Please note that this text-only version, provided for ease of printing and reading, includes 23 pages and may take up to 10 minutes to print. Printing this page will print the introduction, the three essays, the list of sites, and all of the descriptions for the sites featured in the itinerary. If you would like to print a specific section, click on one of the links below, and mark the section you would like to print.
Early Development of Pierre and Fort Pierre
Early Exploration and the Fur Trade
Politics and Government
List of Sites and Descriptions
Maps (print separately)
Learn More (print separately)
Credits (print separately)
The National Park Service’s Heritage Education Services and the South Dakota State Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office, in partnership with the South Dakota Heritage Fund and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers proudly invite you to explore Pierre and Fort Pierre, South Dakota. This Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary highlights 37 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that bring the history of Pierre and Fort Pierre, South Dakota to life.
The Pierre and Fort Pierre travel itinerary offers several ways to discover and experience the historic places that shaped and illustrate the history and development of Pierre and Fort Pierre:
• Descriptions of each featured historic place on the List of Sites highlight its significance, photographs and other illustrations, and information on how to visit.
• Essays with background on important themes in the development of Pierre and Fort Pierre offer context for understanding historic places featured in the itinerary. Visitors can read about Early Exploration and the Fur Trade, Early Development of Pierre and Fort Pierre, and Politics and Government.
• Maps to help visitors plan what to see and do and get directions to historic places to visit.
• A Learn More section provides links to relevant websites such as tourism websites with information on cultural events and activities, other things to see and do, and dining and lodging possibilities. This section also provides a bibliography.
View the itinerary online or print it as a guide if you plan to visit in person. The Pierre and Fort Pierre itinerary, the 48th in this ongoing series, is part of the Department of the Interior’s strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the nation. The itineraries are created by a partnership of the National Park Service; the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers; and federal, State, and local governments and private organizations in communities, regions, and heritage areas throughout the United States. The itineraries help people everywhere learn about and plan trips to visit the amazing diversity of this country’s historic places that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service and its partners hope you enjoy this itinerary and others in the series. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on “comments or questions” at the bottom of each page.
Early Development of Pierre and Fort Pierre
Located along the west bank of the Missouri River in central South Dakota, the Fort Pierre plain is the oldest continuous area of white settlement in the State. The plain’s level terrain provided easy access to the Missouri River and the rolling hills formed a natural border to the west, which made the plain an ideal site for settlement. Artist George Catlin, who visited Fort Pierre Chouteau in 1832, said of the plain, “No site could have been selected more pleasing or advantageous than this; the Fort is in the center of one of the Missouri’s most beautiful plains.”
American Indian tribes were the first to recognize the advantages of the Fort Pierre plain. The Arikara and bands of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota were among the tribes that settled, traded, or passed through the plain. European exploration into the area began with the Verendrye brothers in 1743. Lewis and Clark followed in 1804 and 1806, and trader Manuel Lisa visited the Fort Pierre plain in 1811, noting, “There is a handsome plain, with a row of trees along the margin of the river, and a handsome wood along the border of a little rivulet [Bad River] which flows across the plain.”
European explorers and fur traders realized the natural benefits the area had to offer and soon established fur trading forts across the plain. They built Fort La Framboise in 1817 near the mouth of the Bad River. The Columbia Fur Company constructed Fort Tecumseh in 1822 about one mile north of the mouth of the Bad River and Fort Teton in 1828 about one mile south of Fort Tecumseh, the earlier site of Fort LaFramboise, and the two merged in 1830. Built in 1832 by Pierre Chouteau, Jr., head of the Western Department of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, Fort Pierre Chouteau lies two miles north of Fort Tecumseh. Located halfway between the headquarters at St. Louis and the northern-most posts in North Dakota and Montana, Fort Pierre Chouteau was the logical place for company officials to gather and discuss their business. The United States Army purchased Fort Pierre Chouteau in 1855, and it served as a military post until the army abandoned it in 1857.
When General George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry discovered gold in the Black Hills in 1874, the City of Fort Pierre began to grow because of the gold rush. The shortest route to the Black Hills for eastern gold seekers was by steamboat up the Missouri River to Fort Pierre and then overland across the Great Sioux Reservation, which was still only open to the American Indians. An act of Congress in 1877 opened the Black Hills to settlement and provided for three wagon roads to the Black Hills from the east, one of which was a 200 mile trail from Fort Pierre to Deadwood. The trail followed an old buffalo trail once used by fur traders and American Indians. The Fort Pierre to Deadwood trail was an important factor in the settlement of the Pierre and Fort Pierre area. The trail, the fur trade, military posts, and the location along the river established the growing community. What was once a small settlement that existed merely for the support of the fur trade soon became an important component of the Black Hills gold rush.
Steamboats on the Missouri contributed greatly to the economy of Fort Pierre by bringing people and supplies to the area. In 1876, newspapers reported that the “road from Fort Pierre was lined solid with freight wagons for 30 miles. At Deadwood, the streets were packed with wagons, bulls and mules.” Many new business opportunities developed that year to support the increasing freight business. Fort Pierre boasted a tavern, two hotels, post office, several stores and saloons. By 1880, Fort Pierre had a population of 300 but was still not platted or recognized as an organized town because of its technically illegal location on the Great Sioux Reservation.
In 1877, gold seekers on their way to the Black Hills camped across the river from Fort Pierre and became some of the first settlers in present-day Pierre who were not American Indians. At that time, Pierre had only one log cabin where travelers could stop for food and rest. Fort Pierre remained the primary settlement until the Chicago and North Western Railroad ended its track in Pierre in 1880. After 1880, the majority of the freight destined for Deadwood arrived in Pierre by rail rather than in Fort Pierre by steamboat. Many Fort Pierre businesses moved to Pierre, and Fort Pierre’s population dropped to fewer than 200. For several more years, freight continued to be ferried across the river to Fort Pierre for transport along the trail to Deadwood. The golden era of the Fort Pierre to Deadwood Trail ended, however, when the Chicago and North Western Railroad reached Deadwood from Nebraska in 1886, bypassing Pierre and Fort Pierre altogether.
Platted in 1880 once the railroad arrived, Pierre did not have an organized government until 1883 or incorporate until 1887. Once Hughes County organized in 1880, the commissioners held a meeting to locate the county seat at Pierre and ordered a county seal. By the end of 1880, Pierre had 100 buildings and the population grew from a few dozen in January to nearly 500 by fall. By 1883, business growth was booming in Pierre by Dakota Territory standards. Both West Pierre (the current downtown area) and East Pierre vied for the major business district. East Pierre grew rapidly and was the site of the Wells House Hotel, Pierre University, Presbyterian Church, 48 other business buildings, and 80 houses. In 1884, William S. Wells, the owner of most of East Pierre, offered Henry Karcher $6,000 not to erect his new brick building in West Pierre. Karcher rejected this offer and moved forward with his building. With the construction of 10 more brick buildings on Pierre Street in 1884, West Pierre became the center of business in Pierre. In 1885, Pierre continued expansion with a new water works system that included water lines to all homes and businesses, a horse-drawn street railway between East and West Pierre, construction of Pierre University in East Pierre, a new hose house for the fire department, board sidewalks, and other street improvements.
In 1889, Congress enacted legislation that divided a portion of the Great Sioux Reservation into several reservations and opened the remaining land to homesteaders. With the opening of the reservation, people flooded into Pierre and Fort Pierre in hopes of filing claims on the newly available land further west.
Also in 1889, Congress passed the Enabling Act that divided Dakota Territory into two separate States. Several towns immediately contended to become the new State capital. Pierre emerged successful, and soon thereafter Pierre residents constructed a temporary wooden capitol. The election victory also sparked a building boom in Pierre that resulted in construction of the Locke Hotel, Pierre National Bank, and three new schools during this time. Pierre went through two more capital elections in 1890 and 1904. Pierre was successful on both occasions and became the permanent State capital. Following the 1904 election, South Dakota residents agreed to build a new permanent State capitol building. Construction of the new South Dakota State Capitol began in 1905 and was complete by 1910.
The building boom in Pierre continued once the issue of the State capital location was finally settled. Charles L. Hyde, who owned many lots along Capitol Avenue, began developing the hill district northwest of the capitol by building the Hyde Block in 1906. He went on to construct most of the Upper Pierre Street District and the St. Charles Hotel over the next five years. Construction of a railroad bridge across the Missouri River at Pierre and completion of track from Pierre to Rapid City by the Chicago and North Western Railroad in 1907 also spurred the building boom. The addition of around 200 more houses and many more businesses helped boost Pierre’s population to 3,656.
With its incorporation in 1890, Fort Pierre organized a Board of Trade to advance the community. The board and the opening of the Great Sioux Reservation fueled business growth, but Fort Pierre did not really boom until the early 1900s. In 1903, Fort Pierre had 26 businesses along Deadwood Street and 18 along Main Avenue. The Stockgrowers Bank and F.S. Rowe & Company also constructed new buildings.
In 1906, the Hamm Brewing Company of Minneapolis built a two-story brick building on the corner of Deadwood Street and Second Avenue. The Fort Pierre Bank also opened in 1906, later becoming Fort Pierre National Bank. The Fort Pierre Brickyard opened in 1907 and employed 30 people. The brickyard produced 50,000 bricks a day and provided the brick for several buildings in Pierre and Fort Pierre as well as the State Capitol in Pierre. The next year, an 18-bed hospital and the three-story brick F.B. Davis and Co. Hardware Store opened. By 1910, a growing Fort Pierre had 81 businesses, new utility services, a sewer system, graded streets, sidewalks, and fire protection.
The Missouri River was vital to the start up and economic development of both Pierre and Fort Pierre. The river was the highway on which early travelers passed by the future site of the two towns and steamboats carried supplies and people to the area. The river also created a barrier until the completion of a railroad bridge in 1907. Until then, ferryboats transported people and goods across the river, or during the winter, they moved over the ice. The railroad bridge was important to the Fort Pierre to Deadwood Trail, because after 1880, most of the freight came by rail rather than steamboat.
The river also caused considerable damage to Pierre and Fort Pierre. Before construction of the Oahe Dam three miles north of Fort Pierre in 1962, floods were extremely destructive to both communities. In 1881, the snow built up for five months beginning in October, and four feet of ice covered the river. When the snow began to melt in March, the fast rising river broke up the ice and created an ice dam at Farm Island four miles southeast of Pierre. The backed-up river quickly flooded the lower reaches of Pierre and Fort Pierre, and large chunks of ice crashed into buildings. During the flood, the river was estimated to be more than two miles wide.
The last great flood overtook the area in April of 1952, reportedly flooding the same area as the 1881 flood. A warm spring rapidly melted the snow after heavy snowfalls all winter. The flood stage reached over 25 feet leaving two feet of water on the first floor of businesses and homes on the Pierre and Fort Pierre flats. The water measured 10 feet over the 15 foot flood stage set at the old 1926 highway bridge. The Oahe Dam helps prevent any more floods from occurring and supplies electricity to much of South Dakota. The floods of 1881 and 1952, and many smaller floods throughout the years, destroyed much of Pierre and Fort Pierre. After each disaster, the residents were determined to clean up, rebuild, and expand their cities.
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Early Exploration and the Fur Trade
Because of geography and the abundance of wildlife, many groups visited, settled on, or pursued control of the land where present-day Pierre and Fort Pierre sit. A number of American Indian tribes, including the Arikara and bands of the Nakota, Lakota, and Dakota (commonly collectively referred to as the Sioux), all inhabited the area because of its natural advantages.
The Arikara generally lived in large fortified villages where they constructed earth lodges encircling a central plaza. During the early to mid 1700s, approximately 24,000 Arikaras inhabited more than 30 fortified villages along the Missouri River. During the 18th century, bands of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota began moving west out of present-day Wisconsin and Minnesota, where they encountered the Arikara. Following decades of warfare with the Sioux and disease from interaction with individuals who were not American Indians, the Arikara population drastically declined, and those remaining continued migrating north along the Missouri River, where they eventually aligned with the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes in present-day North Dakota.
Compared to the Arikara, the Sioux were much more nomadic utilizing the tipi as their primary dwelling and relying heavily on horses. During the 1700s, the Sioux divided into seven closely related tribes, each named for the region they inhabited or after a peculiar characteristic. These seven tribes joined in an alliance of the Seven Council Fires for their mutual protection. The Seven Council Fires included the Mdewakantons (People of Spirit Lake), the Wakpekutes (Leaf Shooters), the Wahpetons (People of the Leaves), the Sissetons (People of the Swamp), the Yanktons (People at the End), the Yanktonais (People Near the End), and the Tetons (People of the Prairie). The Tetons, also known as the Lakota, were the primary tribe that lived in the present-day Pierre and Fort Pierre area. In 1804, Tetons living near the confluence of the Bad and Missouri Rivers in present-day Fort Pierre had a tense standoff with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
European exploration of the area began in 1742 when Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye embarked on an expedition to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. On March 30, 1743, after visiting with local Arikaras, the Verendrye brothers buried a lead plate on a small hill overlooking present-day Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Discovered by a group of local teenagers in 1913, the plate claimed the region for France and documented the Verendryes as the first known French Canadian explorers on the northern plains.
After the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to locate a water route across the continent, document the flora and fauna they discovered, and establish friendly relations with the people they met. Lewis and Clark described the Upper Missouri Region – the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota and Montana – as a place with abundant beaver and buffalo but few trading forts.
The published reports of the expedition sparked interest in the fur trade along the Upper Missouri and led to the building of many trading forts and posts in the region. Trading posts began Euro-American penetration of the western frontier. The American Fur Company, a trade giant in the east, quickly spread its operations west. The company created its Western Department in 1822, which included the Upper Missouri region. The company was soon the dominant force in the fur trade and set the standards as to how the trade would operate. The company constructed Fort Pierre Chouteau in 1832 as one of its main distribution points on the Upper Missouri. Fort Pierre Chouteau was second only to Fort Union in North Dakota, as the most important outpost on the northern plains.
The main posts like Fort Pierre Chouteau received trade goods from St. Louis and became the collection point for furs shipped back to St. Louis. The main posts supported spread out regional posts with supplies. These regional posts sent furs back to the main posts. The regional posts in turn supported temporary trading posts or wintering camps near an American Indian village where they could trade directly with the American Indians. Much of the trade happened at these local posts, but trade also occurred at Fort Pierre Chouteau with American Indians camped nearby. Along with Fort Pierre Chouteau, eight other forts existed in the vicinity between 1817 and the early 1860s, including Fort Tecumseh (forerunner of Fort Pierre Chouteau) and Fort LaFramboise (site of the present-day City of Fort Pierre).
In the Upper Missouri region, the basis for the fur trade was the bison, or buffalo robe. The American Indians procured and processed the robes and then brought them to trading posts in exchange for manufactured goods. The traders at the posts would then press the furs into packs and prepare them for shipment. After shipment to St. Louis, the robes were transported to eastern markets. Robe production by the American Fur Company reached 40,000 per year during the 1830s, increased to 90,000 a year in the 1840s, and an annual average of 100,000 bison robes by 1850.
Through these scattered areas of white civilization on the western frontier, traders introduced American Indians to European trade goods, which led to significant changes in their way of life. Tobacco, coffee, beads, tin cups, spoons, fabric, and knives were all traded for pelts and buffalo robes. Tribes occupied many strategic locations along the Missouri River, so good relations with the American Indians were vital to the fur trade. Traders and American Indians built alliances based on the exchange of material goods, and the trade flourished because it initially benefited both societies.
Most of the furs obtained by traders in South Dakota and the Upper Missouri region were from animals killed by the American Indians. Trappers and traders were able to rely on their own skills, but it was much easier and more profitable to trade with the American Indians. They were much more familiar with the land on which they lived and movements of the animals throughout the seasons. Traders provided American Indians with tools such as rifles, traps, and knives to enhance the already profitable arrangement. Trade brought an influx of manufactured goods to the American Indian tribes, which they quickly put to their own uses.
The fur trade had benefits and drawbacks. One of the drawbacks was the spreading of diseases such as smallpox, whooping cough, and cholera throughout the area. While the American Indians did benefit from the goods they obtained from the traders, the profits for traders and their investors often ranged from between 200 and 2000 percent. The fur trade also helped open the area for further settlement of people who were not American Indians. This settlement led to rising tensions, which caused relations between the American Indian tribes and the United States to deteriorate.
In present-day South Dakota, the fur trade had all but ended by the 1860s after the sale of Fort Pierre Chouteau to the United States Army in 1855 and the abandonment of other posts and forts throughout the area. The westward expansion of the American frontier, the impact of this movement on the environment, and the decline in markets for dressed fur all contributed to the decline of the fur trade in the Upper Missouri region. Much of the physical evidence of the fur trade has been lost with the deterioration and dismantling of most forts and posts shortly after abandonment. Most of what we know about these sites comes from archeological research.
The study of American Indians and their cultures through analysis of artifacts such as tools and pottery, structural remains, depressions in the earth, trade items such as beads and buttons, and military items, is extremely important in parts of South Dakota where much of the history is still unknown or undocumented. The people who lived and passed through this area left evidence of the way they interacted with the land and other groups of people. Archeological investigation helps the public understand how American Indians and Europeans lived and interacted with each
Cultural resources provide valuable information about the early inhabitants of South Dakota and are significant to American Indian tribes whose ancestors lived in the area. The removal of artifacts or vandalism at sites that contain the material remains people left behind is prohibited by law and is disrespectful of the peoples who have cultural ties to the sites. A majority of the archeological sites in the Pierre/Fort Pierre area are not accessible to the public. We hope that by visiting the few sites that are, such as Fort Pierre Chouteau, the Verendrye Site, Old Fort Sully, and the Turtle Effigy, visitors will appreciate these irreplaceable testimonials and understand the importance of preserving what does remain.
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Politics and Government
Pierre's identity has always been closely tied to its status as the State capital. Any history of the city is incomplete without some discussion of Pierre as the seat of government. Likewise, any trip to Pierre is incomplete without visiting the South Dakota State Capitol. Soon after the formation of the community in 1880, talk of the capital began, but achieving the designation as State capital did not come easily for Pierre. It was a long drawn out process that involved several hotly contested campaigns and a few key challengers. Becoming the State capital was a sought after honor, not only bringing prestige to any city and its citizens, but also almost guaranteeing rapid population growth, higher property values, and an increase in income and revenue from visiting legislators and tourists. Almost immediately after Pierre won the temporary capital fight, the town experienced a “building boom of over $700,000 in new houses, hotels and building blocks.”
The struggle for the South Dakota State capital began on February 22, 1889, when the United States Congress passed the Enabling Act, which divided Dakota Territory into North and South Dakota and authorized each to write a constitution and form State governments. On October 1, 1889, South Dakota held an election to choose legislators, judges, and representatives, and to select a temporary location for the State capital.
The quest proved to be a long and brutal ordeal. In all, six cities earnestly vied to be the capital: Pierre, Huron, Mitchell, Sioux Falls, Redfield, and Watertown. Pierre won the 1889 capital election with 27,096 votes compared to Huron’s 14,944. Although Pierre won, the quest to be the State capital was far from over, because the 1889 election only made Pierre the temporary capital. Article XX of the South Dakota Constitution stated that voters must decide on the location of the permanent capital in the November 1890 election. Pierre and the 1889 runner-up Huron fought hard in the 1890 campaign. Pierre easily won the capital race once again with 41,969 votes to Huron’s 34,610.
The 1890 election did not settle the issue either. Legislators introduced bills to move the capital in 1893, 1895, 1897, and 1899, but each failed. In 1904, Pierre’s opponents gained enough support and organization to force another vote. Among Mitchell, Huron, and Redfield, a caucus of the whole legislature selected Mitchell as Pierre’s opponent. In the final vote, Pierre again won the capital fight with 58,617 votes to Mitchell’s 41,155.
Pierre was finally unquestionably the State capital. Attention next turned to plans for a permanent capitol building. Built in 1890, the temporary wood frame capitol needed replacement. Outgoing Governor Charles Herreid in his 1905 message to the legislature said, “South Dakota needs a new state house, fireproof, commodious and in harmony with its progress and prosperity”. To save money, South Dakota hired Bell & Detweiler Architects of Minneapolis, Minnesota and adopted the firm's Montana State Capitol design for the South Dakota State Capitol with some variations. The design and construction of the four-story Neoclassical building from 1905 to 1910 cost just under $1,000,000. Building materials included a 30 inch base of Ortonville granite from Minnesota, Marquette Raindrop sandstone from Michigan on the first-floor exterior, and Bedford limestone from Indiana on the second and third floor exterior walls and the lower rotunda.
The granite cornerstone in the southwest corner of the building is a four-foot by four-foot cube with the State seal on one side and 1908 on the other. Laid on June 25, 1908, the cornerstone contains coins, the building contract, capitol bills, a Bible, inaugural addresses, photographs, architectural drawings, and newspapers. In 1932, the State added an addtion to the north side of the State Capitol building to meet the growing needs of the government.
The interior of the capitol with its fine art and interior decoration is just as exquisite as the exterior. The William G. Andrews Decorative Company of Iowa was the contractor for the large murals and other interior art. The interior materials include mosaic marble and hardwood for the floors, plaster for the walls and ornamental work, marble for the wainscoting, stained glass on the dome, and scagliola on the columns. According to one legend, 66 Italian artists worked on laying the Terrazzo flooring throughout the capitol. Most artists like to leave their signature on their artwork, but rather than allowing all 66 to sign their names somewhere in the capitol, each artist had a special blue signature stone. Only 55 of the 66 blue stones have been found.
After Pierre became the permanent State capital following the 1904 election, the city experienced another building boom. Many of the buildings and homes constructed during this period are still extant today and, along with the State Capitol, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Examples included the Stephens-Lucas House (1904), Hyde Block (1906), Capitol Avenue Block (1908), Pierre Street Block (1909), St. Charles Hotel (1911), and the Karcher-Sahr House (1911).
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List of Sites (Click on the name of any site in the list to go directly to a specific text-only version found below)
• Dr. William and Elizabeth Blackburn House
• Brink-Wegner House
• Central Block
• Chicago and North Western Railroad Bridge
• Crawford-Pettyjohn House
• Farr House
• I.W. Goodner House
• Peter Hansen House
• Hilger Block
• John E. and Ruth Hipple House
• Horner-Hyde House
• Hughes County Courthouse
• Karcher Block
• Karcher-Sahr House
• Henry M. McDonald House
• George McMillen House
• Judge C.D. Meade House
• Methodist Episcopal Church
• Pierre Hill Residential Historic District
• Pierre Masonic Lodge
• Rowe House
• Kenneth R. Scurr House
• Soldiers & Sailors World War Memorial
• South Dakota State Capitol
• St. Charles Hotel
• Stephens-Lucas House
• Upper Pierre Street Commercial Historic District
• Jefferson Davis Carr House
• Old Fort Pierre School
• Stockgrowers Bank
• Gaylord Sumner House
• United Church of Christ
• Fort Pierre Chouteau Site
• Oahe Chapel
• Old Fort Sully
• Turtle Effigy
• Verendrye Site
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Dr. William & Elizabeth Blackburn House
The Blackburn House is one of the oldest remaining residential buildings in the City of Pierre and has been the home of several prominent members of the community. H. O. Fishback, a banker and real estate speculator, constructed the house in 1883 as an example to encourage new settlers and to help establish the new community in East Pierre. The house is a fine example of the Late Victorian Stick style.
The home has a cross gable roof that creates an asymmetrical front façade. The façade features ribbons of three one-over-one double-hung windows on both the first and second floors. A gabled dormer interrupts the roof of the front façade. The base and the pediment of the dormer have octagonal shingles, and the window is a canted bay window. The exterior features horizontal and vertical stick bracing ornamentation. Beaded wainscoting covers the bottom two feet of the exterior of the house. An open porch topped with a high pitch cedar-shingle roof continued from the rest of the house completes the front façade. The porch roof supports are lightly figured posts with decorative “sunrise” brackets.
William Maxwell Blackburn, who purchased the house in 1887, was an ecclesiastical historian internationally known through his authorship of numerous books and articles. While living in the house, he continued to write books and articles on various topics of local and national interest such as the philosophy of education, geology, and South Dakota history. Blackburn published more than 30 books on topics ranging from young adult fiction to religious histories. He also was a founding member of the South Dakota Historical Society. While living in the house, Blackburn served as president and active promoter of Pierre University, a Presbyterian institution in East Pierre from 1885 to 1898. The house is the only known remaining building that has any documented relationship with Pierre University.
The third owner of the property was C. B. Billinghurst, a well-known, important community leader in Pierre during its second boom period after 1900. Billinghurst was a prolific writer on topics of local and statewide concern. He published his articles in his own newspaper, the Pierre Daily. They also appeared in other South Dakota community newspapers. He established the State Publishing Company with J. Hipple. Billinghurst kept an office in the home where he pursued his writing and managed his various business interests.
Harold and Irma King became the fourth owners when they bought the Blackburn house in 1927. The two opened King’s Korner Grocery in 1937. Harold was a fireman at the Pierre Airbase assigned to the Corps of Engineers. He also served as Hughes County Treasurer and Pierre Assessor. Irma was a national award-winning poet, songwriter, and author. Her lyrics to the song “These Dakota Lands” received the 1988 Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Many of Irma King’s poems center on the Blackburn House.
The Dr. William & Elizabeth Blackburn House is located at 219 South Tyler Ave in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Built in 1904, the Brink-Wegner House is one of Pierre’s most ornate and interesting homes. The Shingle style home contains one of the best period interiors in the State, including a mural ceiling in the dining room. It was first home to Andrew C. Brink then owned by the H. C. Wegner family for many years. Wallace Curl purchased the building in 1965 and moved it from 109 South Highland Avenue to its present location.
Shingle style features include the irregular gambrel roof, clapboard siding and four types of shingles siding the upper two-thirds of the building. A variety of window shapes and sizes and a second story bay window with a conical top and finial on the house are additional manifestations of the style.
Andrew C. Brink was one of the city’s most prominent real estate men and contractors when he built the house in 1904. Some believe the design resembles a side-wheel steamboat, an important mode of transportation on the Missouri River on which Pierre is located. Brink lived in the house until his death in 1912, and his family continued to reside there until 1923 when Henry C. Wegner bought the home.
Wegner was the owner of South Dakota’s oldest automobile agency, which is still in business, and his heirs owned the house until 1965 when Wallace Curl, a Pierre educator, purchased and moved it. The Brink-Wegner House was originally located on Highland Avenue near the St. Charles Hotel. Curl moved the home in 1977 to prevent its demolition. The house was the last residential building in a prime commercial location.
The Brink-Wegner House is located at 110 East 4th St. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Built in 1884, Central Block was one of the first masonry commercial blocks erected in Pierre and was often referred to as the handsomest building in town. It provided space for two major retail businesses on the first floor, housed several small professional offices on the second floor, and served as a prototype for further business construction in the city during the next 25 years. It is one of the few remaining historic buildings within the city’s original commercial district.
The 1884 Republican Territorial Convention Ball was held in the new Central Block. The ball was the occasion of the grand opening of the building. The Rochester Orchestra entertained several hundred guests.
By 1887, William F. Baird controlled much of Central Block. He was a partner in the Baird, Burke & Brown real estate firm, which continues today as Burke Real Estate. Baird’s wife, Alice, was Pierre’s first female physician, specializing in “diseases of women and children.” She had her practice in the Central Block throughout the 1890’s. In the early 1900’s, Henry R. Horner owned the southern half of the building. Horner served as the 1884 delegate to the Hughes County Republican convention and as Pierre City Attorney. He was elected to the South Dakota Senate in 1893 and 1897. Horner’s law firm, Horner, Martens, and Goldsmith, exists today as May, Adam, Gerdes, and Thompson and is the oldest law firm in South Dakota. Since the building opened in 1884, it has housed grocery, pharmacy, clothing, variety, and appliance stores. In addition, many prominent attorneys, real estate agencies, and health care professionals have had their offices here.
Central Block is a two-story commercial building with a stone foundation and masonry walls. Trimmings are made of St. Louis pressed brick and Kansas stone. The building is designed in the popular Commercial style and has Italianate features. The east façade has glass store fronts with large separate doors for each retailer. A central entry door leads to the second story. The second story fenestration features seven elongated rectangular windows with stone window hoods. The center window is capped with a carved stone plaque with the words “Central Block” in relief. Above the window line is an intricate pressed metal cornice, supported by brick corbelling.
Central Block is located at 321-325 South Pierre St. in Pierre. It houses two businesses on the main level that are open during business hours and apartments on the upper level.
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Chicago and North Western Railroad Bridge
The Chicago and North Western (C&NW) Railroad completed this bridge in September 1907. The bridge provided the first permanent Missouri River crossing in central South Dakota linking eastern South Dakota and the west river region. It also connected western South Dakota to Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Before the building of the railroad bridge, people crossed the river between Pierre and Fort Pierre by pontoon bridges, steamboats, and by walking across the ice in the winter.
The Chicago and North Western Railroad laid tracks to Pierre by 1880. The company announced plans to expand the line across the Missouri River and on to Rapid City and the resource-rich Black Hills in September 1905. Major work commenced in the fall of 1906 and was complete in September 1907. The first passenger train crossed the bridge October 14, 1907. A decline in rail traffic caused the C&NW to sell the line to the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad (DM&E) in 1986. Rail traffic soon increased under DM&E ownership.
The C&NW played an extremely important role in the settlement of much of South Dakota. By the late 19th century, much of eastern South Dakota had railroad service, but few railroads ventured into western South Dakota, partially because of the large areas closed to white settlement. By the 20th century though, the reduction of the size of reservations opened the rest of the land for settlement. The railroads almost immediately built bridges to cross the Missouri River and laid tracks in western South Dakota to reach Rapid City, the urban gateway to the Black Hills.
The 2,200-foot bridge is a multi-span pin-connected Pennsylvania through truss design with steel superstructure. The bridge is set atop granite-faced piers. The Pennsylvania design was for long-span applications requiring heavy carrying capacities. The second span from the east end of the bridge is a swing span that would rotate open to allow passage to high-clearance boats. The swing span is no longer functional. The Chicago and North Western Railroad Bridge is the only swing bridge remaining in South Dakota.
The Chicago and North Western Railroad Bridge follows US Hwy 14/83 and SD Hwy 34 and is located over the Missouri River between Pierre and Fort Pierre. For more information, visit the South Dakota State Archives Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge Construction website.
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The Crawford-Pettyjohn house is one of the best examples of Queen Anne architecture in Pierre. The original owner, Coe I. Crawford, lived in the house from 1885 to 1896. He was the State attorney general from 1893 to 1897. Crawford was elected governor in 1906 and began to institute major reforms in the next election including a direct primary, anti-lobbying legislation, and controls on campaign contributions. Two years later, he successfully beat A.B. Kitteridge, the leader of the Stalwart Republicans, and became a United States senator.
Robert S. Vessey succeeded Crawford as governor. He is thought to have lived in the house while in office from 1909 to 1913, although the 1910 census and 1910-11 Pierre City directory have him listed as living at 528 North Highland Avenue. Frank Pettyjohn bought the house in 1919. Pettyjohn controlled several grain elevators.
The Crawford-Pettyjohn House is a two-story Queen Anne. Its Queen Anne features include a hip roof with cross gables, asymmetrical façade, full-width porch that extends along the south and east sides, decorative shingles in the gables, a turret in the corner, and turned balusters on the porch. The foundation is made of glacial stones collected in the area and also incorporates a large unmovable boulder. Originally constructed in 1885, the house underwent a rebuilding project in 1908. In 1966, the Neilan family restored the home, which by that time was in a ruinous condition.
The Crawford-Pettyjohn House is located at 129 South Washington Ave in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Built in 1904, the Farr House is a handsome example of an uncommon centered gable home in the Colonial Revival style. This style mimics high-style Georgian or Adam prototypes. The house is distinguished by the high quality of workmanship throughout and is also significant for its associations with several important citizens of Pierre.
Architect E. J. Donahue of St. Paul, Minnesota was the designer. The home features elaborate exterior ornamentation, including a full length front porch with Ionic columns, massive two-story Ionic pilasters, Palladian windows, and a dentil cornice with modillions. The interior contains an original mural by Y. Edward Soderberg, which serves as a frieze in the dining room. The canvas wall painting and the original maple floors have been restored.
Colonel Farr was a Civil War veteran who came to Pierre to assume the vice presidency of the National Bank of Commerce. His wife, Dr. Mary Noyes-Farr, was a pioneer physician and one of the first woman doctors in Pierre. Dr. Farr originally planned to use the house as a hospital.
Governor Peter Norbeck, South Dakota's ninth governor, lived in the house from 1917 to 1921. He went on to become a United States senator from 1921 until his death in 1936. Norbeck’s vision led to the creation of Custer State Park in the Black Hills. He was also responsible for the building of a state-owned cement plant, a workman's compensation law, and hydro-electric and road development. His senatorial career reflected his concern for wildlife conservation and park development. Norbeck was influential in the naming of the Badlands as a national monument and is credited with the inclusion of Teddy Roosevelt's image on Mount Rushmore.
Governor Gunderson also resided in the home for a brief period. Restored in 1993, the house is now open as a bed and breakfast.
The Farr House is located at 106 East Wynoka St. in Pierre and is currently run as an inn called the Norbeck House Inn. For more information call 605-224-7474 or visit the Norbeck House Inn website.
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I. W. Goodner House
The I. W. Goodner house is an excellent local example of Colonial Revival architecture in Pierre. Design elements of the Colonial Revival style include the asymmetrical façade, large wraparound porch with simple Tuscan columns, multiple-pane windows, and plain railing with spindles. The house was originally a one-and-one-half-story house constructed between 1881 and 1885 for I. W. Goodner, clerk of the South Dakota Supreme Court, and is one of Pierre’s oldest homes.
Goodner came to Pierre and held many positions over the years. He was the official reporter of the debates of the South Dakota constitutional convention in 1885 and 1889, the first clerk of the Supreme Court, city attorney, and state’s attorney for Hughes County from 1900 to 1904. In 1901, he received an appointment to the State Board of Regents of Education by Governor Charles N. Herreid and in 1903 became president of the board by election. Goodner won marked distinction as both a trial lawyer and a counselor.
Originally designed in the Gothic Revival style, the Goodner House underwent a major transformation in the early 1900’s that changed the style to Colonial Revival. The change also added a full second story and attic with three gabled dormers and columns. The changes to the house reflected the Goodner family’s need for added space as well as a significant modernization to a newer architectural style.
The I. W. Goodner House is located at 216 East Prospect Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Peter Hansen House
The Peter Hansen House is a two-bedroom Westchester Deluxe model Lustron house built in 1949. The house is one of two Lustron homes in Pierre and 38 in South Dakota. Lustrons are made of steel and are significant illustrations of the types of homes built in the United States to meet the housing shortage after World War II. The steel house is 31’ by 35’ set on a concrete slab foundation. The exterior is clad in 2’ by 2’ gray porcelain-enameled steel panels. The bottom row of panels and the entry have been painted brown.
Toward the end of World War II, the United States experienced a shortage of housing for the influx of returning soldiers and their new families. An estimated need for 15 million new homes led the Federal Government to subsidize a number of companies to produce prefabricated homes. The Lustron Corporation was the most heavily capitalized and industrialized.
Carl Strandlund founded the Lustron Corporation in hopes of building enameled steel gas stations but quickly converted his idea to apply to the housing needs. After receiving a loan from the Federal Government chartered Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Lustron Corporation began constructing prefabricated houses in an adapted aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio.
The Lustron home came in three models: the Westchester (standard or deluxe, which was the most popular model), the Newport, and Meadowbrook. All exterior and interior surfaces of the houses and garages were made of enameled steel, which made them durable and easy to maintain while giving them a sleek, modern look. A ceiling radiant system heated the homes. Built-in features in the Westchester Deluxe model included storage units, a master bedroom vanity, a china cabinet with a pass through from the kitchen, a combination dish and clothes washer, and a bay window. Prefabrication and construction methods the company developed made it possible to build a Lustron house in one to three weeks.
In the end, however, the company faced a scarcity of materials; the funding ran short, and the factory was slow to start up leaving many orders unfilled. In addition, the company did not develop an effective distribution system. Pressure from lumber and concrete companies fearful of losing business to all-steel housing made it difficult to find funding and acceptance. The company only constructed about 2,500 houses total before it declared bankruptcy in 1950.
The post-war housing shortage in Pierre was exacerbated by construction of the Oahe Dam, one of four Pick-Sloan Plan dams constructed in South Dakota after the war that were part of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program to conserve, control, and use water resources in the Missouri Basin. An influx of workers between 1948 and 1953 increased Pierre’s population from 5,000 to 10,000. This growth created a need for housing and brought a sudden prosperity to Pierre’s businesses and industries. Pierre’s two Lustron houses date from this time.
The Peter Hansen House is located at 1123 East Capitol Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Dating from 1883, the Italianate style Hilger Block was the first brick commercial building constructed in Pierre. The building has played an important role in local commerce and economic development ever since. Pierre became the economic center of south central South Dakota during the great Dakota boom of 1878-1887, an era of good weather and the gold rush in the Black Hills. Because of the economic boom, J.D. Hilger built the Hilger Block and operated a clothing store there. He later partnered with Anthony Hengel to form Hilger and Hengel Clothing Company, which occupied the first floor. The upper level housed professional offices. The 1890 Pierre Directory listed 12 tenants in the building. Hengel eventually became sole owner and named the business the Tony Clothing Company. The upstairs continued to house professional offices, mainly for doctors, attorneys, and insurance agents.
The Hilger Block was considered one of the most desirable business buildings in town because of its central location in the business district. Because it is in West Pierre, which eventually prevailed over East Pierre as the central business district, the building became one of the most sought after pieces of real estate in town. A year after its construction, 10 more brick commercial buildings replaced wooden buildings on Pierre Street strengthening the town’s economic prominence in the region.
The Italianate style was popular in South Dakota from about 1870 to 1900. Characteristics of the style found on the Hilger Block include the long narrow window openings, elaborate window hoods, and a decorative cornice with brackets. Although the storefront and second floor windows have been altered, the stone sills, lintels, window hoods, and cornice remain. The building still conveys its historic 19th and early 20th century sense of feeling and association.
The east façade features a recessed central entry flanked by large windows with stone sills and segmented stone window hoods. Above the windows are corbelled bricks that lead to a cornice with brackets, dentils, and decorative moldings. The south elevation has a display window at the southeast corner and a small garage door at the southwest corner on the first floor. The windows on the second floor also have stone sills and lintels. A flat plain parapet runs the length of the elevation.
The Hilger Block is an example of what Richard Longstreth labeled the two-part commercial block. Two-part commercial blocks generally have two to four stories separated by a distinct horizontal division into two zones. The lower zone at the street level served as a public space, frequently as retail or commercial space; the upper zone generally housed more private space such as offices and meeting rooms. The two-part commercial block was prevalent in small cities and towns nationwide from the 1850’s through the 1950’s. The main level of the Hilger Block is still a retail space, while the upper level is now loft style apartments.
The Hilger Block is located at 361 South Pierre St. in Pierre and currently has commercial space on the main level that is open during business hours and apartments on the upper level.
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John E. and Ruth Hipple House
Built near the State Capitol Complex in 1913 for locally prominent citizens John and Ruth Hipple, the Hipple House is important for its association with them and also as an excellent example of the Prairie style. With a low-pitched roof, wide overhanging eaves, two-stories with a one-story porch, and details emphasizing horizontal lines, the house incorporates important elements of the Prairie style.
John E. Hipple moved to Pierre in 1888 and organized the State Publishing Company. Five years later, he sold his interest in State Publishing and started the Hipple Printing Company. In 1905, Hipple purchased the Weekly and Daily Capital Journal. Hipple gets credit for many improvements to the City of Pierre, while he served as mayor from 1924 to 1939. During one of his terms, the city purchased several outlets from the Chicago and North Western Railway. This land included almost two miles of Missouri River front property, which became Steamboat Memorial Park in 1974. Hipple also convinced Civilian Conservation Corps officials to locate a camp on Farm Island. The Civilian Conservation Corps built two public picnic areas, gravel roads, and cabins for the Boy and Girl Scouts and the Izaak Walton League.
Hipple’s wife Ruth was active in the community as a member of the women’s suffrage movement. She served as one of three auditors for women’s suffrage in South Dakota and later as press secretary. Ruth was also very much involved with the South Dakota Messenger, South Dakota’s leading publication dedicated to the women’s suffrage movement. Other women involved in the suffrage movement stayed with the Hipples when they came to Pierre.
Ruth was asked to be a candidate for superintendent of public instruction on the Prohibition ticket, but she had no political ambition and declined. She also started the Girl Scouts in Pierre.
The John E. and Ruth Hipple House is located at 219 North Highland Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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The Horner-Hyde House is associated with two important citizens of Pierre, Henry Horner, who built the house, and Charles Lee Hyde, a member of the prominent Hyde family, which had such an influence on the development of the area. The house is a large, impressive two-and-one-half story Queen Anne with ornate details such as a cross-gabled roof, delicate decorative detailing and shingles in the gables, one-over-one windows, and a bay window on the east façade. The interior of the home contains a unique granite fireplace made entirely from a single boulder. The Horner-Hyde House sits on a hill overlooking the notable historic commercial area of Pierre, the Upper Pierre Street Commercial Historic District.
Henry Horner, a 27 year-old attorney, moved to Pierre in 1881 and quickly became one of the leading citizens of the city and county. Horner and L.W. Wakefield founded a law firm and were active in local Republican politics. Horner later formed a partnership with Robert W. Stewart that became one of the best-known firms in the territory. The firm still exists today as May, Adam, Gerdes, and Thompson and is the oldest law firm in the State. Horner was also the official reporter for the State Supreme Court from 1898 to 1913, invested heavily in both commercial and residential real estate, and was one of the founders of Pierre National Bank (now BankWest). Elected to the State Senate in 1892 and 1896, he served as chairman of the committee on railroads and was a member of the Judiciary, Public Printing, Apportionment, Public Health, and Immigration standing committees.
In 1889, Horner began building the house at the corner of Grand and Capitol. Between 1892 and 1911, he made several improvements to the property. Horner died of the flu in 1930, and in 1934, his widow sold the house to Charles (Charley) Lee Hyde, son of the notable Charles Hyde who developed much of Upper Pierre Street.
The Hydes became one of the wealthiest families in the State. Charles managed the family’s farms and other extensive real estate holdings. During the 1930s, he bought distressed farms and sold them back to the original owners on an easy contract. He also managed the Grand Theatre in Pierre and served as State director of the Theatre Owners Association of America. He expanded his father’s holdings and was responsible for constructing or financing many of the commercial ventures in the city. Going into politics, he was elected to the State Senate on the Republican ticket in 1928 and 1930 and in 1942 to the State House of Representatives. While a legislator, Charley Hyde was very active promoting child welfare, agriculture, commerce, and highway and aviation improvement. Over the years, he was a member of the Agriculture, Banks and Banking; Child Welfare; Highways and Aviation; Incorporations; Capitol Buildings and Grounds; Federal Regulations; Military Affairs; Apportionment; Mines and Mining; and Indian Affairs committees. He also chaired the State Board for the Rehabilitation of the Blind under four governors. A committeeman for the Boy Scouts of America for 22 years, he helped organize the Pierre Boys Club. In another demonstration of his commitment to helping young people, he hired local farm boys and provided them with living quarters as they attended high school in Pierre. Because of his contributions to the community, Hyde received the first “Pop Warner Worker of the Month” award for outstanding volunteer work. The Dakota Sioux Tribe adopted Hyde as an honorary chief in 1937. He was a life member of the State Historical Society.
The home was restored by Dr. Doug Beemer in 1989, and is currently in use as an office.
The Horner-Hyde house is located at 100 West Capitol Ave. in Pierre. It is currently an office building and is not open to the public.
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Hughes County Courthouse
The Hughes County Courthouse was designed in the Public Works Administration Moderne style with Art Deco features by the architects Hugill and Blatherwick and constructed by the Henry Carlson Company, all out of Sioux Falls. This governmental interpretation is a simplified version of the exuberant Art Deco style that appealed to a nation in the midst of the Great Depression. The uninterrupted square massing of the building and vertical bands of windows separated by decorative-patterned brick spandrels provide the only historical references to the style. The building’s utilization of Art Deco and Moderne design elements is typical of South Dakota’s county courthouses constructed during the period. While the building’s level of architectural detail is minimal by many standards, the courthouse remains a relatively large and visually striking example of architecture in Pierre and Hughes County and the seat of county government.
Work on the new courthouse began in early 1934. The previous autumn, the county received a citizens’ petition asking that the new courthouse include a facing of native stone. This was not only for aesthetic reasons, but because the use of the stone would result in greater employment of local labor and the expenditure of more of the money in the local community. The walls are cut South Dakota stone, while the trim is Hot Springs, South Dakota sandstone. The building replaced the original 1883 courthouse that was declared unsafe by the fire marshal because it had 16 heating stoves and faulty wiring. The new courthouse reused many bricks from the original building in its interior. Construction continued through 1934, and the county formally accepted the finished building in February 1935.
The interior contains such details as brushed aluminum stair rails with floral motifs at the top. The rooms of the courthouse are accessed through T-shaped corridors. The fourth floor once held the jail, which is now abandoned. Although completely remodeled, the courtroom still contains the historic judge’s bench and courtroom benches.
The Hughes County Courthouse is located at 104 Capitol Ave. at the north end of Pierre St. in Pierre. It is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm. For more information, visit the Hughes County website, or call 605-773-3713.
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Built during Pierre’s second building boom, the Karcher Block was one of the first brick commercial buildings in the city. Commissioned by Henry Karcher and constructed in 1884, the block is in the popular Commercial style with Italianate features. Karcher was instrumental in providing permanency to the present downtown business district of Pierre.
At the time, it was unclear whether the center of the business community would be in East or West Pierre. According to Karcher’s diary, Mr. Wells, who owned most of what was then called East Pierre, offered Karcher $6,000 not to erect his “mammoth double brick building” in West Pierre. Karcher rejected this offer, and West Pierre went on to become the center of the business community.
The Karcher Block provided for two retail spaces on the main floor, including a post office, and a second floor used as a public hall. Construction of the Karcher Block and the Central Block, another major downtown building, at the same time guaranteed that West Pierre would be the focus of the business district. The Karcher Block was considered one of the most desirable business locations in the city because of its central location on the northeast corner of Pierre Street and Dakota Avenue. In continual use since its construction, the building served as the home for many thriving downtown businesses including retail stores, doctors and lawyers offices, real estate agencies, an immigration and employment bureau, the Dakota Poster newspaper, and the Pierre City Railroad Company. The block stayed in the Karcher family until 1989.
The Karcher Block is located at 366 South Pierre St. in Pierre. It is currently occupied by a business in one retail space while the other is for lease. It is open to the public during regular business hours. The upper level is private.
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The two-and-one-half story Karcher-Sahr House is one of Pierre’s best examples of the Neoclassical architecture that became popular during the early 20th century in the United States. Neoclassical details on the Karcher-Sahr house include two-story Ionic columns, an elaborate cornice with dentil molding and modillions, a prominent front porch and side porch, and windows with multiple panes over a single pane. The home is associated with some influential citizens of Pierre.
Henry Karcher, the original owner, was one of Pierre’s pioneers. He first traveled to the area for a hunting trip. The future for the town seemed bright, so he purchased a lot and built one of the first brick commercial buildings, the Karcher Block. Karcher was a prominent citizen serving as both alderman and mayor. His main interest had been ranching, but a stroke in 1907 prevented him from taking up this profession. He moved his family into the city and built this house in 1910. Karcher’s wife Adeline was also a prominent citizen of Pierre instrumental in founding the Women’s Club, the Carnegie Library, and Riverside Cemetery. Her daughter Marguerite married Fred Sahr, and they became the next owners. Marguerite was active in the Women’s Suffrage Movement as a writer for the feminist newspaper the South Dakota Messenger. The couple’s son William owned the house after them. He was a prominent attorney, served as a State legislator, and was president of the library board responsible for erecting the Rawlins Municipal Library.
The Karcher-Sahr house is located at 222 East Prospect Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Henry M. McDonald House
Built in what was originally East Pierre, the Henry M. McDonald House was one of the first in the community. McDonald, a pioneer businessman and president of the Trader’s Bank in Pierre, constructed the home in 1885 and was the first of several prominent South Dakotans to reside there. He patterned the house after his father-in-law’s home back in Wisconsin.
The home is a two-and-one-half-story brick and wood Queen Anne with some decorative elements in the Eastlake and Classical Revival tradition. The house features a hip roof with projecting gables, decorative shingles in the gables, dentil molding under the gables, and a front porch with slender, simple columns.
During the 1890’s, the Honorable James Ward leased the property from McDonald. Ward was a delegate to the 1885 State constitutional convention, former territorial auditor, and 1894 democratic candidate for governor of South Dakota. The owner in 1906, Ed Eakin, named the property “The Cedars” after the cedar hedge along the west edge of the yard. Dayton W. Canaday, former director of the South Dakota State Historical Society from 1968 to 1987, is the current owner.
The Henry M. McDonald House is located at 1906 East Erskine Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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George McMillen House
George McMillen, a brick contractor, built this house in 1883 and lived here until his death in 1895. John D. Hilger and Anthony D. Hengel bought the house at that time. Hengel served as councilman and mayor of Pierre. Later owners include banker W. H. Mateer and Genevieve Trask. Mrs. Trask served as State legislative chairman and supplied the champagne, a gift from her husband, for the christening of the U.S.S. South Dakota in 1941. She also had the honor of cutting the ribbon officially opening the new Missouri River Bridge to traffic in 1962.
The house was built in two phases--in 1883, the same year as the first county courthouse, and from 1884 to 1892. The McMillen House was one of the first homes in Pierre. The original house was a one-story, T-shaped building. Today, the cap of the T remains visible, while the hipped-roofed stem was incorporated into the later two-story, cube-shaped house. In the 1884 to 1892 remodeling, the residence was reoriented from the southwest to the northeast, so the front entrance opens up onto Broadway Avenue. Features of the house include four stained glass windows and interior doors with colored and etched glass. Another feature is a window in the sitting room that slides up into the wall of the story above to provide a doorway to the second porch.
The George McMillen House is located at 111 East Broadway Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is open to the public by appointment. Please contact the South Dakota State Historical Society, State Historic Preservation Office at 605-773-3103..
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Judge Corwin D. Meade House
Judge Corwin D. Meade, a county judge and a prominent attorney and realtor, built this house between 1882 and 1883 and remodeled it later. The Judge C. D. Meade House is a Queen Anne design with some classical elements to which the judge added an additional half-story and a rear extension between 1908 and 1910. The house is architecturally significant because it reflects the gradual shift from Victorian to Neoclassical design in the early 20th century and the desire to keep up with trends. The architectural firm for the addition was J. H. Daverman and Son of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Judge Meade lived in the house until his death in the 1920’s.
Shortly after Pierre became the permanent capital city, a building boom ensued. Judge Meade made the substantial addition to his home during this boom. These changes are hardly noticeable and merely make the house more substantial. The home took on some Neoclassical influences but retains a definite Queen Anne form.
Queen Anne elements include the steeply pitched roof, bay windows and single story, full-width porch. The classical elements are the porch with roof supported by thick Tuscan columns, cornice with wide frieze underneath, and paired and tripled windows as well as bay windows.
After Meade’s death in the 1920’s, his unmarried daughter kept the home. The house remained in her possession until her death in 1971, after which another judge, Pat McKeever, purchased it. Dawnita and Charles Forell recently restored the house.
The Judge C. D. Meade House is located at 106 Prospect Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church, today known as the Pierre First United Methodist Church, is an excellent example of local Late Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture. Built in 1910 as the third building for the congregation, the church continues to serve the community today. Churches around the United States often chose the Late Gothic Revival style, because it was a return to an emotional feeling architecture in contrast to the Classical Revival style with its more scientific, technological feeling. The Late Gothic Revival style was a common style for churches but was seldom used in other types of buildings. Especially in small towns, the Late Gothic Revival churches built around the turn of the 20th century were often unique examples of this architectural style and rare artistic forms within communities.
Constructed by a local contractor and devoted church member F. Turner, this church is in a more elaborate Gothic Revival style than the congregation’s earlier church, which was also in the Gothic Revival style. It features castellated towers and a rectangular plan with an apse, nave, and transept. The steep cross gable roof, asymmetrical floor plan, buttresses, pointed arch windows, and drip molds are all style defining elements of the building.
Gothic Revival elements are found throughout the interior. Doorways are Tudor arches. The interior is completely finished with oak, adding to the rich feeling of the Gothic Revival building. Each curved oak pew has an ornamental carved quatrefoil design that represents the authors of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Woodwork throughout is adorned with carved quatrefoils including the balusters of each staircase as well as the pews. Gothic style cutouts are visible in the sawn altar rail and on the balustrades of the balcony and the choir loft. The sanctuary features a vaulted ceiling, sliding pocket doors, and several original light fixtures. Original decorative light fixtures are also intact at the front entry and within the main vestibule. Included in the interior are remarkable stained glass windows illustrating the history of the church as well as the Methodist movement.
A swimming pool once stood at the south end of the basement but was filled in and covered in the 1940’s to make room for needed classroom space. The church also converted a library and a gymnasium to additional classroom space at the time of the Oahe Dam’s construction. These were important features the congregation used in conjunction with the fellowship hall and kitchen in the basement for families and groups to gather. The congregation built a large addition on the south side of the building in 2007.
The Methodist Episcopal Church established a congregation in Pierre in 1880, and the congregation built a frame church in the downtown area in 1881. Two years later, they sold this building and by the fall of 1883 constructed a new wood frame church in the typical small scale vernacular Late Gothic Revival style. Membership grew rapidly, and in 1910, the congregation laid the cornerstone for its new larger and grander building in the Late Gothic Revival style.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, now known as the Pierre First United Methodist Church, is located at 117 North Central Ave. in Pierre. It is open to the public between the hours of 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Visitors are also welcome at Sunday Worship Services at 8:30am and 11:00am. For more information call 605-224-5939 or visit the Pierre First United Methodist Church website.
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Pierre Hill Residential Historic District
Located north of the downtown business district and three blocks west of the State Capitol on a rise overlooking the Missouri River, the Pierre Hill Residential Historic District is the prominent residential district in Pierre. The district is a chronicle of late 19th- and early 20th-century architecture, showcasing homes designed in regional vernacular adaptations of popular architectural styles. The neighborhood also reflects the State and local social and economic trends that shaped it. Adding to Pierre Hill’s historic charm are the numerous shade trees, perennial gardens, hillside grading, unfenced yards, and picturesque retaining walls that make this late 19th- and early 20th-century park-like neighborhood an ideal place to live.
Because Pierre was not settled until 1880 and was largely isolated, architectural styles tended to be adopted much later and remained popular long after the rest of the country had moved on to newer, more popular trends. Most of the homes in the district are bungalows of the Prairie School and Craftsman styles. Many homes are in Late Victorian styles, and Minimal Traditional homes built after World War II are also common. Early 20th -century period revival and Foursquare homes with period revival and Prairie School decorative details can be found throughout the district as well. Most of the homes feature materials typical of central South Dakota during the period including concrete or stone foundations, wood frames, clapboard or stucco, fieldstone retaining walls, and wood or asphalt shingles.
Pierre sits on the bluffs along the Missouri River on a series of natural terraces. A promotional brochure published in 1889 described how it developed, “The business is conducted upon the lower plateaus; on the next are homes, schools, churches, and public buildings; and the higher are reserved for residences more costly and commanding more extended views.” Early deeds for the higher lots intended for the city’s more costly residences often included covenants restricting land use and requiring the planting and maintenance of trees.
During the 1890s, people began to build homes on the highest terrace view lots in the district. Early residents were members of Pierre’s business and professional class. The majority of the district’s Late Victorian type homes, influenced by the Queen Anne and other picturesque styles, date from this first phase of building. The Hinsey House at 337 North Grand Avenue is an example of Queen Anne architecture. The district also contains homes in late 19th-century revival styles. Notable from the district’s early years is the Burton Cummins House, a grand Colonial Revival home with an elaborate wrap-around porch and widow’s walk at 503 North Euclid Avenue built for banker Burton Cummins and his wife, Clara Belle, in 1895.
Building in the district slowed dramatically after the Panic of 1893, a serious economic depression in the United States, and did not really begin again until after 1900. Charles Hyde had just moved to Pierre and became the most influential figure credited with the district’s development during this period, as he was for the development of most of the Upper Pierre Street Commercial Historic District. His son, Franklin, manager for the Hyde Holding Corporation, and his wife Enid purchased their home, the L.L. Schaff House, a side gable Craftsman bungalow at 517 North Grand Avenue.
From 1900 to 1912, the Pierre Hill District was known as “the Hill.” An address on “the Hill” was a sign of prestige for the city’s business and professional elite, who considered the hill’s location above the city, away from saloons and society’s rougher elements, out of danger of the flooding, and near churches and good schools to be an ideal place to raise a family. Most of the homes from this period are larger and of high style architecture. Victorian forms remained in favor, but decorative detailing moved away from the picturesque and toward the revival styles, with some homes exhibiting an eclectic mixture of the two. The Colonial Revival and Neoclassical styles became a popular statement revealing the social stature of residents.
A.W. Ewert, a Pierre banker, constructed the Neoclassical mansion at 339 North Euclid Avenue from 1905 to 1910. In 1890, Ewart began his career as a cashier at the National Bank of Commerce, where he proved himself as an executive officer and did much to further the interests of the institution. He was mayor of Pierre from 1892 to 1896, with a reputation for directing the city’s affairs scrupulously and with the strictest business principles. He later became a State senator and later State treasurer. He was treasurer of the Rural Credit Department from 1917 to 1927 and was involved in an embezzlement scandal during that era of wide-spread farm foreclosures and bank failures.
Other notable homes from this period are the elaborate Colonial Revival Farr House at 106 East Wynoka Street and the Merrill-Schaff House, a Foursquare with Colonial Revival features at 400 North Grand Avenue. This house, owned by Judge Charles S. Whiting, was built in 1908 as a spec house by Leslie Schaff and John C. Merrill of the Merrill-Schaff Lumber Company. Whiting was judge of the State’s ninth judicial circuit court, and his second wife Eleanor was the Corresponding Secretary of the Pierre Political Equality Club. The Dr. Charles M. Hollister House at 402 North Huron Avenue is a Prairie style home built in 1910 for Pierre physician Dr. Charles Hollister. The owner following Dr. Hollister was physician and surgeon Dr. T. F. Riggs, for whom Riggs High School is named. The Prairie style is identified by wide overhanging eaves, cornice and façade detailing that emphasize horizontal lines, and massive square porch supports.
As the 1920s approached, simplified house forms and the American Foursquare and bungalow came into fashion, documenting the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Pierre became the administration center for numerous war related activities. Despite high living costs and inflated prices, the demand by State, Federal and county government employees for fine homes did not subside. Between 1918 and 1928, new homes were primarily Craftsman and Prairie style bungalows and Period Revival houses that derived elements from earlier styles, such as the Colonial or Tudor Revival. Builder service and plan-book type designs replaced the large and elaborate architect-designed homes favored earlier in the century. The 1925 Colonial Revival Miller House at 519 North Huron Avenue is from a prize-winning Good Housekeeping Magazine design. The home belonged to Dick Miller, the owner of the Miller Photography Studio in Pierre. He paid off the mortgage on his home with prize money won with a photograph of his daughter Marilyn in the “America’s Most Beautiful Baby” contest Sears Roebuck sponsored and held at the Chicago’s World Fair in 1934. This period of development also illustrates the rise of the automobile as many of the homes feature attached garages, like the Miller home, or detached garages to match the house such as the one at the L. L. Schaff House at 517 North Grand Avenue.
Construction on “the Hill” came to a halt in 1929 with the beginning of the Great Depression but resumed in 1936. By this time, people were building in a more moderate style, Minimal Traditional, which kept early 20th century forms but lacked their decorative details. Homes at 330 North Grand and 122 West Broadway reflect this style. The post-war Minimal Traditional homes placed greater emphasis on the attached garage and reflected the renewed prosperity of the post-war period in the use of materials like brick and decorative stone.
Due to central South Dakota’s harsh climate, enclosed porches and foyers are common in Pierre Hill homes. Period Revival and Minimal Traditional cottages tended to have projecting, enclosed foyers, but many of the earlier Late Victorian houses and early 20th-century bungalows originally had open porches that were later enclosed.
Pierre Hill Residential Historic District is located in the northern part of Pierre. It is roughly bounded by Elizabeth St. on the north, Euclid Ave. on the east, Broadway Ave. on the south and Huron Ave. on the west. The district includes homes that are not open to the public.
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Pierre Masonic Lodge
Located a block west of the Upper Pierre Commercial Historic District, the Pierre Masonic Lodge is important as the home of the Masons in Pierre since 1928 and also as a good local example of Neoclassical Revival style architecture. The lodge is three stories with a banquet room and lobbies on the first level, a lodge room and lounges on the second level, and balconies overlooking the lodge room and auxiliary rooms on the third level.
Masonic activity first occurred in what would become South Dakota in 1862 when the Grand Lodge of Iowa received a petition for a Dispensation for Dakota Lodge #1 at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory, but a charter was never issued. The first charter came with the formation of St. John’s Lodge #166 in Yankton a year later. The Grand Lodge of Dakota formed in 1875 following the formation of a number of lodges in the territory through dispensations from Iowa and Minnesota. When Dakota Territory became North and South Dakota in 1889, a Grand Lodge was formed for each new State.
The Pierre Lodge 27 A.F and A.M. held its first meeting in 1881. There were 14 petitions for membership. Only seven individuals were elected to receive the degrees. This selectivity shows that the lodge was only willing to accept members of the highest moral quality. The locations of the first meetings in Pierre are not known, but beginning in 1884, meetings took place at the First National Bank building. In 1928, the Masonic Temple was constructed and has served as the lodge’s home since.
The lodge has always been involved in the civic affairs of Pierre. In 1908, officers of the Masonic Grand Lodge laid the cornerstone of the State Capitol. Members also laid the cornerstone of the Hughes County Courthouse in 1934. The lodge is also involved in several community service and charity programs in Pierre.
Sioux Falls architects Robert Perkins and Albert McWayne designed the Pierre Masonic Lodge in 1927. Perkins and McWayne was one of the finest architectural firms in South Dakota with commissions for government and commercial buildings as well as residences. Perkins received his B.S. degree (1908) in architecture and a M.S. degree (1917) from Armour Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. He lived in Sioux Falls from 1912 and 1916 and had his own practice before going back for his master’s degree. McWayne received a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in 1910. After working in Chicago as a construction superintendent for Holabird and Roche and architect Grant C. Miller, he moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1916 and formed a partnership with Joseph D. Livermore, which ended in 1918. That same year, McWayne and Perkins established their partnership, which lasted until 1954 when Perkins died.
With few modifications, the building is a good example of Neoclassical Revival architecture for a service organization building. The fluted ionic columns, the pediment over the symmetrical façade, multi-pane windows, and decorative relief below the eaves and above the entry are defining features.
The Pierre Masonic Lodge is located at 201 West Capitol Ave. in Pierre. The building is not open to the public.
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Built in 1907 by Walter Rowe, an important local figure, the Rowe House is an excellent example of the Folk Victorian style architecture that was prevalent in South Dakota between 1890 and 1910. This style is inspired by Italianate and Queen Anne designs with the main area of focus drawn from the porch or cornice line which accents the exterior portions of the building. The handsome stone house with a front porch across the front has a hip roof with a tin eave overhang with brackets. The building is also a fine example of the distinct use of cut stone in construction. It was one of the earliest homes constructed in a neighborhood of mostly one-story ranch style homes.
Walter Rowe started and was head of the Capital City Telephone Company that served both Pierre and Fort Pierre and was responsible for making Fort Pierre accessible by telephone and telegraph. Rowe made telephone service possible between Pierre and Fort Pierre by erecting telephone poles on the banks of the Missouri River and on sandbars and LaFramboise Island to connect telephone lines between Pierre and Fort Pierre. He then connected Pierre to other cities such as Rapid City and Wolsey. The company’s installation of telephone service allowed Pierre to communicate with the western and northeastern parts of the State, an important sign of progress. In 1905, when the Dakota Central Telephone Company bought the Capital City Telephone Company, Rowe stayed on as manager.
The Rowe House is located at 1118 East Capitol Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Kenneth R. Scurr House
Kenneth R. Scurr designed this one-story wooden house, and the Onida Construction Company built it for him in 1923. Scurr was an important designer and builder involved in a number of noteworthy local projects. He moved to Pierre in 1920 and married Lucille Pettyjohn, daughter of Frank Pettyjohn, a prominent retailer and grain elevator operator.
As State bridge engineer, Scurr played a role in the Pick-Sloan Plan and Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Development Project that called for the construction of rolled earth multi-purpose dams at Fort Randall, Oahe, Gavin’s Point, and Big Bend. He also had a hand in a series of very high and very long bridges which were more complex than any other engineering projects in South Dakota. He constructed the first bridge, Big Bend, during a severe winter using concrete poured into specially designed insulated forms that maintained the temperature required for the concrete to harden. This was the first use of such forms in winter construction. The new bridges built at Forest City and Mobridge were noteworthy at the time for being the longest bridges over any national inland waterway and for their low building cost.
Scurr received additional recognition for the design and construction of the Bad River Bridge at Fort Pierre, which was the first bridge in the United States to utilize welded stud connectors between the floor and girders. It was also one of the first structures poured under winter conditions using balsam wool insulating material. He also became influential in the Bridge Subcommittee of the American Association of State Highway Officials efforts to establish construction standards and specifications.
Scurr’s expertise was not limited to bridges. He also designed the stables for the Pierre Polo Club, Pierre’s Hyde Stadium baseball park, and helped prepare plans for the Pierre City Auditorium.
Scurr also had a notable military career in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. In 1917, he served with distinction as an artillery officer in France, receiving the Purple Heart and other decorations. Someone made a statement about him that, “few South Dakotans have served their country and state so long and well as Col. Scurr.” Due to his distinguished accomplishments, both civil and military, he had the honor of induction into the South Dakota Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame.
The Kenneth R. Scurr House is located at 121 South Washington Ave. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Soldiers & Sailors World War Memorial
The Soldiers & Sailors World War Memorial is a rare and elegant example of the Neoclassical style of architecture and an illustration of what Americans have done to honor those who served the nation in the military. The building is the only memorial of its kind in South Dakota.
The memorial is constructed of steel and has sandstone facing. The front of the building has an impressive entry pediment with dentil molding and six Ionic columns as well as individual pediments over each of the doors. The interior contains a central hallway that opens to the second floor and flanking galleries, which are on both the first and second floors.
The idea for the memorial came after World War I, and the first fund drive to build it was in May 1919. A. N. Walters directed the drive. When this drive failed, the plan lay dormant for 10 years until the Chicago and North Western Railroad Company made a gift of land to the State. The State accepted the land in 1931 with the sole purpose of erecting a Soldiers Memorial Building to house the South Dakota State Historical Society.
In 1930, the State hired the firm of Wilford F. Blatherwick and John C. Hugill to design the memorial building. Established in Sioux Falls in 1921, the firm was soon among the most active and skillful in South Dakota. The firm also designed the Hughes County Courthouse, another testament to its reputation.
The Soldiers and Sailors World War Memorial building currently houses the South Dakota Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. It was also the home of the State Historical Society and Robinson Museum.
The Soldiers & Sailors World War Memorial is located at 425 East Capitol Ave. in Pierre. It currently houses the South Dakota Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The building is open to the public from 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday.
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South Dakota State Capitol
Completed in 1910, the South Dakota State Capitol is the best example of Neoclassical architecture in South Dakota and the symbol of State government for nearly 100 years. As various State officials have come and gone, the capitol remains a vivid reminder of South Dakota’s history, an architectural and historic landmark, not only for the State, but also for the City of Pierre. This grand building serves as a reminder of the importance of the numerous and tedious campaign fights Pierre endured to secure the status of capital.
The motivation for erecting the building came after the third election to determine the location of the State capital. Pierre won the election to be the temporary State capital in 1889 and another election in 1890 to become the permanent capital. On three different occasions, bills were introduced into the legislature to move the capital from Pierre. In 1904, a bill finally passed in the legislature to let the people vote once again on the location of the State capital. Pierre won this election as well. After three elections, many citizens believed that a large, permanent building would end any further relocation efforts.
To save money on the project, South Dakota hired Bell & Detweiler Architects of Minneapolis, Minnesota and selected their design for the Montana State Capitol to use again for the South Dakota State Capitol with some variations, rather than asking the architects for an original design. Construction on the building began in 1905 and was complete by 1910. The total cost of the building was under one million dollars.
The South Dakota State Capitol features a copper dome, Corinthian columns, rusticated walls of granite and Bedford limestone, and a decorative interior. The building has a central rotunda flanked by the legislative wings, making it somewhat similar to the nation’s capitol. The four-story Neoclassical building has some English and Italian Renaissance features. Its granite foundation rests on boulders collected from the surrounding prairie. Native granite is also the material used for the steps and some of the window trimming. The first level of the capitol uses Marquette Raindrop sandstone for its facing while the other stories are of Bedford limestone.
The interior is just as exquisite as the exterior. Italian workers laid the terrazzo tile floors. The capitol is known for its attractive murals and paintings. Under the dome in the rotunda, four large round paintings feature Greek goddesses that symbolize the four major South Dakota themes: agriculture, livestock, mining, and family. Under each of these paintings is a flag display. Four contemporary sculptures, two by Harry Daniel Webster and two by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, adorn the rotunda and complement the original artwork of the interior. They symbolize Wisdom, Vision, Courage, and Integrity. The capitol also contains paintings by Oscar Howe, the Artist Laureate of the State.
The interior of the building underwent numerous modernizing changes. Restoration work began in 1977 and was complete in 1989 in time for the State’s centennial celebration. The ceilings, wall designs, color schemes, window treatments, and carpeted areas throughout the building were part of the project. The work restored everything in the capitol back to the building’s original colors and luster.
The attractively landscaped capitol grounds are the site of numerous memorials dedicated to veterans of war, law enforcement, and firefighters. Capitol Lake is a manmade artesian lake constructed in 1913. The Flaming Fountain Memorial stands along the shore of the lake. It is a perpetually burning flame fed by natural gas.
The South Dakota State Capitol is located on Capitol Ave and is bounded by Broadway, Washington, and Capitol Aves. in Pierre. The Capitol Tour Office is located just inside the north entrance. The Capitol Building is open 365 days a year, from 8:00am to 10:00pm. Tours are provided by volunteers and need to be pre-scheduled several days in advance by calling 605-773-3765. Visitors can obtain self-guided tour brochures in the Security/Tour Office. Tourist information is also available for visitors. For more information please visit the South Dakota State Capitol website.
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St. Charles Hotel
Built as the premier hotel in Pierre by prominent businessman Charles Hyde, the St. Charles Hotel was and has been since it first opened the most prestigious address in Pierre. Governor Vessey and Lieutenant Governor Byrne hosted the reception that celebrated the opening of the hotel in 1911. Until the completion of the governor’s mansion in the 1940’s, the St. Charles served as residence for a number of governors and many of South Dakota’s important political figures. Although some have said that Governor Vessey and his family made their home at the St. Charles, the 1910 census and 1910-11 Pierre City directory have him listed as living at 528 Highland Avenue next door to the John E. and Ruth Hipple House.
The St. Charles Hotel was the headquarters for the legislature, and all representatives and senators stayed there. It has been said that the hotel is where the laws were conceived. Legislators, lobbyists, and interested tourists gathered in the mezzanine and talked, argued, and decided on their bills. The building was also the scene of numerous political conventions and served as offices for the State. Calvin Coolidge, Governor Peter Norbeck, and Dale Carnegie were guests at the hotel. Not only politicians enjoyed the St. Charles while in Pierre. Bob Hope dined in the restaurant, and Clark Gable stayed there while on hunting trips.
The hotel is most famous, however, for its builder Charles Hyde, who helped found the city by erecting nine business blocks in anticipation of Pierre’s economic success. Later indicted for fraudulent advertising through the United States mail, Hyde became an extremely controversial figure until President Taft pardoned him.
The St. Charles is a five-story rectangular block building made of yellow brick and trimmed with glazed terra cotta tile on the first and fifth stories. The building’s relatively flat surfaces are enlivened with Neoclassical motifs done in elegant white, glazed terra cotta. The overall appearance of the building is a pleasing combination of controlled proportions and simple, elegant details. The building known as Pierre’s most prestigious address now houses a restaurant and lounge on the first floor, offices and businesses on the first and second floors, and apartments on the upper three floors.
The St. Charles Hotel is located at 207 East Capitol Ave. in Pierre. The Saint Charles Restaurant & Caucus Lounge on the main level serves lunch from 11:00am to 2:00pm and dinner from 5:00am to 10:00pm Monday through Saturday. The businesses on the second level and apartments on the upper three levels are not open to the public. For more information about the restaurant, visit the Saint Charles Restaurant & Caucus Lounge.
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The Stephens-Lucas House is a two-and-one-half-story cross gambrel Dutch Colonial, a popular style in South Dakota during the early 20th century. The house is one of the best examples of its type in the State. This style is demonstrated through the home’s large porch and Doric columns. The house shows the transition from the styles of the Victorian period to the refined modes of the revival of Classical designs. This is evident with the basic appearance of the house which is much more subtle than the Queen Anne, yet having elements uncharacteristic of the Neoclassical such as high pitched roof, an oriel, a bay window, and decorative wood shingles in the gable ends.
The first owner was L.L. Stephens, a prominent lawyer and land speculator. He was an attorney for several important clients including Standard Oil. Stephens’ son Alfred E. Lucas bought the house in 1925. He was a founder, along with Emil P. Theim, of one of Pierre’s oldest and most important merchandise stores, the A. E. Lucas Co. Dry Goods, as well as a clothing store, Ready to Wear. Mrs. Clara Riehe, a relative, owned the house until Lucas’ son Robert H. Lucas and his wife Alma, who continued to run the family business, bought it in 1944. The home has remained in the Lucas family since 1925 and is currently owned by Janice and Tony Lucas.
The Stephens-Lucas House is located at 123 North Nicollet St. in Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Upper Pierre Street Commercial Historic District
The Upper Pierre Street Commercial Historic District is important as the center of commerce in Pierre after 1900 and for its association with two prominent businessmen, Andrew C. Brink and Charles Hyde. The district includes the Brink and Mundt Buildings, named for the men who ran land and insurance businesses in the buildings, which both date from 1895, and the five buildings Charles Hyde constructed between 1906 and 1909. All seven of the district’s buildings are symbols of Pierre’s late-19th century pioneer architecture and early-20th century commercial progress. The buildings have simple Classical Revival details with the exception of the Brink Building, which is refaced with a much higher style Classical façade.
When Pierre was platted in 1880, construction was basically limited to the flood plain. The heights of storefronts were all different because of the variances in the grade. The 1906 addition of Upper Pierre Street allowed downtown to install a gravity sewage system for drainage in times of high water. The grading of the flat and hill at the same time was one of Pierre’s largest construction undertakings. The excess dirt resulting from grading Upper Pierre Street became infill in the flat. Concrete sidewalks were installed on Pierre Street up to Capitol Avenue. This project helped create unified storefronts and greatly improved the aesthetics of downtown.
The intersection of Capitol Avenue and Pierre Street became the commercial center of Pierre after 1900 thanks to Andrew C. Brink and Charles Hyde. Andrew C. Brink was involved in both A. C. Brink & Co. (wholesale) and Brink & Tollinger (retail) flour and seed commission merchant businesses in the 1890’s. He also worked as a building contractor. He also became one of the city’s most prominent real estate men and ran the A. C. Brink Land Company and the Permanent Concrete Construction Company out of the Brink Building for many years.
The Brink Building at 117 South Pierre Street is a two-story coursed brick building with a front façade of stone block imitating marble. The Brink Building and the red brick Mundt Building at 115 South Pierre Street both date from 1895. These are the only two buildings that still exist of the early business development on Upper Pierre Street that predated Charles Hyde’s involvement in the district.
Charles Hyde was an entrepreneur, real estate dealer, and promoter, who settled in Pierre in 1887. Born in Illinois in 1860, Hyde worked as a detective, reporter, cattle hand, and semi-professional roller skater before his move to real estate. He also made his fortune from founding the American Exchange Bank in 1907 and from ranching. Hyde built several businesses along Lower Pierre Street before developing the commercial district on Upper Pierre Street. Many envious people, particularly in the flat district, disliked Mr. Hyde because of his success and because they opposed development of the Upper Pierre Street District on the hill.
Hyde’s first building in the Upper Pierre Street Historic District was the Hyde Block at 101 South Pierre Street that Jeffers & Henry, architects out of Aberdeen, designed in 1906. The first businesses in the building included a drugstore, bank, hairdresser, restaurant, jewelry store, and a grocery store.
Hyde did his own contracting on the next two buildings--The Mallery Store at 105 South Pierre Street and the Grand Opera House at 109 South Pierre Street. The Mallery Store, later known as Moore’s Department Store and also as London’s, dates from 1906. Its original owner was John E. Mallery, who sold dry goods, shoes, and ladies-ready-to-wear apparel after moving from Wisconsin to Pierre in 1882, where he succeeded in the new prestigious business district. The Mallery Store is located between the Hyde Block and the Grand Opera House and differs from those buildings because of its large glass display windows and two doorways in a recessed entrance.
The Grand Opera House once contained 1200 seats and had ornate decorations and lush stage curtains. The opera house was extremely popular in the community of Pierre, drawing audiences with such shows as “Clint and Bessie” and various Shakespeare performances. In 1917, there was a decline in theatre popularity that forced the owners to transform the Grand Opera House into a movie theatre in 1919. Movie theatres were becoming increasingly popular by that time. Known as “The Grand Theatre,” the new movie theatre matched the popularity of the old Grand Opera House. The movie theatre closed in the late 1960s due to competition with the new State Theatre and the Sioux Drive-in. The Grand Opera House is again a live theatre, home to the Pierre Players, a local theatre group.
In 1908, Kansas City architect P.R. Johnson designed the Capitol Avenue Block at 105 ½ East Capitol Avenue, also known as the Capitol Hotel. Among the first businesses in the Capitol Avenue Block were a hardware store, grocery store, a boots and shoes store, furniture store, and a dry cleaning business. The Pierre Street Block at 101 ½ East Capitol Avenue and 108 ½ South Pierre Street dates from 1909. Some of the earliest of the many businesses housed there over the years were a department store, bank, jewelry store, motion picture theatre, a plumbing service, a boots and shoes store, and a Christian Science Reading Room.
The Hyde buildings are all constructed of red or brown brick and have Classical Revival details. The buildings are either two or three stories, except for the one-story Moore’s Department Store. Four of the five Hyde buildings have projecting pressed metal cornices decorated with dentil molding along the street facing facades. They are grouped along Capitol Avenue and the north end of Pierre Street.
The Upper Pierre Street Commercial Historic District is located on the corners of Pierre St. and Capitol Ave. in Pierre. Most of the buildings in the district house businesses on the first levels and apartments on the upper levels. The Pierre Players Community Theatre in the Grand Opera House at 109 S. Pierre St. put on shows throughout the year. For show and ticket information call the box office at 605-224-7826 or visit the Pierre Players Community Theatre website.
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Jefferson Davis Carr House
Constructed in 1906, the Jefferson Davis Carr house is important for its associations with an early settler in Stanley County who built the home, and for its architectural significance. The house is a somewhat rare domestic building because it is constructed of all locally manufactured materials. The home is a brick foursquare with Colonial Revival elements including the one-story wraparound porch and classical columns.
Jefferson Davis Carr began ranching in Stanley County in 1891. In 1906, Carl Wagner built him a house in Fort Pierre of reddish-yellow, gumbo brick from the local Franc Rauch brick yard. Carr decided he needed a residence in town for his family to ensure his children’s education. Incorporated as the Empire State Cattle Company and commonly known as the Mississippi Outfit, Carr’s ranching enterprise was part of the large scale ranching movement that lasted in South Dakota for 17 years. The treaty of 1889 opened Indian lands to white settlers for cattle grazing. The period of large scale ranching began to come to a close in 1907, when the Federal Government began to change its policies, restricting grazing land and leaving ranchers like Carr with smaller grazing lands and herds. The house stands as a reminder of one of Fort Pierre’s first economic systems, ranching.
The Jefferson Davis Carr House is located at 206 West Second Ave. in Fort Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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Old Fort Pierre School
Constructed in 1892, the Old Fort Pierre School was the first high school in Fort Pierre and one of the first in western South Dakota. The two-story school had four classrooms. At first, only elementary grades were taught in the building. Some high school courses were added beginning in 1901, but by 1903, the school included first intermediate, second intermediate, and a high school program. The first graduating class consisted of three students in 1905. The old high school continued to function until 1909 when a new building was constructed to accommodate more students. This rapid turnover in school buildings is evidence of the growth of Stanley County during the early 1900’s. The Old Fort Pierre School was remodeled and turned into apartments.
The school has a symmetrical façade and floor plan, hipped roof, double hung windows and doorway details, cottage windows, stained glass transom window over entrance, and very little ornamentation. Originally, the building had a large two-story wraparound porch and a bell tower. It is currently being rehabilitated.
The Old Fort Pierre School is located on the corner of Second St. and Second Ave. in Fort Pierre. It is currently being rehabilitated.
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The Stockgrowers Bank is the single example of Romanesque Revival architecture in Fort Pierre. The building represents an interesting and well-executed adaptation of the style to the needs of the small frontier community and is the most important commercial building erected in Fort Pierre during the 20th century. The bank symbolizes the commercial development of Fort Pierre during the early 20th century as the business center for much of western South Dakota’s cattle raising activity. The two-story, brick building dominates the center of town on its site at the corner of Deadwood and Main Streets. The cut sandstone foundation, polygonal corner tower with ornamental festoons, decorative brickwork and arched windows with brick keystones set it apart from the other buildings in town.
Charles L. Millett and his wife settled in Fort Pierre in 1890 when the Great Sioux Reservation opened to white settlement. They established squatter rights for their residence in April of that year and officially incorporated a banking enterprise at the corner of Deadwood and Main Streets, the future site of the Stockgrowers Bank. In 1903, Millett, along with Gaylord E. Sumner and James (Scotty) Philip, constructed the building and began the Stockgrowers Bank and a chain of associated banks in Midland, Philip, Kadoka, Cottonwood, and Milesville.
Among the first officers of the bank were Anton and Frank Fischer, originators of what was the oldest general store under continuous management in central South Dakota. Other officers included the owner of the first lumber yard in Fort Pierre Gaylord Sumner, Reverend Thomas L. Riggs, and rancher James (Scotty) Philips.
The Stockgrowers Bank quickly became the most prestigious office and commercial building in Fort Pierre. In addition to the bank itself, other tenants included the Lynch Barber Shop; Phillip, Young & McPherson Land Office; the first telephone exchange in Fort Pierre; Binder & Borst Hardware Store; Hargesheimer Drug Store; the Webb-Lambert Attorney’s Office; and the offices of Doctors Lavery, Walsh, and Morrissey.
The Stockgrowers Bank is located at 34 East Main St. on the corner of Main and. and Deadwood Sts. in Fort Pierre. The building currently houses private offices. It is not open to the public.
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Gaylord Sumner House
The Gaylord Sumner House is significant for its architecture and its role as the home of Gaylord Sumner, an important businessman. Originally a small one-and-one-half-story cottage constructed in 1889, the house grew to two stories between 1896 and 1898, with the raising of the original cottage to the second floor level and the insertion of a new first floor beneath the original building. The house is an interesting transition between the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. The somewhat irregular plan and massing of the house, the high multiple roofs with their ridges meeting at right angles, prominent gables, and the large porch all suggest Queen Anne stylistic characteristics. The detailing of the eaves, front gable, and the Palladian window are Colonial Revival influences.
Gaylord Sumner came to Fort Pierre from Belfast, New York in 1890. In association with C. L. Millett, Sumner organized the Stockgrowers’ Bank the same year. The two also had interests in banks in Midland, Philip, Kadoka, Cottonwood, and Milesville. Sumner married Ida Ricketts, whose mother owned a popular boarding house in town. In addition, the prominent Sumner operated the Stanley County Abstract Company and owned the lumberyard in town. Sumner lived in the house until his death in 1967, surviving the difficulties of the Great Depression by such means as keeping chickens in the backyard.
The Gaylord-Sumner House is located at 509 Second St. in Fort Pierre. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
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United Church of Christ
Built between 1908 and 1909, the United Church of Christ, now known as the Fort Pierre Congregational Church, is the only example of High Victorian Gothic architecture in Fort Pierre. The Late Victorian Gothic style is the last phase of the Gothic Revival, but it is sometimes treated as a separate style. The style is characterized by decorative polychrome patterns produced by the use of contrasting color or texture in brick and stonework. Churches and public buildings are the most common building types designed in this style.
The church is constructed of locally made brick on a foundation of Hot Springs, South Dakota sandstone. The building’s most distinguishing feature is the square tower set into the corner of the facade. In addition to the tower, the pointed arch windows, brick detailing above the windows, and bi-chromatic appearance resulting from the use of brick with contrasting stone foundation and trim are also characteristic of High Victorian Gothic architecture.
The First Congregational Church of Christ of Fort Pierre joined with the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1958 to form the Congregational United Church of Christ.
The United Church of Christ, now known as the Congregational United Church of Christ, is located at 114 West Main Ave. on the corner of Second and Main Sts. in Fort Pierre. Visitors are welcome at Sunday Worship Services at 10:30am with children's Sunday school services at 9:00am. For more information, call 605-223-2753.
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Fort Pierre Chouteau Site
Fort Pierre Chouteau stood as a symbol of the relations between Euro-Americans and American Indians and their interdependence for nearly 25 years. Continually growing in size and influence, the fort evolved into a trading center where the exchange of material goods from Euro-American and American Indian cultures occurred in ways that significantly affected both societies. Fort Pierre Chouteau was one of the most important fur trade forts of the western frontier. Not only was the fort one of the largest and best equipped trading posts in the northern Great Plains, but the trading activities at the site epitomized the commercial alliance between American Indians and Euro-Americans. Its location on the Missouri River assured the success of the fort’s fur business.
John Jacob Astor, head of the American Fur Company, decided to expand operations into the Upper Missouri region during the 1820s. Built in 1832, Fort Pierre Chouteau quickly became the most strategic post in the Western Department of the American Fur Company. Located halfway between the headquarters at St. Louis and the northernmost posts in North Dakota and Montana, Fort Pierre Chouteau was the logical place for American Fur Company officials to gather and discuss company business.
Established in 1832 by Pierre Chouteau Jr. to replace nearby Fort Tecumseh, Fort Pierre Chouteau became one of the company’s headquarters of the Upper Missouri region. Its trade area covered thousands of miles of prairie. During its active years, the post received, processed, and shipped hundreds of thousands of beaver pelts, deer skins, and buffalo hides destined for European and eastern markets. Through Fort Pierre Chouteau and its subsidiary trading posts, the Plains Indians found their primary contact with Euro-Americans. A new-found prosperity followed that led the American Indians to accept, for a time, the white man’s encroachment on the Plains.
The American military entered the northern Great Plains in the 1850s. The United States Army bought Fort Pierre Chouteau in 1855 making it the first military fort in the Upper Missouri region. After purchasing the fort, the army conducted nearly $20,000 worth of repairs to meet army standards. The army also added numerous portable clapboard houses they transferred to Fort Pierre by steamship. The old fur post proved to be in such a poor state of repair, however, that the army partially dismantled and completely abandoned it a few years later. The site of Fort Pierre Chouteau is now marked by a stone monument commemorating its renowned part in the Missouri fur trade.
No visible remains exist at the site today. The fort undoubtedly underwent numerous additions and changes. Travelers up the Missouri during the first half of the 19th century described the fort. The most reliable of those descriptions is Prince Maximillian’s, made in 1833. He estimated each side of the fort to be about 300 feet long. The prince also described Mr. Laidlaw’s house (the bourgeois) with adjacent houses for clerks. According to him, stores stocked with furs and trade goods were located opposite the living quarters. George Catlin visited Fort Pierre the previous year and naturalist John J. Audubon a decade later. Their journals and the memoirs of members of their parties provide a picture of the fort’s construction. Because the fort was active for over 25 years, the numerous physical changes that took place caused quite a variation in the content of these accounts.
The outline of the old stockade was still visible at the turn of the 20th century, when historian Charles E. DeLand studied the site. In addition to writing a history of Fort Pierre Chouteau, he also collected and published much of the official military correspondence related to the army’s purchase of the fort in 1855. Historians of the National Park Service did further work on the fort between 1946 and 1951.
Excavations of the fort took place in 1980 and again from 1997 to 2001. A geophysical survey was also conducted in 2007. The archeological excavation uncovered various artifacts such as coins, pottery, fabric, and wooden remnants of the fort itself. Clothing, including moccasins, was also found, indicating the close relationship between Euro-American settlers and Native Americans.
Fort Pierre Chouteau, a National Historic Landmark, is located about one mile north of Fort Pierre off of SD Hwy 1806 on Fort Chouteau Rd. There is parking on the right side of the road. Follow the gravel path to the monument.
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In 1874, Reverend Thomas L. Riggs, a Congregationalist minister, and his first wife, Cornelia Margaret “Nina” Foster, established the Oahe Mission to serve the Sioux Indians of central South Dakota. The missionaries chose to build on the site of an old Arikara Indian village called Ti Tanke Ohe, later shortened to “Oahe.” The mission eventually adopted the name of the Indian village, which also became the name of the dam and lake that now cover the site. The Oahe Chapel is now the only remaining building associated with the Oahe Mission.
The Oahe Mission was on the east bank of the Missouri River about five miles upriver from the modern-day location of the chapel. In the beginning, a log house was the center of the mission. In only three short years, the house became too small, and the Indians agreed to help Reverend Riggs build a chapel, which was finished by September of 1877. The chapel’s design is a one-story nave layout, with a one-and-one-half story bell tower.
As with many other buildings on the frontier, the chapel served a dual purpose--as a schoolhouse and the center of religious life. The mission also opened The Oahe Industrial School in 1883 as a boarding school for Indian children and a second boarding school for young girls in the 1890s. Starting with an ABC primer, the men, women, and children of the mission all learned to read the Bible first in the Dakota language and later in English. As Europeans settled in the community, they joined in Sunday and holiday worship at the chapel. Services were originally in the Dakota language, but by the 1930’s were only in English.
Completion of the Oahe Dam led to the flooding of the original site of the Oahe Chapel. In the 1950’s during the construction of the dam, the chapel was given to the State of South Dakota, and the State Historical Society was put in charge of its restoration and continued preservation. In 1957, the society moved the chapel to a temporary location to escape the flooding and then moved it again in 1964 to its current location.
In 1984, local citizens formed the Oahe Chapel Preservation Society in order to restore and preserve the chapel. With donations and volunteer labor, plus the assistance of the South Dakota State Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office, the chapel was restored completely in 1988. While the South Dakota State Historical Society owns the building, the Oahe Chapel Preservation Society continues to maintain the chapel.
The Oahe Chapel is located four miles north of Pierre on Hwy 1804 on the east side of Oahe Dam, just above the powerhouse. Sunday worship services are held at 8:00am in the chapel from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, sponsored by the Pierre/Fort Pierre Ministerial Association. To view the chapel outside of these hours or to rent it, please call the South Dakota State Historical Society at 605-773-3458. The Oahe Congregational Mission has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
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Old Fort Sully
By the 1840’s, thousands of people were travelling west, but they initially posed little threat to the Plains Indians, because they did not settle on the Plains but instead headed to California and Oregon. Once they did begin to stake claims to land on the Plains, the Indians acted to protect their lands, and conflict erupted between the American Indians and pioneers. Old Fort Sully was one of a series of military forts established to keep peace on the Northern Plains.
Following the Dakota War of 1862, also referred to as the Sioux Uprising, the War Department sent two large contingents of soldiers to pursue any American Indians perceived as hostile. General Alfred E. Sully, who led one of the detachments, had orders to pacify regions of North and South Dakota. On September 3rd, 1863, Sully’s troops attacked and defeated a band of American Indians at Whitestone Hill in North Dakota. After the battle, most of the men were sent downstream to garrison Fort Randall near the South Dakota/Nebraska border. The remaining troops constructed Old Fort Sully east of Pierre using cottonwood logs.
The fort was one of a series of new posts along the Missouri River which, over the next 15 years, extended the power of the United States Army to the Rocky Mountains. The army abandoned Old Fort Sully in late summer of 1866, however, because of the deplorable conditions. There was no grass or wood within two miles; muddy river water had to be hauled to the fort; and rats, mice, and fleas were everywhere. A new Fort Sully was constructed about 30 miles upriver. The original fort was dismantled to use as fuel for steamboats.
No buildings remain, but markers indicate the corners of the fort. The Farm Island Visitor Center stands in the center of the original Fort Sully and provides exhibits that help visitors learn more about the fort.
Old Fort Sully is located at Farm Island Recreation Area, a State Park four miles east of Pierre on SD Hwy 34. A park entrance license is required. Camping at the park is also available for a fee. The park offers camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, bird watching, and bicycling with easy access to Lake Sharpe and beaches and trails. For more information about the park, call 605-773-2885 or visit the Farm Island Recreation Area website. For more information about Fort Sully, visit this website.
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Turtle Effigy is a large stone alignment on the earth in the shape of a turtle. No one knows for sure who made the effigy. According to one story not attributed to a specific tribe, “An Arikara lookout surprised by a Sioux War party and badly wounded, took flight to warn his kinsmen. He ran about one-half mile before dying. The Sioux, admiring his bravery, placed a rock for each drop of his blood and constructed a cairn (pile of stones) where he died. They signed it with a tribal band insignia of a turtle."
Effigies are patterns and pictures on the land made by the careful placement of stones. More than 100 stone effigies have been found in South Dakota. Most are located on high bluffs and ridges. Although we know that American Indians created these sites, we understand little about why the effigies were made. Archeologists believe that some effigies may be commemorative, marking significant places, people, or events. Others may have helped aid the hunt or held spiritual power. No one knows for sure, and many different stories often are associated with a single effigy.
Sites like the turtle effigy are special places and vulnerable to harm. A number of known effigies have been lost forever, because people removed the stones or damaged the design.
The Turtle Effigy is located approximately three miles north of Pierre on SD Hwy 1804 on the south side of the highway. A highway historical marker is located at the foot of the driveway, marking the turnoff. The Turtle Effigy is on privately owned land, but the landowners invite you to respectfully visit the site. Please be considerate of their land and close all gates behind you. Proceed up the driveway and park on the top. Please keep your vehicle off the grass. Enter through the small metal gate to the left. Follow the ridge through the green gate on the hill and continue to the fenced-in area about 100 yards up the hill. The disturbance or relocation of any effigy stones is prohibited. Please be aware of snakes and livestock.
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The Verendrye Site, on Verendrye Hill overlooking the city of Fort Pierre just northwest of where the Bad and Missouri Rivers come together, is one of only a few verifiable sites associated with the first Europeans to explore the northern Great Plains region. Frenchman Pierre Gaultier De La Verendrye and his sons explored the interior of North America in the 18th century. In 1742, Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye embarked on an expedition to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Though the Verendryes’ epic achievements were dismissed as a failure in their time because they found no Northwest Passage to the Pacific, this site documents their undisputed role in the French effort to achieve colonial dominance in North America.
The Verendryes penetrated further into the heartland of North America than any previously known European explorers. They reached the area in South Dakota where Pierre and Fort Pierre are now located 61 years before Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first arrived in the area. At the end of March, 1743, after visiting with local Arikaras, they buried a lead plate at the site to lay the basis for French sovereignty on the upper Missouri, seeking to establish French control of the entire Mississippi River drainage.
A group of school children playing on the hill found the lead plate in 1913. They noticed a small part of the plate protruding from the ground, dug it out, and carried it into town. They were about to sell it to a local print shop, because it was made of lead. Fortunately, someone contacted State Historian Doane Robinson, and he saved the plate.
The inscription on the plate translates: “In the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Louis XV, the most illustrious Lord, the Lord Marquis of Beauharnios, 1741, Pierre Gaultier De La Verendrye placed this.” Scratched on the back are the words: “Placed by the Chevalier Verendrye, Louis La Londette, and A. Miotte. 30 March 1743.”
The Verendrye Site overlooks a major southeastern bend in the Missouri River that offers dramatic views to the north, east, and south. This section of the Missouri is one of the few that has not been greatly disturbed by dam and reservoir construction. The Verendrye Monument is a granite marker about 4 feet high on which is engraved the following legend: “Here on March 30, 1743 the Verendryes buried a lead tablet to claim this region for France. This tablet found on Feb. 16, 1913, is the first written record of the visit of white men to South Dakota.”
The Verendrye Site, a National Historic Landmark is located on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River and Fort Pierre. From Second Ave. in Fort Pierre, turn right on Verendrye Dr. The monument is off to the left. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. Today, the Verendrye Plate is displayed at the Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center, open daily, at 900 Governors Dr. in Pierre. A replica of the plate is also on display at the Verendrye Site. For more information, visit the South Dakota State Historical Society website.
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