Fargo is a city in Cass County, and serves as the capital of that municipality. Boasting the largest population out of any city in the state – nearly 17 percent of its overall population at 122,359, according to the 2017 census – Fargo is a cultural, retail, health care, educational, and industrial center for eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. The city is also well-known for being home to North Dakota State University.
The economy of the Fargo area has historically been dependent on agriculture, although that dependence has decreased in recent years as the economy has become more focused on food processing, manufacturing, technology, retail trade, higher education, and healthcare. According to Forbes Magazine, Fargo is the best small city in the nation to start a business or a career.
Fargo was originally named “Centralia,” but was later re-named “Fargo” after Northern Pacific Railway director and Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo. Originally inhabited by the Native American Sioux tribe, present-day Fargo gained prominence early after being settled by European-Americans as a port for steamboats traversing the Red River during the 1870’s and 1880’s. With the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Fargo began to experience a period of rapid growth and prosperity, earning it the nickname of “the Gateway to the West.”
Fargo gained a degree of infamy in the 1880’s due to its lax divorce laws, becoming known for a period of time as the “divorce capital” of the Midwest.
In 1893, a massive fire caused the destruction of an astonishing 31 blocks of buildings and homes in downtown Fargo; the city’s buildings and streets were rapidly re-built of far more fire-resistant materials, and a proper water system was installed in order to give firefighters more direct hose access in the event of a future fire.
Fargo offers many cultural opportunities for local residents, including many theater and music productions courtesy of the three universities contained within its borders, in addition to several private theater companies and venues in the city. Also, the Fargo Park District operates many neighborhood parks throughout the city, as well as offering many high-ranking golf courses.
The Fargo Public Schools system serves most of the city, operating fifteen elementary schools, three middle schools, and four high schools. In addition to public schools, a number of private schools also operate in the city. In addition, the city is home to several universities, chief among them being the well-known and regarded North Dakota State University, which has over 14,500 students. Initially founded in 1890 as the North Dakota Agricultural College, it remained named as such until 1960, when at that time it was re-named and acquired its current nomenclature. North Dakota State is also an NCAA Division I university with 14 varsity sports and club sports and a football team that has won numerous FCS National Championships in recent years.
In addition, Rasmussen College and Masters Baptist College – both private learning institutions – call Fargo home as well.
Despite sharing its name with the famous 1996 Academy Award-winning film Fargo, the city itself is only briefly featured and mentioned by name just twice during its run-time. None of film Fargo was actually shot on location in or near Fargo; however, a subsequent and currently-running television series based on the film has occasionally filmed scenes in actual city itself.