I got to see a new-to-me town last month when I ventured into Milbank while staying at the former Blue Cloud Abbey. Milbank was established when the Milwaukee Road RR came through in 1880, and was named for Jeremiah Milbank, one of the railroad’s directors. When the railroad set up division headquarters there, many Irish and Dutch came to the area to work for the railroad. A major industry has also been the Dakota Granite Quarry, which produced Milbank granite commonly used for gravestones but also building material [WPA Guide to South Dakota, 193].
With even a brief trip, the range of notable architectural style made an impression. Downtown, there was the post office, library/museum, and theater. On the east end of town, there was the hotel, grist mill, and the Milbank Mutual Insurance building. All photos by author.
The Milbank Post Office was built in 1932-1933 and also served as draft offices and agricultural offices during World War II. Milbank’s post office was first established in 1903. Sources: South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office survey records: CRGRID; and 100 Years in Grant County, South Dakota 1878-1978.
The Milbank Carnegie Library was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It was built in 1906 as part of Carnegie’s philanthropic program to provide funding to libraries in towns large and small throughout the country. It replaced a smaller library established in 1882. The Carnegie Foundation put up $7,000 for the building if the city committed to annual funding and to supplying the land. The library was designed by Minneapolis architect, Ralph D. Church. The L-shape form of the Neoclassical library is unique among South Dakota Carnegie libraries, but not uncommon on a national scale. The city of Milbank built a new library in 1979 and, in 1982, the old Carnegie library became the home of the Grant County Historical Society that was established in 1970. Sources: South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office survey records: CRGRID; Improvement Bulletin 31 (July 29, 1905), 17; and Susan L. Richards, “The Building of Carnegie Libraries in South Dakota.” South Dakota History 20 (1) (1990), 9-10.
The Mill Theater started in 1948 as the DeFea Theater, built by Mike and Pete DeFea. The DeFea’s sold the theater in 1979 and the new owners expanded it in the 1980s. There’s a 1948 or 1949 historic street image on this Flickr page. Sources: Mill 1-2-3 profile on Cinema Treasures website.
I can’t find much on the Manor Motel, but it’s got that mid-century roadside flair…
The Hollands Grist Mill was listed in the National Register in 1981. The windmill was built in 1884, and is the last remaining of such structures in the state. It was built by Henry Hollands, an English immigrant who came to Dakota Territory in 1870. The mill could grind 45 bushels of wheat in an hour and provided power for running saws too. It operated until 1910, when diminished wind-power was attributed to the increase in tree-belt plantings around the area. It was given to the city of Milbank in 1912, moved to a city park in 1928, and then to the Milbank Mutual property for restoration in 1978 after a major windstorm. The hexagonal timber structure has two doors, four windows, and a domed roof that allowed the blades to pivot according to the direction of the wind. The blades have been replaced, the smaller in 1954 and the larger in the 1978 restoration of the mill. The grindstones, drive shafts, and wood drive wheels are all in place. Sources: South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office survey records: CRGRID.
The Milbank Mutual Insurance Company building was designed by Clarence Herges and built in 1966 (from Herges’ AIA profile, although a county history says 1952…). The original design is shown in a postcard on the SD Digital Archives website. That original section is still there, but ground broke for a large tower addition in 1976. It’s a pretty stunning building. Clarence Lorenz Herges (1919-2005) was born in Sisseton, SD, studied architecture at North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU) in Fargo, was in the Army during World War II, and then worked with South Dakota architect Ursa Freed in Aberdeen until starting his own firm in 1952. In 1957, he was partner of Herges, Kirchgasler, & Associates (now HKG Architects) until his retirement in 1988. Sources: 1956, 1962, & 1970 AIA Directory entry for Herges; “Clarence L. ‘Bud’ Herges” on Find-a-Grave website; and 100 Years in Grant County, South Dakota 1878-1978.
Well, if you have more information about these places, or corrections, or idea of what I should see the next time I visit Milbank, please leave me a comment!