Finding luxury, comfort, and culture in Fargo, N.D.

“North of normal” offers an exceptional experience

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Fargo’s Jasper Hotel is located in the heart of town, offering panoramic views of the surrounding region, as well as number of outdoor areas to enjoy.

Lori Ann Reinhall
Editor-in-chief
The Norwegian American

I have to admit that before I traveled to Fargo, N.D., I knew very little about it. My exposure was more or less limited to having seen the Coen brothers classic crime movie Fargo (see John Smistad’s review in this issue), with its blowing snow, blistering blizzards, and a gruesome woodchipper scene toward its end. Little did I know what really was in store ….

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The iconic Fargo Theater sign is just down the street from the hotel on a street filled with boutiques and eateries, offering the best of Fargo.

Blue-eyed and naive Seattle city-slicker that I am, I arrived at Fargo’s Hector International Airport on schedule. Picking up my baggage and getting a cab into the city went smoothly—not always a given these days.

I arrived at the Hotel Jasper within a few minutes to experience a seamless check-in. I have to say that I actually liked the Jasper Hotel even before I arrived. The day before there had been a hiccup in my travel itinerary, and it was wonderful to talk on the phone with a staff member who was both friendly and efficient. That would prove true of my entire stay a the hotel.

The Jasper Hotel is located smack in the center of town and is reported to be the best place to stay in downtown Fargo. It’s easy to understand why—it’s a hotel that pretty much offers everything you need, be it for a weekend getaway, a business trip or meeting, a larger conference, or a full-blown party or reception.

Paying homage to a hotelier

Not knowing much about the city of Fargo and its history, I was curious as to how the hotel had gotten its name.  I soon learned from Kyle Gullotto, the hotel’s guest services manager, that the Jasper is named after Jasper B. Chapin (1822 – 1896), an integral figure in the story of Fargo.

Not only did Chapin serve as mayor of Fargo from 1880 to 1882, his entrepreneurship and business savvy helped build up the city. In 1871, he came from New York state to Moorhead, Minn., across the river, where he opened up a hotel. He then moved to Fargo and took charge of a hotel there. Chapin also became a successful farmer and invested his profits in the city of Fargo.

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The Jasper Hotel takes its name from Jasper B. Chapin, the “Father of Fargo,” and its logo is reminiscent of a bow tie that he loved to wear.

With such a clever head for business, Chapin built some of the earliest business blocks in the city, which included the Continental Hotel and the Opera House, also known as Chapin Hall. He set up tent hotels as the railroad was built through the area, a railway that put Fargo on the map and made it a major hub for commerce in the Upper Midwest.

Sadly, Chapin lost this entire fortune in the depression of 1883, and his beloved wife, Emma Jane, died shortly thereafter. Then, he suffered from illness and depression. He died by suicide while undergoing medical treatment in St. Paul, Minn., in 1896.But Jasper Chapin was never forgotten for all that he gave to the city and is called the “Father of Fargo.” When you enter the Jasper Hotel today, you will be greeted by a logo shaped like Chapin’s signature bow tie. And when you go the hotel’s second floor, you will find the guest rooms adorned with red accent features, the color of the boldly red-painted second-story walls of Chapin’s earlier Continental Hotel, which was once located nearby.

Hotel hygge

The atmosphere at the Jasper can be described as elegant and comfortable, “classy but not pretentious” in Gullotto’s words—and this is a very good combination. There is a nod to Scandinavia and Fargo’s Nordic roots with much of the design, but at the same time the overall concept remains true to the hotel’s local roots in Fargo.

The interior design was a collaborative effort between awarded-winning ESG Architects + Design based in Minneapolis and Chicago’s Aparium Hotel Group, the latter which is famous for locally themed boutique hotels, including the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis. “Hotels Done Differently” is Aparium’s tagline, and the Jasper is no exception with its many customized details.

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The décor at the Jasper Hotel is a creative blend of Scandinavian modernism and traditional local comfort, with a large display of local art.

The lobby entrance already sets the tone for your stay. There is very comfortable seating, a mixture of Scandinavian modern furniture and pieces that feel like family heirlooms. You are surrounded by an impressive array of colorful artworks, all created by local talent within a 100-mile radius—and this is only the start of your art adventure during your stay, with art throughout the entire hotel.

As you sit in the lobby and relax, you will look directly into the bar and restaurant area, which are defined by large structural columns, decorated with handmade tile and metalwork. Most notable are the wooden beams that are reminiscent of railroad ties to pay homage to Fargo’s past and the important role of railroads in its history.

Getting comfy and koselig

But for any hotel guest, the comfort of your room is key to a successful stay, and here the Jasper receives a high score. First of all, much is offered that is not to be taken for granted these days, including a stocked mini-bar complete with snacks, a Nespresso coffee machine, and a landline telephone. While I was there to work, I appreciated the desk setup, with all the necessary ports and outlets I needed to be wired. Accessing the complimentary WiFi was very easy, Other special touches included a terry-cloth robe, Grown Alchemist toiletries, a hair dryer, an ironing board and iron, and a makeup mirror in the spacious bathroom. A business traveler—or any traveler for that matter—could not ask for much more.

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The rooms at the Jasper Hotel are filled with amenities to create an environment that can be described as “classy but not pretentious.”

I soon felt at home, not in the least because of the special touches in the room décor. The room had a hand-embroidered pillow and a hand-stitched embroidery piece on the wall with a prairie rose motif, a theme that is found throughout the hotel. I learned from Gullotto that the prairie rose was the favorite flower of Emma Jane, who was very skilled in needlework. The wallpaper in the hotel’s hallways also incorporates the same motif in muted shades of gray, also serving to soften the more modern elements of the design.

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To honor the legacy of Emma Jane Chapin, each room at the Jasper has a hand-stitched pillow with the motif of her beloved prairie rose.

On a personal guided tour with Gullotto, I learned that the 125 rooms at the hotel can vary in their configuration, and there are special rooms and suites. While all rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, many have sweeping views of Fargo and the surrounding area. But without a doubt, the most impressive view is from the Gardner Suite, the hotel’s presidential suite, with its corner panoramic window. With 611 square feet, this premier suite offers a luxurious home away from home for the most discriminating traveler.

World-class cuisine

But with all this comfort and luxury, perhaps the most compelling reason to come to the Jasper Hotel is its food. The cuisine offered at its Rosewild restaurant is simply to die for, on par with anything you will fine in the Twin Cities, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, or New York.

The Rosewild, which also takes its name from the prairie rose, boasts “farm to Fargo” food with “Dakotan sensibilities and rural Nordic techniques.” There must be something to the fact that the surrounding area is home to some of the most fertile farmland in North America; everything I sampled tasted so incredibly fresh and delicious.

As the restaurant website explains, “Rosewild elevates traditional rustic Plains preparations that rely on preservation, fermentation, and foraging off the land.” The menus are seasonal to ensure not only the quality but to offer meals that are appropriate for the time of year in a place that can get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. The menus are full of hearty vegetables and shareable fish and meat dishes.

But not everything is locally sourced at the Rosewild. Since I come from the land of salmon in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to put the restaurant to the ultimate test when I ordered the Broiled Kvarey Salmon, (assumedly sourced from Kvarøy Arctic north of the Arctic Circle in Norway). Not only did the dish pass with flying colors, I can’t wait to go back and order it again. There are also a number of other Nordic-inspired entrées to try, including Stekt Kylling (roasted chicken), Kotlett (roasted bone-in pork chop), Torsk (garlic-roasted Alaskan cod), and Vårsopp Raviolo (a “spring soup” take on risotto).

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The hotel is home to a world-class restaurant, the Rosewild. Its dramatic wooden beams harken back to the days when the railway was built in Fargo.

Desserts are not to be forgotten either. While nothing stood out as particularly Nordic, I thoroughly enjoyed the Coffee Chocolate Torte, served with a cup of coffee made from a blend from a local roaster.

The bar at the Rosewild is also a great place to hang out, with small bites available until 10 p.m. and an assortment of designer cocktails. Who could resist trying a Midsommar Dream or Fargo Fling, the latter made with North Dakota’s own Minions Aquavit.

And, by the way, there is room service at the Jasper Hotel, so you can enjoy many of the things found on the main menu in privacy.

The prairie rose motif is carried out into the hotel’s hallways, with a custom in tones of muted grays and soft white.

More than just a hotel

This is only some of what the Jasper Hotel has to offer. In just two short days with a packed itinerary at the Scandinavian Festival at the nearby Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, I was only able to get a taste of it. The hotel is set up for business meetings, conferences, and events; it is a very popular venue for weddings, of course. There is a beautiful outdoor terrace on the fifth floor to be used when weather allows, and when temperatures dive deep in the winter, there is a Finnish sauna adjacent to the fitness center.

For me, the Jasper has more the feeling of an exclusive private club than a hotel, as I took note of the many activities hosted there: film festivals, jazz evenings and weekend brunches, and yoga classes. To celebrate the two-year anniversary of their grand opening, the hotel recently hosted an outdoor sleep-over on the fifth-floor terrace with music, good food and drink, and much merriment.

Exploring more of Fargo

Then there is the rest of Fargo to explore. If you stay at the Jasper Hotel, you are in the heart of town, with the iconic Fargo Theater sign just down the street. Close by are boutiques (including Stabo’s Scandinavian Imports), eateries, breweries, wineries, and farmers markets to enjoy. Each year, Fargo is host to a number of festivals, both summer and winter. There is a vibrant arts and theater scene, and musical life abounds. The Fargo Air Museum is also a popular destination, and the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead is a must. And what about that infamous woodchipper? It’s on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center.

Yes, on my trip to Fargo, I learned what “north of normal” means in a very good way—and I just can’t wait to go back.

This article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.