Early Historic Preservation in South Dakota: The Phillips House

Other early efforts to preserve historic properties were not successful, but raised public awareness of the potential for loss of historic community assets.  One of the grand early houses in Sioux Falls was lost in 1966.  The Phillips House was finished in 1884 on a large lot along Covell Lake owned Josiah L. and Hattie Phillips.  Josiah died in 1882, and Hattie finished the house, raised their seven children there, and became a “matron” of Sioux Falls involved in several business, social, and charitable efforts in the community.  The house grounds had landscaped gardens and orchards.

Photograph of Hattie Phillips Residence, c1890, Butterfield & Ralson.  Siouxland Heritage Museums, 1941.015.00005.

Image of the Phillips’ House, Siouxland Heritage Museums, in Booklet, “Sioux Falls: Metropolis of South Dakota, The Leading City of the New State,” 1926.004.00009.

Through the efforts of Waldo and his uncle E.A. Sherman (the ‘father’ of the Sioux Falls park system), Hattie Phillips sold the land and house to the city for a park in 1916.  By 1920, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs had rehabilitated the Phillips mansion into a community house with caretaker’s rooms on the second floor, visitor’s restrooms, and displays of “Indian Relics and other historical collections” on the ground floor of the house with its own historical interest to the community–a very early example of historic preservation indeed, albeit short-lived.  In 1934, 6,300 people attended functions at the community house, but by 1940, the city had stopped using the house.  It was afterwards used temporarily by the local Works Progress Administration for coordinating youth activities.

By the mid-1960s, the first floor of the house continued to be used for park gatherings and restrooms, but maintenance was neglected, and the city believed funds to repair it would be better spent elsewhere.  Hazel O’Connor, with her attorney Charles Lacey, led a year-long protest against the proposed demolition of the house, even circulating a petition to that effect.  Despite their efforts, the city demolished the Phillips House in late September 1966.  In the next few years, O’Connor became involved in the preservation of several other key Sioux Falls historic landmarks.

Hazel O’Connor

O’Connor was also an advocate for downtown improvement, the rehabilitation of the historic Old Minnehaha County Courthouse and Jail buildings, and the improvement of the Big Sioux River while serving as chair of the city federation of Women’s Clubs, member of the county historical society, and charter member of the River Improvement Study and Evaluation group, RISE, chartered in 1969, who spearheaded the clean-up and recreational use of the Big Sioux River.  For her many civic activities, “in 1957, she was named ‘Exemplary Mother of the Sioux Empire’ by the Chamber of Commerce.  In 1963, she was named ‘Citizen of the Week’ by the Argus Leader.  In 1972, she was awarded ‘Distinguished Service Award’ by the Sioux Falls Cosmopolitan Club” [Part of her biography in the Content Description for Hazel L. O’Connor Papers, Siouxland Heritage Museums website].

The Sioux Falls Park Board placed a plaque about O’Connor and her efforts for river improvement at Falls Park along the Big Sioux River in 1981.

At Terrace Park, the remnant of the house that survives at present is the below-grade garage/carriage house…

20140415_Terrace Park_Sioux Falls (18)

Terrace Park, April 2014. Photograph from the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office.


  • Bailey, Dana R. History of Minnehaha County, South Dakota (Sioux Falls: Brown & Saenger, 1899), 664.
  • The Daily Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), June 26, 1937, April 11, 1940.
  • Etc. Magazine 11(8) (July 2012), 94.
  • First Public Report of the Board of Park Supervisors, City of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 1915-1920 (Sioux Falls, SD: Board of Park Supervisors, 1920), 17-18.
  • Harriet Case ‘Hattie’ Daggett Phillips (1841-1934),” Findagrave.com.
  • Odland, Rick D. Sioux Falls (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007), 126.
  • The Sioux Falls Argus Leader (SD), October 1, 1966.
  • Terrace Park: A History of Park Tradition”; and as printed by the Sioux Valley Genealogical Society in a 2008 newsletter, which includes a photo of the Phillips House before demolition.

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