Unearthing Fargo’s Promiscuous Past

NDSU students uncovered a large number of artifacts from an early 20th century brothel that used to stand where the new Fargo City Hall is being constructed.

The early years of Fargo had an underbelly of criminal behavior.

The Crystal Palace was a brothel owned and run by a mistress known as Malvina Massey.

NDSU students recovered a lot old bottles, toys, medicine containers, and other artifacts from the brothel’s remains.

“We get a sense of what people were using on a daily basis. So ceramics, stemware, bottles, what they were drinking, what kind of medicine they were using,” says head of the excavation team, Dr. Kristen Fellows.

The finds may also help reveal more about the history of prostitution in the city.

“We want to know, is what happened in Fargo very similar to what happened out in the west that was rural and sparsely populated, or are we looking more at something that was a smaller version of these larger cities,” says Anna Munns, a student working on the project.

Knowing that could paint a better picture of social norms in early Fargo as well.

“It gives us a sense of what was sort of on the margins of gender expectations,” says Dr. Fellows.

Right now the artifacts are pretty dirty and it’s hard to tell what some of them are but at the end of next semester the NDSU students plan on having all their artifacts cleaned and cataloged.

The process along with doing research to date and gather information on the artifacts will take students quite some time, but when they’re done, they plan on donating the artifacts to the North Dakota Historical Society to be put on display for the public.

Excavation leaders say they hope to get out to the construction site again to collect more artifacts before they’re sealed away by the new building.

Categories: Video