What I’m Reading 7

What I’ve been reading in spare moments over the past few months…

‘This is all the home I now have’: Deserted and Widowed Homesteaders” by Rebecca S. Wingo, Macalaster College on Rural Women’s Studies to promote the new book Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History, with a focus on Nebraska.  The excerpt/adapted text in the blog focuses on ‘non-traditional’ paths to becoming a woman homesteader by desertion or being widowed – which required a lot of hoops to negotiate in the bureaucratic process of claiming the land, and their reliance on male relatives/neighbors to bear witness for their claim.

This great online exhibit: Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting on “the many ways Americans have created a dialogue through public media about these places that embody local and national histories” made the rounds on social media a short while ago.  It’s great to see a study about historic preservation with a particular aspect of media like public broadcasting, and I will have to keep this archive in mind for research generally.  And, it looks like they have some crowd-sourcing transcription on their site–that looks like fun.

I was looking at the SD Agricultural Heritage Museum and can’t believe I missed these exhibits: Land In Her Own Name and Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964.

And finally, I’ve read several good articles in recent issues of South Dakota History, particularly ones on the Presentation Sisters who founded and ran the network of Catholic hospitals in South Dakota, on the experience of one particular Scottish-trained nurse in the Plankinton (I think) area, on the persistence of the sod house building on the South Dakota prairie, and on the women of Brown County who served as nurses and other jobs during World War I.

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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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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

The Renaissance of the Homestake Opera House

In 1984, the theater of the Homestake Opera House burned.  A two-story on Main Street, but with the city of Lead’s steep topography, it’s a three story building at the alley where the theater is located.  The blaze took a long time to extinguish.  An expedient roof was put over the space, but the restoration of the damaged theater is still ongoing.  In recent years, an active schedule of plays, weddings, and other community events has brought renewed energy into seeing a renaissance for the Homestake Opera House.  The newest project is an Interpretive Center telling the history of the opera house and Lead.  They’ll soon be continuing restoration on the decorative plaster and box seats in the theater.

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The street façade of the Homestake Opera House, Lead. Photograph by author, March 2016.

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