History of Bismarck
Before the first white settlers arrived to the area, present-day Bismarck was inhabited by the Mandan Native Americans. The city was founded in 1872 at the site of what was then called Missouri Crossing, because it was there that the Lewis and Clark expedition crossed the Missouri. After it was established, the new town was named Edwinton, after Edwin Ferry Johnson, who was the chief engineer of the Northern Pacific Railway. Since the new town had many residents of German ancestry, the town soon changed name to Bismarck, in honor of the famous chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck became the seat of Burleigh County in 1873 and experienced a rapid boom in 1874, after the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. However, Bismarck was known at the time as a town of outlaws, not exactly ideal for family life.
In 883, the territorial capital of Dakota was moved from Yankton to Bismarck. After the territory was split into two states, North Dakota and South Dakota, the state capital was supposed to be in Jamestown, however the residents of Bismarck strongly opposed to the idea and the capital remained in Bismarck. The State Capitol was completed in 1884.
The last decade of the 19th century was hard for Bismarck, not only because the agriculture-based economy was in a severe decline but also because of a great fire that destroyed much of the city in 1898. The new period of growth and development ensued after the fire, with projects such as Grand Pacific Hotel, Hotel McKenzie and Liberty Memorial Bridge. The economy in the city started growing rapidly again, especially the retail sector.
The old State Capitol was destroyed in a large fire in 1930 and the new art deco capitol was completed in 1934. The skyscraper is still the tallest building in North Dakota.
In 1952, the Missouri River rose and caused the worst flooding in the recent history of the city. The next year, Garrison Dam was closed and its completion led to the creation of the third-largest man-made lake in the United States, the Lake Sakakawea.
The downtown area, and especially the businesses located in it, experienced a period of decay in the second half of the 20th century, mostly due to the construction of major highways outside the city center, which caused many large companies to move away from downtown. The biggest impact on that area was the completion of the Kirkwood Mall. In the 1980s, many of the large retail businesses closed and left Bismarck. Fortunately, the new retail boom is currently taking place in the city, with many new national-level retailers coming to Bismarck.
Geography and Climate
Bismarck is located in south-central North Dakota, on the eastern bank of the Missouri river. The city lies in several butte-like hills over the river, at 1,700 feet above sea level.
The city has humid continental climate with strong semi-arid influences. The winters are long and cold, often snowy and windy, and the summers are hot and usually humid. The hottest month is July, however even then the temperature variations between day and night are quite wide.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Bismarck has 61,272 residents, of which 92.4% are Whites, 4.5% are Native Americans, 1.3% are Hispanics or Latinos, 0.7% are African Americans, 0.6% are Asians, 0.3% are from some other race and 1.5% are from two or more races.
The median household income in 2010 was $39,422 and the per capita income for the city was $20,789.
Bismarck has a generally strong and diversified economy. It is a major government, business and finance hub and also a major distribution center for the agricultural economy in the surrounding areas. The largest employers in the city are State of North Dakota, Medcenter One Health Systems, St. Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck Public Schools, U.S. Government, MDU Resources, Walmart, Aetna, City of Bismarck and Mid Dakota Clinic.
The Bismarck Public Schools system consists of sixteen elementary schools, three middle schools, two public high schools and one alternative high school. The institutions of higher education in the city include the University of Mary, Bismarck State College, United Tribes Technical College and a campus of the Rasmussen College.
Culture and Points of Interest
The main center for the arts in Bismarck is the Belle Mehus Auditorium, which hosts the performances of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra, Northern Plains Dance and other acts. The city has several theatre companies, such as the Capitol Shakespeare Society, Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre and Dakota Stage Ltd.
The city has a large park system and a wide network of recreational trails, most of them operated by the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. The Sertoma Park is one of the favorites of both the locals and the visitors, the Dakota Zoo, Super Slide Amusement Park several miles of bike trails. Another attraction worth mentioning is the Lewis and Clark Riverboat that offers cruises of the Missouri River.
As for the sports, Bismarck does not have a professional major league sports team but the locals are very passionate about their local teams - the Bismarck Bobcats (North American Hockey League) and the Dakota Wizards (NBA Development League).
The largest airport in Bismarck area is Bismarck Municipal Airport, served by Delta Air Lines, United Express and Allegiant Air. As for the railroad transportation, the city is served by BNSF Railway. The city used to be served by Amtrak but the company discontinued service to the city in 1979.
Major highways in Bismarck include I-94 and U.S. Route 83.