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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A Quirky Place with a View: Rapid City’s Dinosaur Park

I’m working on a couple different posts that are taking a lot of research, so in the meantime, here is a bit of levity.  I recently got to visit Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, built in 1936 by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration.  It was funny how quickly I anthropomorphized the concrete sculptures.  They’re just fun, and the view over the city from Skyline Drive is fantastic.  I’m so glad the National Register of Historic Places-listed site has been preserved by the city and its residents.  Learn more about the project from the “Dinosaur Park” page on the Living New Deal website.


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Public Art in South Dakota

“Dignity,” by Dale Lamphere, photograph by author, 2016.

The new 50-foot “Dignity” sculpture, by sculptor Dale Lamphere and chief welder Tom Trople, installed at a point above the highway at Chamberlain has me thinking about South Dakota’s public art and the history thereof.  So here’s some that I can think of… suggestions and additions are very welcome!

Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Most assuredly the best known work of public art in South Dakota.  The memorial was designed by Gutzon Borglum and built from 1927-1941.  The original idea for a memorial was actually from Doane Robinson, state historian, who proposed carving historical figures of the American West into the Continue reading

Norwegian Heritage in South Dakota

Like elsewhere in the Upper Midwest, a lot of Norwegians came to South Dakota as immigrants and have left their mark on its history.  There are therefore several places to learn about that history around the state, and here are a few highlights to which I’ll hopefully be able to add over time.  Please feel welcome to add comments about other sites that people should check out.

Nordland Heritage Park, Sioux Falls


Chandelier at Beaver Creek Lutheran Church. Photo by author.

The Nordland Heritage Foundation’s park is on 33rd south of Bergsaker Hall at Augustana College (now University I guess…).  The park includes the Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, the Eggers School, the Berdahl-Rolvaag House, and the Rolvaag Writing Cabin.  More on the history of the buildings is posted to their website, here.  This site is particularly interesting because of the connections between the house and cabin to O.E. Rolvaag, a Norwegian immigrant who made his name as the author of the 1927 novel Giants in the Earth about the immigrant experience on the prairie–it’s a haunting book, not a beach read but quality work.  It was the first in a trilogy and he wrote several more, link to Wikipedia bio here.

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South Dakota Architects – Becklin, Benson, and Bentzinger

This post is the second in a series on architects (and some builders) who were residents of South Dakota in order to dig a bit into their lives and work.  Some made a bigger impact and/or left a better historical record than others, but we miss something if we only study the biggest names.  There are a handful that were only mentioned once and I can’t find anything else about them – maybe I’ll include them in a list at the end…  I’ll do my best to restrict these profiles to architects who are now deceased.  If any readers have additional information or corrections, please leave a note in the comments!

Hans Becklin

Hans Becklin was a stone/brick mason in Vermillion who worked on the foundation of the E.H. Willey House and the First Baptist Church there.  Becklin was born in about 1846/1848 in Sweden and emigrated to the U.S. in about 1868.  In the 1880 census, he was recorded as a farmer living with his mother Lisa in rural Clay County (T94N, R51W).  He married in about 1885.  He was recorded as a brick mason in the census lists for 1900 and 1910.


E.H. Willey House, Vermillion, Clay County, South Dakota

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In the Details

Recently I got to visit the Black Hills with friends, and while we chose activities based on what their toddler would like to do (the kid’s adorable), I still got brief snippets of historical insight.  I’ll put together more posts about the trip in coming days, but here’s an initial eye-candy piece for architecture lovers!

The beautiful diversity of Rapid CIty's downtown.

The beautiful diversity of Rapid CIty’s downtown.