Pierre Hill Residential Historic District

Pierre City, Hughes County, SD

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Ewert Mansion

The Pierre Hill Residential Historic District [†] is located just north of the downtown business district on a rise overlooking the Missouri River, about three blocks northwest of the State Capitol. Comprised of sections from several of Pierre's early railroad subdivisions, the district consists of residential buildings on tree-lined grid streets. The neighborhood is a dense concentration of late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential types and styles, and is also characterized by large trees and extensive landscaping. Setbacks are generally uniform and materials are similar, but the rhythm and spacing of the homes tends to be irregular due to variations in subdivision lot sizes and in the number of individual lots that comprise each parcel. Rear alleys bisect the blocks, and many of the houses have detached garages located on the alleys. Most of the homes are moderate-to-large, single-family dwellings, with a small mix of larger highstyle homes and mansions, some of which have been converted into duplexes and apartments. A small, triangular park at the district's southwest corner was established in the mid-1960's.

This ten-block area retains a remarkable degree if historic integrity and visual cohesiveness, with ninety-four percent of the buildings dating from the historic period of significance and ninety-six percent of the in-period buildings retaining historic integrity. One-hundred-three of the 109 buildings in the district are of the historic period, and ninety-four of the in-period buildings retain historic integrity. Out-of-period construction in the district was minimal due to the fact that most of the lots had been occupied by the late 1940's, and since building styles in the area remained much the same from the late 1930's until the mid-1950's, the small amount of later in-fill is very compatible with the historic fabric. The district's few out-of-period ranch style houses are heavily influenced by the earlier Prairie style, so they, too tend to blend with the historic houses that surround them, and there are only two contemporary buildings within the district boundaries. Several houses have lost historic integrity due to alterations, but retain form and scale compatible to the neighborhood.

It was during the period of development between 1900 and 1912 that Pierre's bench district became known as "the Hill," and an address on the hill became a sign of prestige for the city's business and professional elite. The neighborhood was convenient for local professionals and successful downtown business owners, as well as being close to the new federal building, State Capital and County Courthouse that employed growing numbers of lawyers, judges and government officials. The location above the city, away from saloons and society's rougher elements, near churches and good schools, and out of danger of the flooding that periodically plagued the flats, was considered the ideal place to raise a family. Thirty-four of Pierre Hill's contributing houses were constructed between the years of 1900 and 1912, including most of the larger, high style homes and mansion houses. During this period, construction spread to the north and west boundaries of the Historic District, as large homes were built on corners and mid-block parcels consisting of multiple lots.

The upper Missouri River served as Central South Dakota's primary artery of transportation and commerce until the arrival of the Railroad at its eastern bank in 1880. The flat plains between the hills on either side of the Missouri at the mouth of the Bad River made the area a natural stopping point on the waterway, and Native Americans, explorers, trappers, traders, soldiers and gold-seekers had camped there long before settlers began to arrive. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1875, Fort Pierre, on the western bank of the Missouri, became the point of departure for hoards of fortune-seekers traveling north by steamboat and stagecoach to reach the Overland Trail. By 1877, the mouth of the Bad River had become a major depot for the transfer of massive amounts of freight from steamboats to the mule and oxen trains that operated on the Fort Pierre - Deadwood wagon road, and Fort Pierre had become a thriving town. Across from Fort Pierre, on the other side of the river, was a tent-city of gold seekers awaiting transportation west, with "nineteen actual settlers counting children" among them. In 1879, rumors began circulating that the Dakota Central Railway Company, a subsidiary of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, was coming to the Pierre/Fort Pierre area. Permanent settlers began to trickle in as railroad agents and surveyors purchased and platted land for a townsite.

The fledgling settlement on the other side of the river was called Mahto for a short time, but later became known as "Pierre". It grew rapidly after the Dakota Central's official announcement, in the summer of 1880, that the railroad would not cross the Missouri River. By September, there were two groceries, a drygoods, a clothier, barbers, attorneys and carpenters, as well as numerous dance halls and eating establishments in the new settlement. The railroad's official plat of the townsite of Pierre consisted of 482 lots within fourteen blocks bounded Sioux Avenue on the north, Fort Street on the west, Missouri Avenue on the south, and Crow Street on the east, with Pierre Street planned as the north-south main street. The plat was recorded, and the first auction for town lots was held on October 6, 1880. The first train arrived on November third, and a building boom was underway. Lumber was sold directly from railroad cars in the frenzy to complete businesses; banks, warehouses, offices, hotels and homes before the snow fell. The railroad built a depot, roundhouse and freight depot, and freight bound for the Black Hills was now transferred directly from the train to wagons, then ferried across the Missouri to the road west. Pierre remained the western terminus of the railroad until 1907, and the train brought new residents daily, as settlers poured into newly surveyed Hughes County and the population of the city exploded.

After a severe winter and resulting floods in 1880-1881, agents and subsidiaries of the railroad resumed the survey and platting of Pierre, expanding to the bench at the northwestern edge of the town. Most of the homes in the historic district are located in two of the large Railroad Subdivisions of this period; the Fifth Railway and Steigmeyers Additions. The Fifth Railway Addition, recorded by the Western Town Lot Company in 1883, encompasses the portion of the District comprised of the west side of Grand Avenue and both sides of Huron Avenue (originally Elm Street) between Elizabeth Street and Broadway. Steigmeyers addition, recorded in 1882 by Frederic H. Steigmeyer of Seneca County, Ohio, encompasses the portion of the District comprised of the west side of Euclid Avenue and the east side of Grand Avenue between Elizabeth Street and the alley behind Wynoka Street. The original plat shows Grand Avenue as Leeper Street, but it had become East End Street by 1892, and was changed to Grand Avenue in circa 1910. Evans Addition, recorded by Sharon G. Evans of Hughes County in 1881, encompasses the small portion of the District above Elizabeth Street (known then as North End Street). In 1886, Anson and John D. Hilger, two of Pierre's prominent original settlers and businessmen, platted the block on Wynoka (then Summit) Street between Grand and Euclid. The triangular portion of the historic district south of Wynoka Street and North of Broadway was subdivided later. The western half of the triangle was subdivided by Lizzie J. Robinson of Trumball County, Ohio in1893. The eastern half of the triangle was part of a large tract owned by the Catholic Church that was not subdivided until 1901906, when it was divided into lots by Minnie Wheelon and Joseph B. Sherman of Pierre.

An 1889 promotional brochure described Pierre as a series of natural terraces, or benches, saying, "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." The upper bench was platted as residential lots that varied in size from subdivision to subdivision. Lots in Steigmeyer's Addition, for example, were sized 40 X 164 feet, while lots in the Fifth Railway Addition were 25 X 142 feet. Early deeds for these lots intended for the city's more costly residences often carried covenants restricting land use and requiring that trees be planted and maintained 8 Lots sold quickly in the "boom town" atmosphere of the day, primarily in large parcels that were later split and re-sold by speculators. Many of the original investors in bench land lived out of-town and out-of-state, and individual lots often changed hands at a profit several times before they were purchased by someone who actually intended to build. Local real estate investment companies were active in the district as well. For example, the Pierre firm of Wright and Templeton purchased ten full blocks and assorted other lots in the Steigmeyer addition for $5,000.00 in December of 1882. They sold off some of the lots individually and in smaller parcels, then re-sold the remainder of the original large tract to Phillip and Jacob Bahl of Lucas, Ohio for $9,000.00 in April of 1883.

While investors and speculators did a brisk business in view lots on the hill, the focus of actual development during Pierre's first decade continued to be the lower benches and flats along the river. In 1883, the Northwestern Land Association bought 640 acres north and south of the railroad tracks in east Pierre and platted it into town lots. East Pierre rapidly developed into a second business district with the Wells Hotel and Pierre University acting as magnets for new businesses and residents. East and West Pierre were in competition for several years, but most of the east Pierre businesses and many of the residents followed the Free Press when it moved to west Pierre in 1889. Real estate values in west Pierre increased thirty percent with the consolidation of the two business districts, and promoters touted land prices as quite low when viewed in terms of the advantages the city had to offer, saying, "It is doubtful if there is another point in the United States where real estate will more certainly advance in value at a greater percentage, within the next few years, than at Pierre.

By 1890, Pierre had become a thriving city of 3,000 people. It had a waterworks, a telephone system, and natural gas and electrical service. Many of the original downtown buildings had been replaced with substantial brick business blocks, and the city directory listed 281 businesses. The opening of the Great Sioux Reservation to Euro- American settlement in 1890 coincided with Pierre winning an election to become South Dakota's temporary state capital, sparking another economic boom. Pierre's second "boom period" was short-lived due to the national business panic of 1893, but it was during this period of economic resurgence that people began to build homes on the bench view lots. Seven of the historic district's contributing houses were constructed between the years of 1890 and 1895. These homes are located along Grand Avenue in the southeastern portion of the district, close to town, and along the major north-south artery of Euclid Avenue. The district's first residents were members of Pierre's fledgling business and professional class, and the majority of the district's Late Victorian type homes, influenced by the Queen Anne and other picturesque styles, date from this first period of building. Notable examples from the district's early years include the grand Colonial Revival home with an elaborate, balustraded wrap-around porch and widow's walk at 503 N. Euclid, built for banker Burton Cummings and his wife, Clara Belle in 1895. The Queen Anne home at 401 N. Grand, built for City treasurer and local railway official, Henry Cutting and his wife, Josephine in 1890, features projecting and cutaway bays with a variety of window shapes and sizes, and is another excellent example from this period. The Queen Anne home at 338 N. Grand documents the shift of the city center from east to west Pierre in a very literal manner. It was constructed in east Pierre In circa 1883, then moved to its present location in circa 1890.

After a five-year lull brought on by the national business panic of 1893, building on the bench resumed in 1900. This new building boom was spurred on by a series of events that began in 1903, when the City of Pierre received $170,000.00 to build a federal building. In 1904, Pierre became the permanent State Capital, and the legislature voted to build a new, stone capital building. Then, in 1905, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad announced that it would build a railroad bridge between Pierre and Fort Pierre and lay track west to Rapid City. New construction in the city was extensive between the years of 1900 and 1912. Hundreds of new homes were built, and the city received a Carnegie library, a new high school, a National Guard Armory, a city auditorium, a new Federal Building, and a new State Capital. The Chicago and Northwestern built a new depot and roundhouse as well as the bridge across the Missouri, and civic improvements included a complete sewage system, graveled streets, and side walks downtown.

In 1908, the city undertook a massive street grading project with multiple goals. Downtown businesses had been built at several different grades over the years and the street levels needed to be standardized. Simultaneously, the city had grown to a size that reliance upon earth closets and privies had become a sanitation problem. In 1907 a bond issue for a gravity sewer system throughout the city was approved by the voters, but engineers determined that the grade of the hill district was too high, and the grade downtown too low, for it to work properly. The graded streets of the Pierre Hill Historic District took on their current appearance in1908, when they were cut and graded and the dirt hauled downtown to raise the streets there. Sewer pipes were laid before the grade was raised, the newly engineered streets were graveled, sidewalks were poured downtown, and Pierre was transformed into a modern city.

Charles Leavitt Hyde, Sr. has been called the most influential figure in the development of Pierre's hill district during the early 1900's. Mr. Hyde was one of the out-of-town speculators who had been buying up view lots on the bench during the 1880's, while he ran a successful wallpaper and carpet business in Lima, Ohio. He married Katherine Robinson in 1886. and moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he went into the real estate business, in 1887. His land holdings in Pierre, and throughout the state, were extensive by the time he arrived in the city in 1889. In addition to numerous residential lots in the historic district, Mr. Hyde owned much of Capitol Avenue between the new federal building, Hughes County Courthouse, and the new Capitol. In 1906, he began to develop the hill district with the construction of the Hyde Block at the southwest corner of Pierre Street and Capitol Avenue. Over the next five years he built the Grand Opera House south of the Hyde Block (1906); a department store between the Hyde Block and the Opera House (1907); the Capital Avenue Block (1908), the Pierre Street block (1909); and the Charles Hotel (1911). Mr. Hyde became one of South Dakota's most wealthy and prominent citizens, with real estate holdings throughout the United States, mining interests in the Black Hills and Colorado, and a large flour mill in Pierre.

The Hydes raised five children in a grand mansion just north of the historic district, and were active members of the First Congregational Church, where Mrs. Hyde taught Sunday school for thirty years. Charles and Katherine Hyde's sons, Charles Jr. and Franklin made their homes in Pierre. Charles Hyde, Jr. was a banker, lawyer and State Senator. He also managed the Grand Theater, which was built by his father, and was an active promoter of youth athletics programs in Pierre. He lived at the corner of Grand and Capital Avenues, just south of the Historic District, until his death, at the age of ninety-six, in 1986. Franklin Hyde, a manager for the Hyde Holding Corporation, and his wife, Enid purchased their home at 517 N. Grand Avenue in the Pierre Hill Historic District in 1934. Built by Leslie Schaff, partner in the Merrill-Schaff Lumber Company, in1909, the Franklin and Enid Hyde house is a side-gable Arts ∓ Crafts bungalow with wide, sweeping belcast eaves; wide, notched fascia boards, and decorative brackets. Mr. Hyde was killed in an automobile accident as a young man, and Mrs. Hyde remains in the home where she has lived for sixty-three years.

It was during the period of development between 1900 and 1912 that Pierre's bench district became known as "the Hill," and an address on the hill became a sign of prestige for the city's business and professional elite. The neighborhood was convenient for local professionals and successful downtown business owners, as well as being close to the new federal building, State Capital and County Courthouse that employed growing numbers of lawyers, judges and government officials. The location above the city, away from saloons and society's rougher elements, near churches and good schools, and out of danger of the flooding that periodically plagued the flats, was considered the ideal place to raise a family. Thirty-four of Pierre Hill's contributing houses were constructed between the years of 1900 and 1912, including most of the larger, high style homes and mansion houses. During this period, construction spread to the north and west boundaries of the Historic District, as large homes were built on corners and mid-block parcels consisting of multiple lots.

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 and Neoclassical styles became a popular statement regarding the social stature and ail-American virtue of their residents. Then, as the new decade approached, the influence of the Prairie School and the Arts & Crafts became apparent, as house forms were simplified and the American Foursquare and Bungalow came into fashion. Some of the many notable examples from this period of development include: the Farr Mansion at 106 E. Wynoka Street, the Ewert Mansion at Euclid Avenue, the Franklin Hyde Bungalow at 517 N. Grand Avenue, the Judge Charles Whiting House at 400 N. Grand Avenue, the Dr. Charles M. Hollister Bungalow at 402 N. Huron Avenue.

The Georgian Revival Farr Mansion (listed separately in the National Register of Historic Places) is an excellent early example from this period. This home was designed by architect E. J. Donahue of St. Paul, Minnesota, and built for Colonel E. P. Farr and his wife, Dr. Mary Noyes Farr in 1904. It features elaborate exterior ornamentation, including a full length front porch with Ionic columns; massive, two story Ionic pilasters; Paladian windows, and a dentillated cornice with modillions. Colonel Farr was Vice-president of the National Bank of Commerce, and Mrs. Farr was an osteopath and the first woman doctor in Pierre. Subsequent owners included Governor Peter Norbeck and Governor Gunderson. The second story of the home was converted into apartments in 1946, but it has recently been restored as a single family residence.

Another example of the neighborhood's early grand homes is the A. W. Ewert Mansion, built between the years of 1905 and 1910 at 339 N. Euclid. This two and one-half story Neoclassical mansion has rusticated stone veneer exterior walls and features a prominent, projecting two-story front porch with monumental columns on stone piers and a balustraded second story balcony. Adolph Ewert began his career as a cashier at the National Bank of Commerce, was Mayor of Pierre from 1892 to 1896, then 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. Mr. Ewert died in 1936, and the twenty-four room home was converted into a rooming house in the 1940's. Mr. Ewert's wife, Carrie Durcher Ewert, remained in the home with her son and daughter-in-law, Mr.and Mrs. Winfred Ewert until her death, at the age of 97, in 1960. The home is now a residence hotel.

The Judge Charles Whiting House at 400 N. Grand and the Dr. Charles M. Hollister House at 402 N. Huron exemplify the Foursquare homes and Bungalows that became popular in the district later in this period of development. The Judge Charles Whiting House, a two story, Foursquare house at 400 N. Grand, features Prairie School stylistic features, including a pyramidal roof with wide eaves; hipped dormers with triple casement windows, and Chicago style transom windows. It was built in 1908 as a spec house by Leslie Schaff and John C. Merrill, owners of the Merrill-Schaff Lumber Company in Pierre, and Judge Charles S. Whiting purchased the home in 1909. Judge Whiting was the presiding judge of the South Dakota Supreme Court and Mrs. Whiting was the Corresponding Secretary of the Pierre Political Equality Club. The Whitings remained in the home for eleven years, then sold it to Pierre attorney, Howard G. Fuller. Subsequent owners included Clementine B. McLaurin, a Pierre physician, and Charles and Edna Carr, who purchased the home in 1952, and remained there for twenty-five years. The Prairie style Bungalow at 402 N. Huron was built in 1910 for Pierre physician Dr. Charles M. Hollister. This one-and-one-half story Prairie style bungalow features textured stucco exterior walls and a high, rock-faced concrete block water table. The prominent, sweeping gable roof has dramatic, overhanging eaves and a wrap-around, hip roofed screen porch with massive, battered stucco pillars. Subsequent owners include Pierre physician and surgeon T.F. Riggs, for whom Riggs High School is named, and the current owners, Dr. Richard and Mary Jean Schoessler.

1918-1928. When the United States entered World War One in 1917, South Dakota's capital city became the administration center for numerous war-related activities.Despite high living costs and inflated prices, the demand for fine homes for the professionals employed in the nearby state, federal and county government buildings did not abate. After another short lull between the years of 1913 and 1918, building on the Hill continued, with an average of two new houses constructed every year until the financial crash of 1929. Building during this period was scattered throughout the historic district, with concentrations on the west side of Huron between Seneca and Elizabeth and on the North side of Elizabeth between Huron and Grand. Homes of this period were primarily Arts & Crafts and Prairie style bungalows and Period Revival houses. Builder service and plan-book type designs replaced the large and elaborate architect-designed homes favored earlier in the century. The Miller's 1925 Colonial Revival house at 519 Huron Avenue, for example, was built from a Good Housekeeping Magazine design. Mr. Miller owned the Miller Photography Studio in Pierre, and he paid off the mortgage on his home with prize money won with a photograph of his daughter, Marilyn, who was judged to be "America's Most Beautiful Baby" in a contest sponsored by Sears Roebuck in 1934. Other representative buildings of this era include three brick Arts & Crafts bungalows with decorative masonry and matching brick retaining walls, built as spec houses by Mr.Turner at 112, 116 and 120 Elizabeth Street in 1927.

This period of development in the historic district is tied to rise of the automobile as the primary mode of transportation. In 1905, there were 480 cars registered in the state of South Dakota, and by 1920, there were 112,000. The automobile had become commonplace in Pierre by 1915, and in 1916, the state constitution was amended to permit state construction of public roads. Construction of hard-surfaced roads began in 1923, and in 1926, a 1900 foot concrete and steel highway bridge was constructed between Pierre and Fort Pierre. The city's transition to automobile-based culture was reflected in the appearance of wood-frame garages with hip, pyramidal, and gable roofs in the alleys behind the houses on the Hill. In addition to the detached garages built behind existing homes, many new homes of this period feature attached garages, like the Miller's house at 519 Huron, or detached garages built to match the house, like the one behind Enid Hyde's Arts & Crafts Bungalow at 517 N. Grand.

South Dakota's economy was just beginning to recover from a post World-War One deflationary crisis involving large-scale bank failures, a precipitous drop in farm land values, and scandals involving the embezzlement of public funds by government officials, when the stock market crashed in 1929. The value of South Dakota farmland decreased fifty-eight percent between the years of 1920 and 1930, and seventy-one per cent of the state banks failed between the years of 1920 and 1934. The financial crisis of the Great Depression was exacerbated in South Dakota by severe drought and dust storms in 1933 and 1934, followed by terrible grasshopper infestations in 1936. Real estate foreclosures and tax delinquency occurred on the Hill during this period, as they did throughout the state and nation. Construction of new homes in the Historic District came to a total halt in 1929, and did not resume again until 1936.

Building during the period between 1936 and 1943 was scattered throughout the historic district, primarily on lots that were split from some of the larger parcels surrounding the early homes, with a concentration on the west side of Huron at the south end of the block between Oak and Seneca. When people did start to build again after the Depression, it was in a moderate style that reflected the need to conserve and retrench. Attenuated versions of the period revival cottages that had been popular in the 1920's, built in the same basic form but lacking the decorative details of earlier versions, began to appear. Two or Three of these "Minimal Traditional" homes were built in the Historic District every year until construction was again curtailed by World War Two in 1943. Pierre Hill continued to be the preferred address for officials associated with the nearby state, federal and county government buildings, as well as for successful merchants and professionals. The house at 407 N. Huron, built in 1941 for James Boocock, an official in the South Dakota National Guard, exemplifies the architecture of this period. It is a simple, gable-front rectangle with a central, projecting enclosed foyer and an attached garage that was added the year after the home was built. A very similar, side-gable version of this type of house at 409 N. Grand was built for Judge Mason Hinsey in circa 1940.

After a brief lull between the years of 1943 and 1946, three houses, located on re-subdivided lots on Broadway and Euclid Avenue, were built in the Historic district 1947. As the minimal traditional style remained popular during this period, these houses are very similar to homes built earlier in the decade. Exemplified by the homes at 122 and 118 Broadway, post-war Minimal Traditional homes tended place greater emphasis on the attached garage, and reflect the renewed prosperity of the post-war period in the use of materials like brick and decorative stone.

Construction in the historic district was minimal after the historic period. Only seven more houses were built after 1947. The ranch style houses that were built in the district during the 1950's and 1960's are heavily influenced by the earlier Prairie style, thus tend to blend with the historic houses that surround them, and there are only two contemporary buildings within the district boundaries. Several houses have lost historic integrity due to alterations, but retain form and scale compatible to the neighborhood. The District has remained a prestigious, middle class residential area throughout the years, with many of its residents employed at the State Capital and the County Courthouse. As a collection of homes, ancillary buildings and landscape structures that retain a high degree of historic integrity, the neighborhood remains an unbroken record of Pierre's social and architectural development.

Adapted from: Stephanie Turner, Historic Preservation Consultant, Pierre Hill Residential Historic District, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Broadway Avenue West • Elizabeth Street East • Elizabeth Street West • Euclid Avenue • Euclid Avenue North • Girard Avenue North • Huron Avenue North • Oak Street East • Oak Street West • Seneca Street East


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