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November 16: Christmas Lights in Bismarck

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On this date in 1954, the Bismarck Tribune reported that a large portion of Bismarck's business district would be decorated with Christmas street lighting for the holiday season. E. V. Lahr, Jr., president of the Chamber of Commerce said a lighted canopy over the streets would "dress up Bismarck for the holidays." The lights would go up about Thanksgiving time and come down around the New Year weekend.

The festooning would use tricolor aluminum foil in red, green, and silver. The strands would be eighty feet in length, stretching from curb to curb, with a colored light every two feet.

In the center of each strand would be a lighted aluminum star in within a wreath of lights. The star would measure four feet from point to point.

Most blocks would have three of these decorations, while others would have two. The plan would include several of the streets in the central business district, Main, Fourth Street, Broadway, Fifth Street and 3rd street.

The block on Main from Fourth to Fifth Streets had to be skipped, due to a lack of buildings along one side. This block, which included the Northern Pacific depot park, would have special decorations provided by the Retail Merchants' Committee. Among other things, Santa Claus' headquarters would be there, relocating from the North Pole.

The following year, in 1955, Santa Claus' headquarters would move again, occupying a trailer in the 200 block of Fourth Street, which the Bismarck Tribune called a busy place. The newspaper remarked, “A steady stream of youngsters have kept Santa busy listening to their requests.”

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel


  • “Christmas Festoons to Decorate Business Area”, Bismarck Tribune, 16 November 1954, page 1, columns 2-8, top.
  • “Yule Season Opens: Santa Claus Arrives Here”, Bismarck Tribune, 26 November 1954, page 1, columns 6-7.
  • “Youngsters of Area Keep Santa Claus Busy Listening to Requests”, Bismarck Tribune, 21 December 1955, page 13, top.
  • “SANTA'S SHACK”, Bismarck Tribune, 9 December 1955, page 1, column 1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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