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1920's Master Plan Capitol Grounds and Historical Park
(By A.R. Nicholas, of Morrell and Nichols, Landscape Architects, Minneapolis, MN
)
This information was taken from the Second Annual Report (1920)
Board of Administration to the Governor

Picture of Liberty Memorial Building

The legislature, made the appropriation for an Historical Building (Liberty Memorial Building), on the State Capitol Grounds at Bismarck, they also recognized the importance of planning for the entire development of the Capitol Grounds in order that the proposed Historical Building would be in proper relationship with all future buildings to be erected on the property.

Picture of old Capitol Buiding

The fact that the present (1st) Capitol Building, is inadequate as to space and equipment for the needs of the state. With the growth and development of the state a much larger edifice would be required. This made it essential that a careful study be made as to the best possible location for such future Capitol Building.

Due to the splendid topographical advantages of the site and to the fact that the existing buildings could hardly be considered permanent and governing factors in the ultimate grouping of buildings, a splendid opportunity was afforded to the landscape architects to work out a scheme giving a strong, dignified arrangement.

Click here to see a picture of the 1920's Master Plans

The keynote to the entire plan, is the location selected for the State Capitol Building, this being somewhat to the northwest of the present (1st) Capitol Building, it will be most commanding in its appearance from all points along Sixth Street, which is at present (1920), of such importance as to make this relation most ideal. With many of the important buildings of the City of Bismarck located on Sixth Street, including the Auditorium and Courthouse, a most logical approach from the city to the Capitol can be made in a direct line, and the Capitol Building being located on the hill in the distance as a terminal to this street, the impression gained on approaching the Capitol on the way from town, would indeed, be very striking and would show the proposed Capitol to the best of advantage. In all probability, the plan of the Capitol Building would be such that from a central rotunda located on line with Sixth Street, wings would extend east and west so as to give the main facing of the building a southern outlook.

Picture of ND State Capitol Buidling 1934

On a lower elevation, south and east of the Capitol Building would be the logical site for the Historical Building. Directly opposite the Historical Building (Liberty Memorial Building) to the west, to complete the main group of three buildings, would be the desirable site for the Temple of Justice. This would bring the Memorial Building on the high land southeast of the present Capitol Building and a short distance directly south of the statue of Sakakakwea. The Historical Building has been placed so as to have its main facade ad entrance on the west, thus facing the center of the group, and the Temple of Justice occupying a corresponding position on the west side of the group would face east. By a most fortunate condition of natural topography, the location of these two buildings is such as to have the end elevations directly on the line of Seventh Street and Fifth Street, giving a splendid balance to the entire group. These selected locations of the three main buildings on the lines produced on Fifth Street, Sixth Street and Seventh Street immediately relate the entire grouping to the general layout of the City of Bismarck and would afford a grouping of buildings which should be a great pride to the citizens of the city and the state.

The plan also has a location for the Governor's Mansion, the natural knoll near the southwest corner of the property having been selected for this purpose. The future power plant has been located somewhat to the east of the present power plant on lower ground and in a less conspicuous location, yet close enough to meet all practical needs of heating.

The plan of landscape architects shows a comprehensive system of roadways and walks, the main emphasis being given to the Capitol approach. From the junction of Sixth Street and Boulevard Avenue. A monumental feature has been indicated. A broad mall with a double roadway has been shown as a main approach to the Capitol and to other buildings. This mall approach with its broad expanse of green in the center, and the two roadways arched with permanent trees, such as the elm, would make a most impressive approach and would leave the center open, thus giving a very striking view from the town and from the Sixth Street approach. The balance of the roadway has been worked out to meet the general needs of traffic and to afford pleasure vehicles a park drive through the grounds and through the Historical Park. One of these drives has been indicated to the hilltop near the present water tower in order to give one the advantage of the wonderful outlook over the surrounding country in all directions. Except for the arrangement of the main building and its main approach, the driveways and walks, as well as the planting arrangement, have been kept very informal and natural in order to make the entire arrangement as beautiful a park as is possible.

Special emphasis has been placed on a ten-acre tract adjoining the Historical Building, in accordance with the bill passed by legislature, and which will be known as the Historical Park. This phase of the plan and of the development will be one of exceptional interest and of educational value to the residents of the entire State. It is unique and will be most fascinating in its planting of trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, etc., native to North Dakota. The Curator of the Historical Society, Dr. M.R. Gilmore, has given most careful thought and study to the native botanical and horticultural material of the state, and will render great service to the state in the collection and execution of much of this work.

The Historical Park will also be of exceptional interest in the various features located at points of advantage. The plan indicated a location for the Roosevelt cabin and contemplates in the southeast corner of the park the building of an Indian earth lodge, thus preserving one of the most important factors in the State's history. In connection with this Indian earth lodge, there would be the plots given up to the Indian crops of corn, beans, tobacco, etc. The State of North Dakota has indeed, taken a splendid step in the establishment of such an unique park, and recording the history of its growth.

Picture of earth lodge

The landscape architect's plan has indicated that the two blocks on either side of Sixth Street directly south of the Boulevard Avenue be acquired by the city as mutually advantageous to the city and to the state. These blocks could be graded and made splendid use of as parks for the city and further, would greatly enhance the value of the Capitol arrangement to the city by preventing the smaller real estate development taking place in such a conspicuous location with reference to the Capitol Grounds scheme. The entire plan for the arrangement of the Capitol Grounds and of the Historical Park is most comprehensive, and would afford to the citizens of the State of North Dakota a scheme worthy of its importance and the arrangement made possible in a park of such magnitude, and the opportunity thus afforded for development is undoubtedly unrivaled by any State of the Union.

The State of North Dakota has adopted a plan for the development of the Capitol Grounds which, when accomplished, will make the said grounds a living outdoor museum of North Dakota. This plan will give to the North Dakota Capitol Grounds a characteristic beauty and interest of their own and a unique distinction for no other state capitol grounds have been planned so comprehensively. North Dakota has an opportunity and a plan which can be developed through a long time to come, improving every year.