DEVELOPMENT OF MONUMENT BY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Congressional action to establish the Monument moved
in a routine manner, but the path to development was by no means smooth.
Funds were not available for use on the site for some time, consequently
all Service activity was confined to investigation and planning.
An acting custodian was appointed, without
compensation, in January 1939. Visitation reached a point during that
summer demonstrating the need for a least seasonal staffing and for
improved visitor facilities.
The preliminary historical development report for the
area was completed in 1940, and formed a coordinating framework and a
point of departure for later development of the area. Its basic
soundness was demonstrated by the degree to which later studies for
eachphase of development adhered to the spirit of the suggestions made
in the report.
Two National Park Service employees look
at one of the interpretive signs installed after the area was
Statistics on visitation were first recorded in 1941.
The register shows 1,500 out-of-State visitors. Then came World War II
and a drop in visitation for several years.
Most of the time was devoted during the war years to
basic maintenance and protection activities. After the end of the war,
some interpretive services were provided to the large number of
visitors. Early in 1946, Federal regulations governing quarrying
operations by the Indians were adopted.
Local interest in the development of the Monument
increased in 1946. A number of National Park Service officials visited
Pipestone and conferred with local residents, particularly with members
of the Pipestone Civic and Commerce Association. Representative H. Carl
Andersen joined in promoting increased operating funds, which were
assured by late 1947.
An early entrance road.
The Monument was placed on a year-round operational
basis early in 1948. Maintenance and development activity was
accelerated, with the cooperation of State and county officials. Roads
and parking lots were graveled, trails and other visitor-use facilities
improved. A trail guide folder for the area was introduced, and an
exhibit pit opened where visitors might see the catlinite layer in
place. Interpretive signs were also erected along the trails.
Since the area had no buildings suitable for winter
occupancy, a headquarters office was established in the Calumet Hotel in
Pipestone. In 1949 a research program was started for the area, and a
surface survey of portions of the Monument and adjacent lands made.
In the summer of 1949, the local chapter of the
Exchange Club presented a pageant based on Longfellow's "Song of
Hiawatha." This production was inspired by a similar pageant held by
Indian school students in the early 1930's. It proved to be popular,
became an annual event, and led to the organization of the Hiawatha
Club, now a sizable, influential local group. In 1949, too, a nature
trail was developed, along with a plant-labeling program.
In July 1950 the Circle Trail was opened, channeling
visitors past the more important natural and historic features and
proving to be a valuable aid in preventing congestion of the
ever-increasing visitor load.
By the spring of 1951 the eventual closing of the
Indian school was under consideration. The 1949 archeological studies
had pointed out the need to acquire additional land for the Monument in
order to preserve a major portion of the quarry line.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs supported the National
Park Service aims and, pending enactment of legislation, turned over
administrative control of 164 acres to the Service. As closing of the
school neared, legislation was introduced to transfer this land to the
Service. Various bills were considered, but the final version (P.L. 593)
passed and was signed in June 1956.
The Circle Trail gives today's Monument
visitor a pleasant 3/4-mile walk among interesting historical,
geological and biological features.
The actual transfer came as a result of an order of
the Secretary of the Interior on February 16, 1957, which increased the
size of the Monument from 115 to 283 acres. As disposition was made of
other reservation lands, the State of Minnesota developed a game
management area downstream from the Monument. The city of Pipestone
received the balance of the lands and buildings.
While this complex transfer was taking place, many
other important developments were occurring. A series of discussions
began which led to the revival and reorganization of the Pipestone
Indian Shrine Association. By early 1955 it was approved and functioning
as a cooperating association.
Later in 1955 it was proposed that the Pipestone
Indian Shrine Association stock and sell pipes and other pipestone craft
items made by the local Indians. They had supplied items for the
souvenir trade for many years, but the market was sharply seasonal and
cash returns meager. There was much concern lest this craft might die
out from the simple lack of markets. Sales at the Monument began on a
small scale in 1956.
Formally opening the visitor center
immediately following the July 26, 1958, dedication ceremonies is
Director of the National Park Service Conrad L. Wirth. Looking on are
(left to right) Dr. W. G. Benjamin, president of the Pipestone
Indian Shrine Association; Representative H. Carl Andersen of
Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District; United States Senator Edward
J. Thye; Lieutenant Governor Karl Rolvaag of Minnesota; and
Superintendent Paul L. Webb.
During 1955 the picnic shelter house was converted
into a small, temporary museum. The St. Paul Science Museum prepared and
installed exhibits on loan to the National Park Service.
Intensive construction activity was started in the
area in 1957 and continued into 1958, with the completion and dedication
of a visitor center.
Two Sioux calumets with decorated stems.
(Courtesy, National Archives.)
In the center a rambling, one-story, red-brick
building a museum contains a diorama depicting mid-l7th century
Indians quarrying the pipestone, and a series of exhibits portraying the
geology and history of the area. Here visitors may learn how the Indians
fashioned and used the peace pipes and other early pipestone products,
and of the culture and customs that prevailed among the Indians long
before Europeans came to America.
The center, located near the principal in-place
quarry exhibit where pipestone layers are exposed in their natural
position, includes an audiovisual room in which are presented
illustrated programs. The building also houses staff offices, restrooms,
workshop, and storage facilities.
The visitor center and other Monument improvements
a road, two convenient parking sites, utility systems, trails,
and wayside interpretive exhibits were constructed as part of the
National Park Service's continuing program to conserve and develop areas
of the National Park System to meet the upsurge of visitors to the
The growing interest in historic Pipestone is a
pertinent example of the increased use and enjoyment of the areas of the
National Park System by the public. Visitation at Pipestone has
increased from 3,100 in 1946 to 111,271 in 1964. In all areas of the
System the visitor count spiralled from 21 million in 1946 to over 102
million in 1964. By 1966 the National Park Service's 50th
anniversary year a total of approximately 108 million is
anticipated. At Pipestone, the annual visitation is expected to reach
200,000 in a few years.