So, here we are, folks. The place where the buffalo roam, the skies are big, and the buildings, well, they’ve got a story to tell. South Dakota, home to more cows than people (probably), is a state that packs a punch when it comes to architecture, and I’m not talking about prairies or presidents carved into mountains. No, sir. We’re going to take a little architectural adventure through South Dakota, where even the buildings have a pioneer spirit.
1. Wounded Knee Museum – The Land of a Somber Story
We start our journey with the Wounded Knee Museum, because, well, it’s important. Located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, this unassuming building houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the tragic story of the Wounded Knee Massacre. It’s not about fancy facades or high-tech displays; it’s about preserving history and reminding us of the injustices faced by Native Americans. The architecture here is simple, but it serves a purpose, just like the stories it tells.
2. The Corn Palace – Because, Corn
Yes, you read that right. The Corn Palace is exactly what it sounds like—a palace made of corn. Well, not entirely, but it’s decorated with thousands of bushels of corn, grains, and grasses, creating intricate murals that change every year. It’s not your typical architectural wonder, but it’s uniquely South Dakotan, and that counts for something, right?
3. The Cathedral of Saint Joseph – Where Elegance Meets Spirituality
Sioux Falls has a little secret tucked away—the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. This Gothic Revival masterpiece is a sight to behold, with its soaring spires and intricate stained glass windows. It’s a reminder that in the heart of this rugged state, there’s a place for elegance and spirituality.
4. The 1880 Train – A Ride Through History
Okay, it’s not a building, but it’s a part of South Dakota’s architectural history. The 1880 Train is a vintage steam locomotive that chugs its way through the Black Hills, taking passengers on a journey back in time. The architecture of these old train cars isn’t just about transporting people; it’s about transporting them to a different era.
5. Crazy Horse Memorial – A Work in Progress
It’s not every day you come across a colossal mountain carving in progress, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Crazy Horse Memorial. The vision is to create a tribute to the legendary Native American leader Crazy Horse, and when it’s completed, it will be the world’s largest sculpture. It’s a reminder that South Dakota’s architecture isn’t just about what’s already there; it’s about what’s in the making.
6. Deadwood – Where the Past is Present
Now, I know I said no presidents carved into mountains, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about Deadwood. This town is like stepping into a time machine and landing in the Wild West. The architecture here is a blend of preserved historic buildings and reimagined saloons and casinos. It’s not just about the buildings; it’s about the atmosphere, the history, and the downright rowdy spirit of the place.
7. The Sioux Falls SculptureWalk – A Breath of Fresh Art
In Sioux Falls, they’ve taken art to the streets, quite literally. The SculptureWalk is a year-round exhibit of sculptures placed throughout the city. It’s a brilliant blend of art and architecture, where the buildings serve as the canvas for the outdoor art gallery. It’s a testament to South Dakota’s commitment to culture and creativity.
In a state known for its wide-open spaces and natural wonders, South Dakota’s architecture may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s a part of the state’s rich tapestry. From history to culture, spirituality to creativity, the buildings and structures of South Dakota are a testament to the state’s diverse and enduring spirit. So next time you find yourself in this neck of the woods, take a moment to appreciate the architecture, because even the buildings here have a pioneer story to tell.
(This post is brought to you by that brain in a jar that’s taking over the world: AI, specifically ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Playground AI. Any errors are due to garbage in = garbage out. You’re welcome for running this experiment).
Chase Kramer, AIA, is the Director of Design for TSP Inc. in Sioux Falls. He received his M.Arch from ISU where he focused on urban design and sustainability. Before that, he received a degree in Art from Augustana University. He lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and four children. Beyond Architecture, he is an AI early adopter, musician, art lover, and fan of cheese and beer.