Select Page

     Architect: “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”  — Frank Lloyd Wright, architect

Just in time for your summer vacation planning — a list of “must see” buildings across the country.

Thanks to the American Institute of Architects, 25 structures are featured in South Dakota, ranging from the Corn Palace (of course) to the “Cathedral on the Prairie” in Hoven, to the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City.

Yes, Sioux Falls has some on the list, too, namely St. Joseph Cathedral and the Orpheum Theatre.

It is a great lineup that the AIA has identified, with a wide variety of styles, but one of the things that struck me was that Ward Whitwam was the architect who designed two of the 25. His name may not be familiar to you, but his work no doubt will be. Those nine concrete tipis that grace the I-90 and I-29 rest areas in South Dakota are his design, as is the Lewis & Clark Information Center at Chamberlain.

In addition, Whitwam helped me solve a great mystery some 17 years ago, which I’ll call the star-shaped house puzzle.

Near Lake Mitchell stands a home with a roof shaped like a star. During our many years of living in that community, the talk was that the owner of the home had it designed in memory of his first wife, Starr, who died in 1951. After some sleuthing, I discovered that the architect was Whitwam, Sioux Falls, who was more than happy to clear up the matter.

Whitwam told me the roof was a triangle. Whitwam had studied Frank Lloyd Wright and loved using angles and triangles in his designs, which also explains the extreme 43-foot overhang that points west toward Lake Mitchell.

“No, it’s not a star,’’ Whitwam told me at the time. “I’m sorry I spoiled it.”

The list of 25 offers examples of some of the best and unusual designs our state has to offer. For example, the state Capitol in Pierre is extraordinarily beautiful and I’m always amazed at the number of folks I meet who have never visited it. Hoven is off the beaten path (northeast of Pierre in Potter County) but St. Anthony’s of Padua is worth the time and travel.

As much as I respect architects, they excluded a couple of notables from their list: The State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, the Alonzo Ward Hotel in Aberdeen, and the Mellette House in Watertown are all worthwhile.

Looks like a great road trip, or two, doesn’t it?

(See the entire list at

25 architectural structures in S.D.

Mount Rushmore Visitor Center, Black Hills

Corn Palace, Mitchell

Deadwood Historic District, Deadwood

Tipis at interstate rest areas in South Dakota

Alex Johnson Hotel, Rapid City

St. Joseph Cathedral, Sioux Falls

Old Courthouse Museum, Sioux Falls

State Historical Society Cultural Center, Pierre

Old Main at USD, Vermillion

Howard Hotel and Conference Center, Howard

Orpheum Theatre. Sioux Falls

Depot Building, Aberdeen

St.Anthony’s of Padua, Hoven

Children’s Museum, Brookings

Main Street Square, Rapid City

State Capitol, Pierre

St. Mary’s Church, Sioux Falls

Bunker Fields, Igloo

Christ the King, Webster

SDSU Coughlin Campanile, Brookings

Pettigrew House, Sioux Falls

Sylvan Lake Lodge, Custer State Park

Branson Bank Building, Mitchell

Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls

Lewis & Clark Information Center, Chamberlain


June 6, 2018