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


One Page of the Paper

I was doing research on the Chronicling America website from the Library of Congress and was mesmerized by the ads in historic newspapers.  So, similar in concept to my investigations of women listed in the Sioux Falls Business Directory in 1909, this is my research into the advertisements on one page of the Yankton Press and Daily Dakotaian newspaper from July 15, 1882.  The full page is posted on the Chronicling America site here.  This was a year-and-a-half after a major flood in the late winter of 1881 caused major property damage to buildings, infrastructure, and boats in Yankton and Vermillion.

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Culture and College: Two Open-Air Theatres in South Dakota

I recently came across these theatres when looking at National Register-listed properties on colleges here in South Dakota.  They are beautiful and fascinating, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to visit, if ever (seeing as one is now part of a prison), so I’ll make use of photos courtesy of the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office.  I’m curious about how many campuses had similar theatres, or whether other settings were popular as well.

Garden Terrace Theatre, Yankton College, 2008, South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office.

Garden Terrace Theatre, Yankton College, 2008, South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office.

The Garden Terrace Theater at Yankton College was listed in the National Register as a historic district with other college buildings in 1982.  Yankton College was founded in 1881 by a Congregational minister, Reverend Joseph Ward.  The college closed in 1984 and was repurposed as a federal prison.  The theatre was designed in 1913, by A.R. Van Dyke, of Minneapolis, and landscape architect Phelps Wyman, and built in 1914.  It was championed by Professor George Harrison Durand and was funded by local citizens and businessmen for use by the college and the whole community.

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A View into the Future Mead Cultural Education Center

Photo by author, May 9, 2015.

Photo by author, May 9, 2015.

Last weekend, I was able to drive to Yankton to attend an open house at the Mead Building.  It was an incredible visit.  The Yankton County Historical Society has taken on the rehabilitation of the grand building for their Dakota Territorial Museum.  After years of neglect, the building had many needs and the YCHS has worked systematically to address them all.  They’ve completed the roof project and have started working on the windows and historic plaster repair projects.  And their fundraising efforts are commendable, ranging from selling old roof nails as souvenirs to offering naming rights for the different museum galleries.  They’ve also partnered with the Yankton College alumni organization, which will occupy part of the third floor.  I’ll share below a bit of history on the building and more photos from my visit.  Keep up with their progress on their website and Facebook, and help support the project at these links!

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Mead Building Open House

Another exciting event coming up is the open house at the Mead Building outside of Yankton on Sunday, May 10th, 1-4pm.

This was formerly the administration building for the state asylum.  Most of the historic buildings were abandoned when new facilities were built.  After many years and minimal openness to historic-minded redevelopment for the state-owned campus, the Yankton County Historical Society (YCHS) worked out an agreement with the state to rehab this building for their Dakota Territorial Museum.  The state recently went ahead and demolished several of the other historic buildings on the campus. So as one of the surviving buildings, it’s going to be awesome to see the work that the YCHS has been doing.  They’ve worked on the roof, windows, and now have repairs to historic plaster to show off!

South Dakotans will long be grateful to the museum for stepping up and saving this landmark of state history.  It’s a complex, and not always pretty, history of mental illness and medical care, but it’s important.  And the architecture is fantastic…

If you want to support the work they’re doing to make this a first-class destination for the preservation and interpretation of history, please consider making a donation!

Video: the Mead Building before rehabilitation work started.