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Timeline: 1950s

By | Last Modified: May 10, 2019



  • Will School closes in December, in service since 1905. The building went onto serve as office space until demolished in 1954.
  • Construction begins on Cathedral Grade School
  • Dakota Theater opens on the northeast corner of 4th and Thayer (October)
  • Preparation commences on widening Main Avenue between 9th Street and 26th Street, adding 12 feet in width to a total of 68 feet. The project uses a combination of local, state, and federal financing. The plan calls for a traffic light to be installed at Airport Road, with conduits installed for future lights at 12th, 17th, and 22nd. In the end, only 12th ever sees a traffic signal.


  • Will-Moore Elementary opens in January adjacent to the former North Ward/William Moore school.
  • St. Mary’s Central High School opens (February)
  • Widespread flooding seen when Missouri River crested at 27.9 feet. The Flood of 1952 was the worst flood ever in Bismarck, topping the previous record set in March 1881. (April)
  • Fleck Motors opens new showroom at Broadway Avenue & 1st Street, replacing old structure destroyed by fire on same site (April)
  • Philip J. Meyer dies of a heart attack. The businessman was a partner in Hoskins-Meyer and founder of KFYR and Meyer Broadcasting.
  • Saxvik Elementary opens, named for H.O. Saxvik (closed in 2016).


  • President Eisenhower makes a stop on July 11, en route to the Garrison Dam dedication.
  • Garrison Dam is enclosed, ending rampant flooding south of the railroad tracks, in turn making the area available for permanent development for the first time.
  • Bismarck was the sight one of the most significant recorded UFO sightings, witnessed by at least 45 people and Air Defense System personnel. (August 5)
  • KFYR begins testing television broadcasts in December. The station’s first network broadcast was the World Series on September 28, 1956.
  • Mandan Oil Refinery is constructed by Standard Oil Company (now Tesoro)
  • Arrowhead Shopping Plaza opens as Bismarck’s first shopping center (November)
  • Rockstad and Leary open first Dan’s SuperValu at Arrowhead Plaza, supplementing Bismarck Supervalu (November)




  • Bismarck’s telephone system converted to the traditional dial system (February)
  • KXMB-TV begins broadcasting (November)
  • Ressler’s Cafe relocates from 210 N 6th Street to 2219 E Main Avenue.
  • Save-Way Superette opens at 223 N 15. It closes in 1982 only to re-open as Stoner’s in 1990. It is sold in 1996 before permanently closing.
  • JCPenney relocates to the northwest corner of 5th and Broadway Avenue from 115 N 4th (October). The $565,000 two-story brick building was built by Webb Realty specifically for Penney’s, who signed a 20-year lease. The second floor warehouse is converted into sales space in 1960, when the store also adds Bismarck’s first escalator. A second location at Main & 6th later opens in 1964, before Penney’s relocated to Kirkwood Mall in 1980.
  • Bismarck Bowling Center relocates to 305 N 23rd Street and closes in 1983.
  • Riverside Elementary opens (closed in 2013)


  • Osco Drug opens first Bismarck store – downtown on 4th Street. It becomes an original tenant for both Kirkwood Plaza – in 1971 – and Gateway Mall – in 1979. National pharmacy chain CVS purchased Osco Drug in 2006. Both locations have since been replaced with brand-new freestanding stores.


  • Hughes Junior High is constructed, opening 1959.
  • The Drumstick Cafe is first established. The long-time restaurant originally opened as a fast food format before evolving into a traditional family restaurant in 1961. It closed in 2002.
  • Highland Acres Elementary opens.


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