From the 2018 SDSHS Conference, part 1

Last week, I was able to attend the 2018 annual conference of the South Dakota State Historical Society, organized by the staff of its Archaeological Research Center (ARC), and held at the Best Western Ramkota hotel in Rapid City.  These are my notes from the presentations (day 1) – they’re not transcriptions, just points I wanted to remember, but hopefully useful to someone besides myself.

If any of the presenters find this page and catch mistakes I’ve made, please let me know.

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Photograph by author, April 27, 2018.


The first two presentations of the conference were given under the theme: “The Long View: Archaeological Perspectives on Diversity.” Continue reading

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Early Historic Preservation in South Dakota: The First National Register Listings

Historic Preservation has a history of its own.  Some of the biggest national stories are relatively well-known to the profession but to see the national story, you have to look at the whole nation, right?  So, I asked myself: What is South Dakota’s historic preservation history?

The law that formalized the federal preservation program was the National Historic Preservation Act, pass in 1966.  A key program of the legislation was the National Register of Historic Places.  At its core, it is an honorary program – a way to research, record, and recognize historic places that meet certain criteria.  For over 50 years, it has been a national, permanent collection of the history of America in its architecture, landscapes, and archaeology.  But over the years, there have been review processes put in place to help government agencies make decisions that minimize harm to our national heritage, and there have been grants and other incentive programs set up to assist in the preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of National Register properties.

The first listings in the National Register of Historic Places in South Dakota were those semi-automatically nominated because they had become National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) previously under the 1935 Historic Sites Act.  In South Dakota, that included Mount Rushmore, the Deadwood Historic District, and the Wounded Knee Massacre Site as well as seven archaeological sites that had been made NHLs in July 1964: Langdeau Site; Crow Creek Site; Fort Thompson Mounds; Mitchell Site; Molstad Village; Bloom Site; Arzberger Site.  The Blood Run National Historic Landmark (now partly designated as Good Earth State Park) was created in 1970.

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Snow in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives

Outside my window is a lot of snow that’s fallen in the last week, so I was curious what South Dakota State Archives’ digital archives had for the best and most interesting historic photographs of snow and snow removal in South Dakota.  There were nearly 1,600 results in a search for the word ‘snow’ (although admittedly, many are Preservation Office photographs of historic buildings that just happened to have been taken in the winter).

Snow is a big part of life on the Plains–beautiful, dangerous, and apparently a popular photography subject over the years.  I do know it generally makes for good building photographs — no leaves on nearby trees to block anything and a high contrast background.  From these historic photos, it looked like heavy snowfalls could be fun in their way, but they also required hard work and ingenuity to clear travel routes.  And of course we have our share of winter sports, especially in the recreation and ski areas of the Black Hills.

Here is a list of my favorites from the state digital archives…

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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. Continue reading

Early Historic Preservation in South Dakota: The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society

Historic Preservation has a history of its own.  Some of the biggest national stories are relatively well-known to the profession: Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, Penn Station, Jane Jacobs in NYC… but to see the national story, you have to look at the whole nation, right?  So, I asked myself: What is South Dakota’s historic preservation history?

SURVEYORS’ HOUSE and INGALLS HOUSE, DESMET (1878, 1887)

One of the biggest heritage tourist draws in the state got its start with local women who wanted to preserve historic homes in De Smet associated with acclaimed author Laura Ingalls Wilder…

“Aubrey Sherwood, Alice Kirchmeier and Vera McCaskell formed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in 1957…They had no real budget or specific plan, but they loved Laura’s books and De Smet.  The Memorial Society slowly began recognizing the buildings in town referenced in the Little House books, and they also began collecting Ingalls family belongings. By 1972, as funding, involvement and community support grew, the organization had acquired the Surveryors’ House and the ‘House that Pa built’ as well as hundreds of original Ingalls artifacts.”

From: Rebecca Friendly, “Profile about Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in De Smet, South Dakota,” littlehouseontheprairie.com.  Also has great info on visiting the site

The Memorial Society formed in 1957 and later incorporated in 1964 [Sierra, “A Brief History of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Family Home on Third Street in De Smet, South Dakota,” virtual tour, Discover Laura Blog].  The current museum complex includes the Surveyor’s House, the Ingalls House, the school that Laura and Carrie Continue reading

Early Historic Preservation in South Dakota: The Old Log Schoolhouse

Historic Preservation has a history of its own.  Some of the biggest national stories are relatively well-known to the profession: Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, Penn Station, Jane Jacobs in NYC… but to see the national story, you have to look at the whole nation, right?  So, I asked myself: What is South Dakota’s historic preservation history?

THE OLD LOG SCHOOLHOUSE, VERMILLION (1939)

The first ‘permanent’ schoolhouse in South Dakota was built in 1864 in Vermillion by Captain Nelson A. Miner and Company A of the First Dakota Cavalry.  It also served as a meeting place for early religious services of multiple denominations, for courses in singing and penmanship, for political gatherings and elections, and for community social gatherings.   After it was gone, the earliest interest in preserving the history of the log schoolhouse was the formation of the Log School House Association by the original teachers and students in the summer of 1905.  In 1909, the Log School House Association erected a monument to the school on Ravine Hill in the approximate location of the original school.

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Early Historic Preservation in South Dakota: Introduction

Historic Preservation has a history of its own.  Some of the biggest national stories are relatively well-known to the profession: Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, Penn Station, Jane Jacobs in NYC… but to see the national story, you have to look at the whole nation, right?  So, I asked myself: What is South Dakota’s historic preservation history?

INTRODUCTION

By the 1930s, the commemoration of territorial history was a major trend for civic communities around South Dakota. The year 1936 was the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Dakota Territory and the year 1939 marked the 50th anniversary of statehood.  Newspapers in the 1930s included dozens of front-page obituaries for the passing of “aged pioneers,” and many communities initiated projects to preserve or commemorate their memories.  On August 30, 1939, the town of Vermillion held Territorial Pioneer Day, with a public program and exhibits at the Clay County Fair, in order to honor the surviving territorial residents and their history.  South Dakota was in line with national trends in this era, and historians have suggested that the “increasingly widespread concern for recovering and exhibiting vestiges of America’s supposedly ‘vanishing’ history” in the 1930s was a reaction to American modern industrialization and malaise about the pace of technological innovation; an effort to create public historical consciousness, civic identity, and social order; or an effort to create a role in the American tourist marketplace for historical restorations.  In 1935, the Historic Sites Act expanded federal protections of historic resources on private property and a substantial number of the sites preserved included those that related to the history of westward expansion.

In the 1930s, reconstruction of historic structures was a legitimate and authentic method of honoring the historic built environment.   Popular American projects in the 1930s like John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Colonial Williamsburg, Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Continue reading