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A tale of two cities: 25 years since Riverside and West Fargo merged

The Peking Restaurant in West Fargo once housed the city of Riverside offices. David Samson1 / 2
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An area of north West Fargo was once a whole other city.

And it wasn’t Fargo.

A portion of homes and businesses north of Main Avenue was once a part of Riverside, a small North Dakota town.

It’s been 25 years since the communities of West Fargo and Riverside became one city.

Until then, the two towns were separated by U.S. Highway 10, Riverside on the north side and West Fargo on the south side.

The merger took place in July 1989. Riverside had 500 residents and West Fargo 11,500 residents.

In October 1987, Riverside resident Donovan Witham, then publisher of the West Fargo Pioneer and Midweek Eagle, started a petition drive collecting 156 signatures to have the two cities merge.

“I was the one that spearheaded the drive to consolidate,” said Brenda Warren, who was serving on the Riverside City Council at that time.

“To me, it was a common sense approach. The one person I went to was Don Witham,” said Warren.

Both communities were duplicating services. “We had our own police officer, city water and sewer, city auditor,” said Warren, who still lives in the former Riverside location.

Warren said she sought input from

Riverside constituents before endorsing the merger concept.

“So many people were in favor of it. The city of Riverside had limited funds,” she said. “They felt they could get better services, more services and a better bang for their buck.”

West Fargo saw the merger concept as an opportunity to increase its tax base, Warren said.

A consolidation plan was developed by a Municipal Consolidation Review Commission consisting of the mayors and a city commissioner, including Warren, from each community.

Voters in the April 1988 city elections passed the merger 177-122 in Riverside and 3,846-691 in West Fargo.

A little history

Riverside, one of many names the town has carried during its lifetime, had been around since 1918.

It was first called Haggart, named for pioneer homesteader John Haggart.

The city consisted primarily of a Northern Pacific Railroad section house and livestock station.

Equity Co-op Packing Co., a farmer-owned meat packing plant, opened in Haggart in 1919 and went bankrupt three years later.

The packing plant was purchased by Armour & Co. in 1925.

Armour changed the town’s name to the Village of West Fargo. It became a company-owned town in which only Armour employees could live. That plant closed in 1959.

A group of investors from Southwest Fargo bought the Village of West Fargo.

In 1960, they sold 200 of the 310 acres to Moorhead real estate developer Leonard Eid, who eventually became city clerk, auditor and attorney, according to Fargo Forum archives.

At a Cass County District Court Hearing in June 1967, the village was renamed West Fargo Industrial Park and Southwest Fargo became West Fargo.

On Sept. 17, 1974, following another name change hearing in court, West Fargo Industrial Park, positioned on the banks of the Sheyenne River, was renamed Riverside.

Both Warren and Witham, now 94-years-old, said Riverside residents took pride in their community.

During the past 25 years the former Riverside town site has seen commercial, industrial and residential growth.

Today, West Fargo’s population is estimated at 30,000, according to the city’s web page.