The First National Bank has a rival: the Black Building up Broadway – trust me, it’s better than it looks here.

It’s a mistake to say that any year defines a place; cities are always in transition, and the day this photo was taken someone in a tall building was probably drawing up plans to knock something and put up something else. But pre-war Fargo had managed to hold on to most of its pioneer architecture. Downtown had its share of creaky smelly bum-blocks, but you could walk around the city and see everything from 1880s styles to Art Moderne. After the war the pressures from the suburbs and the new styles of storefront design would change it all forever.

You also get a sense of the remarkable nature of the American experiment. There was nothing here for centuries. And then, in the blink of an eye, there was this.