Designed by Thomas B. Wells and built by Andrew T. Skarsbo in the late 1920s, the Skarsbo Apartments give modern people a glimpse into the life of pre-Great Depression Grand Forks. Between the years of 1920 and 1925, the population of Grand Forks rose by 5,000 making a need for housing apparent. By being one of the few still standing of the classical revival style of most downtown Grand Forks buildings, the still liveable apartment building is a great example of the housing shortage and cultural lifestyle in 1928. Looking into the Skarsbo Apartments is the same as looking at a time capsule.
The population of Grand Forks went up by five thousand
from the years of 1920 to 1925. This caused a need for housing for new
educators for the university as well as railroad workers and people looking to
take up the offer for free land around the area. Sixty-eight housing applications were approved to be built within 1928. With the stock market
crash in October of 1929, the building boom halted. The Great Depression began
and with a drought hitting the west side of North Dakota, people flocked to
Grand Forks and Fargo to find any sort of work.
The apartment buildings are three stories tall and made
out of red brick. They are rectangular are show English revival style, like most
of the housing in Grand Forks built in the late 1920s did. In the building, the
windows are original and are set in wood frames. This style was common around
the downtown area of Grand Forks. Though most of the buildings have since
disappeared, the few that remain show the popularity for the housing boom.
The designer of the Skarsbo apartments was Thomas B.
Wells. Wells had established his architectural practice in the Grand Forks and northwestern Minnesota area in 1923. His styles were classical revival and
Gothic revival that he kept emphasizing into the 1930s. After designing the
building, Andrew T. Skarsbo and the Thorvaldsen-Johnson Co. actually built the
apartment buildings. After finishing the build, Skarsbo went on to live in one
of the apartments with his wife and family.
By looking at the Skarsbo Apartments, a general idea
of the population boom and architectural style of buildings created in Grand
Forks towards the end of the 1920s becomes clear. Designed as a classical
revival by Thomas B. Wells and built by Andrew T. Skarsbo and the Thorvaldsen-Johnson
Co., the building rests on 204 North Sixth St by downtown Grand Forks. A staple
of apartment styling from the pre-Great Depression Era, both the buildings and
the caretaker cottage in between are registered in the National Register of