and the Frederick Hotel and the Dacotah Hotel on the right side. Note the trolley car going right down the center of Third Street.

Busy, busy, busy

Wow, Wednesday was the busiest day ever on this blog. We had around 60 comments, 400 unique visits, and 650 page views (hits). Cool.

I recently added an interesting tool called a "heatmap" to the blog. The heatmap allows me to see exactly where people click. Below is a view of a portion of Wednesday's clicks. Read it like a radar...the intenser the color, the higher the number of clicks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Farmers Market returns

I've just been reminded that this Saturday marks the start of this year's Farmers Market. According to Cheri Reitmeier, Board President of the Farmers Market, the Market will run from 9 AM to 2 PM every Saturday (rain or shine) from June 16 to September 29 in the Town Square at the corner of DeMers and 3rd Street. A free concert starts at 11 AM each Saturday. Cheri says that there are "lots of new vendors this year."

Great to see this event returning year after year. It is really a wonderful thing for downtown and for our community. I applaud those who work to bring it back each summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Open Thread #28

The last open thread has been pretty slow. Come on...kick it up a notch!

What do you want to talk about? How about guys love talking about restaurants. Or I could just say some words that seem to generate lots of comments...

Olive Garden.

I really don't care what you talk about...just talk!

Columbia Mall's black eye

One of the things I really like about this blog is that I can almost instantly get a wide variety of opinions on a particular topic. Last week I asked you what you would like to see in the old Civic Auditorium in downtown Grand Forks (post). This week, I want to know what you would like to see in the empty Target space at Columbia Mall.

It has been over six years since Target left Columbia Mall for the greener pastures of the Grand Forks Marketplace and Columbia Mall hasn't really been the same since. In my opinion, the mall was already fading before Target ever left, but the fact that they did leave after being an anchor for so many years really hurt the mall. I don't have any figures to look at, but I have to think that the stores that make up the Grand Forks Marketplace together have more customers and sell more merchandise than the stores in Columbia Mall do.

In short, Target leaving their former home was not only a sign that Columbia Mall was currently struggling, but it was also a major blow to the future of the mall. The fact that the old Target space is still empty after so many years also says something about Columbia Mall...something a little depressing. It is rather depressing to see the western corridor of the mall anchored by literally nothing year after year.

So, since the old Target space is still empty, I want to know what you would like to see done with it. What store(s) should locate there? Or do you have ideas for something other than retail? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Denny's to build next to Boston's

I've received a tip from a reader letting me know that Denny's has apparently picked a location for their new Grand Forks restaurant. Readers will remember that I first posted about the new restaurant back in December of last year (post).

According to my tipster, the location for the new restaurant will be on 32nd Avenue between Boston's and the LakeView Inn. Apparently, the land in question is owned by Boston's and they will be selling it to Denny's. I'm not quite sure yet exactly how this lot will be set up, but my tipster said something about creating a new lot partially out of the existing Boston's parking lot. When the council packet for this comes up, we'll probably be able to see a diagram.

The City Council will first discuss this proposal at their meeting on Monday evening. The plan was presented at last night's Planning and Zoning meeting. It will go back to Planning and Zoning on July 11 and to the City Council after that for final approval.

Update - 6/11/2007 - 1:47 AM
According to an article in Monday's Herald, the deal between Denny's and Boston's "fell through last week." The franchisee, based out of Minot, says that it's not easy to "find a piece of ground" in Grand Forks to build the Denny's. He adds that he wants an empty lot on 32nd Avenue South close to I-29.

What about the empty lot directly west of the Golden Corral? That would be a very visible location for a Denny's. How about the empty lot west of Wendy's? Maybe that lot wouldn't be quite big enough, but it too would be very visible. Personally, I would think the lot next to the Golden Corrall would be a very logical choice. Then again, I have heard rumors that that lot could end up being an Olive Garden...

I have to say that the proposal to build in the parking lot of another restaurant seemed a little goofy to me. It seems like a Denny's restaurant could end up attracting plenty of customers and, if they had gone in the Boston's parking lot, parking at both of the restaurants could have become insane. Also, wouldn't the franchisee like to locate right at a corner? Both of the above suggestions are at busy corners, are both on 32nd Avenue South, and are both easily accessible and visible from I-29.

Al's Grill now open on Gateway

Al's Grill and Catering is now open in their new location on Gateway Drive. This is the former home of Capone's which, at last report, was leaving Grand Forks for the greener pastures of McVille, North Dakota. Best of luck to Al's in their new home!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What about the Civic Auditorium?

A reader emailed me and suggested I post something about future prospects for the old Civic Auditorium in downtown Grand Forks. I would love to hear what you guys think could or should be done to the space. Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Personally, I would like to see the space converted into something like a Whole Foods, but that is probably just a pipe dream considering the relatively small number of Whole Foods stores there are out there and considering the fact that they usually go into larger communities (list of U.S. stores). Still, I've said many times before that I think a small grocery store of some sort - preferably upscale, ethnic, or something that sets it apart from what we already have in other grocery stores - would be a wonderful addition to the community and could be a boon for downtown.

As it is, people living downtown either have to drive to Leever's just south of downtown or they have to go several miles to find another grocery store. Having a quality grocery store in downtown would not only bring people downtown to shop, but it would also help those who live there to stay downtown and might also encourage more residential development there. People don't seem to like to live very far away from a grocery store. Amazing Grains is nice, but I think most people living downtown would like to see a full-service grocery store open up within walking distance. Also, I think a renovated, fully utilized Civic Auditorium building could be a catalyst for the expansion/redevelopment of the western downtown neighborhood that I've talked about before.

So, what would you like to see become of the old Civic Auditorium? Any specific ideas? Should the city tear it down (which would be costly, by the way) and try to sell the land to a developer? I would love to hear readers share their ideas for this property. The property seems to be located in a high-traffic, high-visibility area right in the center of town. It's really a shame to see it sit empty year after year.

Open Thread #27

It seems like it's been kind of a slow time lately for local news. See...that's why those tips should be rolling in! A little help is always appreciated.

So, what's up?

Friday, June 01, 2007

I want your tips!!!

I just read Tu-Uyen's post where he thanks readers of his blog for their feedback and tips. Being the mimic that I am, I had to get in on the act too. No, I'm not talking about thanking...I'm talking about soliciting tips and feedback. Actually, I've been meaning to do this for a while now. To put it bluntly, I want your tips!!!

My email address is hard to miss over on the left side of the screen and I do get tips and feedback from readers on a daily basis, but now I'm trying to kick it into high gear. From now on, I'm asking you to email me any news tip or rumor that you stumble across.

I mean, who would you rather see get a news scoop? The Herald? WDAZ? How about an ad-free, non-partisan, free of charge blog that offers people a convenient way to voice their opinions on a host of issues? Go ahead, people...annoy our friends over at the Herald and WDAZ...send your news tips and rumors to GrandForksGuy! What could give you more pleasure than seeing your little news tip make its way from this blog all the way to tonight's 10 PM newscast or tomorrow's front page?

Send all news tips and rumors to