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Timeline: 1950s

By | Last Modified: December 31, 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 Junior College moves to its own facility at 900 Boulevard Avenue, where it remains until 1961.
  • Mary College begins offering 2-year programs
  • Williston-founded Conlin’s Furniture arrives in Bismarck upon purchasing Reff Furniture
  • Marcus Fleck establishes the MF Motel at 4524 Memorial Highway in Mandan. It is renamed the Modern Frontier in 1961. It later becomes the Rivertree Inn prior to closing. It was demolished in or around 2013 to make room for the Memorial Square Shopping Center.
  • City Motel opens at 2316 E Broadway. It has been known as Mark V Studio Apartments since 1979.
  • Carter Service Station opens at 6th and Rosser. Today, this continues to operate under the Arco banner.
  • Cowan Building adds three stories to its initial two for an estimated cost of $250,000.


  • 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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