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Joseph Bell DeRemer


A leisurely drive through downtown Grand Forks showcases some of the city's most unique and interesting architecture. There is the Art Deco-style United Lutheran Church, on the corner of Chestnut Street and 4th Avenue. The old Presbyterian Church, with its Greek Revival style, looms like a castle, complete with gargoyles, at the corner of 5th Street and Belmont Road. There's also the Masonic Temple on Bruce Avenue. These Grand Forks landmarks, among many others, can be credited to one man - Joseph Bell DeRemer.

DeRemer arrived in Grand Forks on this date in 1902, on his way to the West Coast in search of opportunities in the architectural field, but instead, he decide to make the growing city of Grand Forks his new home.

Within months, DeRemer was hired to design a new residence for the president of UND. The Colonial Revival mansion was a showcase of modern amenities for that day and age, the first in the city to be wired for electricity and to have indoor plumbing. President Webster Merrifield and his wife, Elizabeth Bull, were the first tenants of the elegant mansion. Commonly known as "Oxford House," the building still stands today, and has been renamed the J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center.

DeRemer's connection with UND continued throughout his years in Grand Forks. With its curved staircases and book reading gnomes, Merrifield Hall has whimsical touches inside the elegant and stately exterior. Delta Gamma sorority and Sigma Nu fraternity are other DeRemer creations for the University campus.

Many in the Grand Forks area can recall the old Whitey's Wonderbar on DeMers Avenue in East Grand Forks. Whitey's was designed by DeRemer in the Art Deco style, complete with glass block walls and red neon lighting. Nationwide publications such as Time magazine and The Saturday Evening Post featured Whitey's as one of the "best examples of Art Deco architecture in the country." After the original Whitey's was washed away in the flood of 1997, rebuilding the Forks area landmark was simple. Architects used the Art Deco design again, as an homage to the original Whitey's and the designs by DeRemer.

The next time you're driving through downtown Grand Forks or the UND campus, stop and take a look at the unique architectural styles of Joseph Bell DeRemer. His vision, and his love for his new hometown, has made an undeniable impact on the city of Grand Forks.

Dakota Datebook written by Jill Whitcomb


United Lutheran Church-One in Christ Jesus- http://www.unitedgf.org/history.html

Elwyn B. Robinson Dept. of Special Collections- Joseph Bell DeRemer Papers- Chester Fritz Library-http://www.und.nodak.edu/dept/library/Collections/or744.html

National Register of Historic Places-North Dakota- Grand Forks County- http:www.national registerofhistoricplaces.com/nd/grand+forks/state.html

Grand Forks Life-http://grandforkslife.blogspot.com/2007/06/postcard-hotel-ryan.html

University of North Dakota Factbook-http://www.und.edu/dept/our/factbook/html/alumnicenter.htm

Whitey's Restaurant and Bar-http://www.whiteyscafe.com/