After an absence of over three years, the last of the state agencies returned to Capitol Hill. On this date in 1934, the office of the Secretary of State was moving into the new State Capitol Building. Only the Governor’s Office remained in the downtown area of Bismarck, housed in the Memorial Building.
When the State Capitol Building burned on December 28, 1930, there was an immediate scramble to relocate the offices of state government and replace the thousands of lost records. A number of the smaller agencies, including the Attorney General, the Land Department, the State Auditor and the State Treasurer, were able to find space in the Liberty Memorial Building. The Governor, State Printer and Immigration Bureau found space at the Federal Building, which housed the Bismarck Post Office. The Department of Agriculture and Labor as well as the Department of Public Instruction were located on the top two floors of the Quinn & Ramstad Clinic, and the State Engineer found a home in the Weather Bureau. The Secretary of State moved to offices above Hall’s Drug Store.
Fortunately, the Memorial Building, built next to the City Auditorium, was in the final phase of completion and it was immediately put to use. The Twenty-second Legislative Session, which began shortly after the fire, was divided with the Senate going into the Memorial Building and the House in the City Auditorium. A shed was constructed to offer an enclosed hallway between the two structures. As one senator stated, the new accommodations were more convenient for business between the two houses than those before the fire. Eventually, the Governor’s Office would also move to the Memorial Building.
The new Capitol Building was a product of the Great Depression and was built without frills to consolidate State Government. The Workmen’s Compensation Bureau, created in 1919, had been located in downtown Bismarck since its inception but was moved to the Capitol Building for the first time. Other agencies, such as the State Fire Marshall, the State Mine Inspector and the State Railroad Commission, all of which had been located elsewhere before the fire, were now able to find a spot in the new structure.
Over the next few weeks the Governor’s office would complete its move, and the State of North Dakota got down to the business at hand in the midst of the Great Depression. Without fanfare and without a proper dedication of their new surroundings, the arduous task of rebuilding North Dakota began anew in the Skyscraper on the Prairie.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Tribune April 16, 1934.
The Bismarck Capital January 6, 1931