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Fargo Grain Terminal Collapses


During the wee hours on this date in 1955, the Fargo Grain Terminal collapsed, reducing the massive structure to a massive pile of rubble and grain.

The terminal was the largest privately owned storage facility in North Dakota at the time – second in size only to the State Mill and Elevator.

The building was 122-feet high and consisted of 20 concrete tanks with a storage capacity for 800,000 bushels of grain. At the time of the collapse, it held some 600,000 bushels of wheat and other grains weighing about 18,000 tons.

The structure, built by Ryan Construction Company of Nebraska, was less than a year old, having been completed in August 1954. The contractor told owner Joseph Eichinger to expect the elevator to sink about a foot into the ground as the building settled, saying this was typical for concrete elevators.

Eichinger said the building had listed a bit from north to south, but he and his employees compensated for the lean by shifting the grain inside. This was a common practice with grain terminals of the time.

The terminal was located at the west edge of Fargo on the south side of Highway 10. Its 205 foot-high headhouse had become a local landmark. When Eichinger left at 10 p.m. the previous night, everything seemed normal.

Several hours later, 16 year-old Joe Basquez and his girlfriend parked nearby, becoming eyewitnesses to the events that followed. Shortly after midnight, the young couple saw a blue flame emerge at the top of the structure. Then the ground shook as if from an explosion, but there was no fire. Driving through the darkness, they found the elevator had snapped at its base and had fallen to the ground.

A newspaper story reported, “When it fell northward toward the highway, a railway spur track was heaved six feet into the air. The ground on all sides was buckled.”

The cost of the collapse was estimated at about 1.5 million dollars, most of which was attributed to the stored grain. Almost everything was insured, and barring rain or fire, Eichinger hoped to salvage perhaps two-thirds of the grain from the rubble.

By Merry Helm

Source: The Bismarck Tribune. 13 July 1955, p:1.