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: 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?


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

Germans from Russia Resources in South Dakota

A notable ethnic heritage in north-central and south-central South Dakota is that of the Germans from Russia.  Immigrants from Russia with German heritage had a distinct historical path to the Midwestern prairies that has been of special interest to their descendants as well as historians and architectural historians.  Here are some of the resources about the German from Russia experience in South Dakota and beyond that I’ve come across.  I’ll add to the list as I go, but please feel welcome to comment with your tips and suggestions!

A while back I got to visit the Ludwig Deckert House at the Heritage Hall Museum in Freeman.  The house is pretty awesome, especially because it has a central pyramidal brick chimney that encompassed the kitchen in its base and had smoking racks on the second story portion.  It sometimes takes a detailed eye to distinguish “folk” architecture of different ethnic groups from general vernacular architecture, or between ethnic groups, i.e. between Norwegian and Swedish… but the Deckert House is such a strong example of Germans from Russia folk architecture preserved to museum quality Continue reading

South Dakota Architects – W.F. Blatherwick, C.V. Booth, R.H. Booth

W.F. Blatherwick

Wilfred Francis Blatherwick was born in 1890 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Wilfred F. Blatherwick and Mary Reckner.  In 1913, he graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois.  He did training as a draftsman in Vincennes, Indiana, and worked for a firm called Bausmith & Draine in Cincinnati in 1915.   Between 1918 and 1921, he moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Before forming his first firm with George C. Hugill, W.F. Blatherwick worked as head draftsman and designer for prominent architectural firm of Perkins & McWayne.  Hugill & Blatherwick formed their firm in 1921 and set up offices in the Boyce-Greeley Building in downtown Sioux Falls.  Continue reading

Teaching South Dakota History

I’ve recently come across a few people concerned with the availability of teacher resources and continuing education for South Dakota history.  One was particularly looking for digital and primary digital resources to use with an existing curriculum plan.  I have only moderate experience with planning and hosting youth programs and no professional experience with curriculum development, but I do love research and learning about history.  Their conversations made me think about whether the digital research sources I use on a regular basis, or come across randomly, could help teach significant South Dakota stories.  So this post is thinking out loud about this question…  Let me know if anything here is helpful and please do comment with other ideas or great examples of teaching SD history!

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New Book!

Just arrived today!  A new book “Conservation on the Northern Plains: New Perspectives,” edited by Anthony J. Amato, and published by the Center for Western Studies, arrived in the mail.  I’ve only read as far as the table of contents, but am excited to get into some regional environmental history!

It’s so shiny…