July 5, 2016 – South Dakota State Capitol – Oahe Dam – Oahe School and Chapel

This morning, we toured South Dakota’s Capitol Building in Pierre … our 25th of 51 (including the capitol in Washington, DC).  Like each of those we’ve previously visited it is unique in many ways.

State Capitol (c), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

However, for many years, it was not a given the Pierre would become the state’s capital.  In 1861, the Dakota Territory was recognized by the United States government. This area initially included North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Montana and Wyoming.  During this time period, the towns of Yankton (1862)

Territorial Capitol in Yankton (1862) - Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Bismarck (1883),

Territorial Capitol in Bismark (1883) - Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Huron, and Pierre (1890)

Temporary Wooden Capitol (1890) - Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05all served terms as the capital city.  When South Dakota became an independent state it was decided that it was also time to establish a permanent capital city.  Many towns campaigned for this position, very much like a political campaign.  The city of Pierre, in fact, went into debt for 30 years because of the amount of money they spent on their campaign.  The central location of Pierre within South Dakota is what helped the current Capital City win the campaign.

Outgoing Governor Herried in his message to the 1905 Legislature said "South Dakota needs a new statehouse, fireproof and commodious and in harmony with its progress and prosperity."

The Capitol Building was built between 1905 and 1910.  The 114,000 square foot structure was constructed of a variety of materials including native field stone, Indiana limestone and Vermont and Italian marble.  It stands 161 feet tall, 190 feet wide and 292 feet long and features hundreds of hand-crafted materials, including carved woodwork and marble, special brass castings and hand laid stone. 

State Capitol (Exterior of Dome), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

While made of copper, because the atmosphere in Pierre is so much purer than that in other state capitals with copper domes, its color turned black rather than turning greenish due to pollutants in the air.

State Capitol (Coupla), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Entering the main entrance you look up and see the state seal on the ceiling

State Capitol (South Dakota State Seal over Entrance Ceiling) - Piere, SD - 2106-07-05

and then you are immediately captivated by

State Capitol (Rotunda Entrance), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome from 4th Floor - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

we were blown-away with magnificent marble grand staircase

State Capitol (Grand Staircase to Second Floor - a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Grand Staircase Balisters), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05inner Rotunda dome,

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome - a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome Stain Glass), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome - b), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

two of which were done by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore

State Capitol (Rotunda Statue - Courage), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Courage

State Capitol (Rotunda Statue - Integrity), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Integrity

State Capitol (Rotunda Statue - Vision), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Vision

State Capitol (Rotunda Statue - Wisdom), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Wisdom

Paintings above the sculptures in each upper corner of the Rotunda, each portraying a Roman Goddess with symbolizing aspects of South Dakota,

State Capitol (Goddess Ceres - Agriculture), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Ceres – Agriculture

State Capitol (Goddess Europa with Zues the Bull - Livestock), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Europa with Zeus the Bull – Livestock

State Capitol (Goddess Minerva - Mining, Industry and Wisdom), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Minerva – Mining, Industry and Wisdom

State Capitol (Goddess Venus with Cupid - Love of State and Family), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Venus with Cupid – Love of State and Family

and stain glass vaulted ceiling above

State Capitol (Stain Glass Vault over the Grand Staircase -a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Stain Glass Vault over the Grand Staircase -b), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05 mural at the top of the grand staircase,

State Capitol (''Advent of Commerce'' at top of the Grand Staircase), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Advent of Commerce – illustrates the bringing of white trade to the Indians

marble columns and capstones,

State Capitol (Marble Columns), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Marble Column Capstone), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05 ceiling stenciling.

State Capitol (Third Floor Ceiling Lights and Stenciling), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05and marble drinking fountains.

State Capitol (Marbile Drinking Fountain), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05with solid brass spigots

With no formal tours scheduled today, we were on our own for a self-guided effort … which actually worked out well as we had a private tour of the Supreme Court chambers and a conversation with the Governor’s secretary.

Supreme Court

State Capitol (Supreme Court Chamber Door), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Supreme Court Chamber), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Two notes of interest:  First, although five justices, you see only four seats.  That’s because one justice uses a wheel chair.  Second, the religious mural runs counter to the concept of the separation of church and state.

State Capitol (Supreme Court Chamber Chandelier), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Senate Chamber

State Capitol (Senate Chamber - a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (Senate Chamber Mural), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

“Louisiana Purchase”

House Chamber

State Capitol (House Chamber - a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

"The Peace That Passes Understainding"

(very faded and hard to see from just one angle)

State Capitol (House Chamber Mural - b), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (House Chamber Mural - a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol (House Chamber Stain Glass), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05The stain glass window in the rear of the chamber is visible from its other side from the Rotunda

The desks in both House and Senate Chambers are cherry wood roll-tops which are original from 1910 and have been refurbished

State Capitol (Rolltop Desk), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Interestingly, the doors and door jambs on the Legislative floor are Oak on the sides facing the corridors and Mable on the interior sides.

State Capitol (Oak and Maple Corridors and Door Frames), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Governor’s Reception Office

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Office - Original Desk), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Original desk from the State’s first governor

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Office Doors), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Ornate entrance door

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Office - Original Steam Radiator), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Original (circa 1910) radiator (found throughout the building)

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Office - Antique Phone), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Replica of type of phone used during the early twentieth century in the Capitol

 The Capitol grounds host a number of sculptures and monuments.

Replica of the Liberty Bell

Replisa of the Liberty Bell, Across from the State Capitol, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Monument Commemorating the Signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787

Monument comemorating the US Constitution State Capitol Walkway, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

World War II Monument

State Capitol Grounds (World War II Memorial - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

State Capitol Grounds (Veterans Memorial Flags - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Korean War Monument

State Capitol Grounds (Memorial to South Dakota's Korean War Dead), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Vietnam War Monument

State Capitol Grounds (Memorial to South Dakota's Vietnam War Dead - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Memorial to Fallen Firefighters

State Capitol Grounds (Fire Fighters Memorial - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Tragically, four firefighters all lost their lives on July 1, 2012

Memorial to Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

State Capitol Grounds (Law Enforcement Memorial - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Memorial to Fallen Emergency Medical Technicians

State Capitol Grounds (Emergency Medical Services Memorial - 1), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

 The Flaming Fountain Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (Fountain), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

and the most recognized, the

Fighting Stallions Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (Fighting Stallions Memorial - e), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05The life-size cast bronze sculpture was made from 90 tons of Dakota mahogany granite and was erected to celebrate and honor the lives of eight men, including then Governor George S. Mickelson, who were killed in the crash of a state aircraft due to a propeller assembly failure


We next drove to Oahe (in the Sioux language meaning “a place to stand upon”) Dam and Power Plant on the Missouri River.

Oahe Dam, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Construction on the dam began in 1948 and was completed and power generation began in April 1962 (Dedicated by President Kennedy).  The Oahe Dam, the world’s 14th largest by volume, created a lake that stretches 231 miles upstream.  The length of the dam is 9,300 feet, with a width at the top of 60 feet and at the base 3,500 feet.

It stands 245 feet high, required 92 million cubic yards of earthen fill and required 1,122,000 cubic yards of concrete.   

The lake covers 374,000 acres of land with a maximum depth of 205 feet and 2,250 miles of shoreline.  Benefits from the dam include recreation, irrigation, flood control, navigation and power.

Oahe Dam Lit Up at Night, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05Dam lit at night

Adjacent to the dam is the Oahe Mission School and Chapel.

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (a), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Stephen Return Riggs became a Missionary to the Sioux in Minnesota in 1837.  His son, Thomas was born in 1847 and twenty-five years later was delegated to serve the Teton Sioux on the Missouri River. 

Reverend Thomas Riggs (circa 1880s) Photo in Oahe School and Chapel, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

His first station, was in Hope, opposite Fort Sully.  On December 26, 1872 he married Nina Foster and his son, Theodore, was born in July 1874; after which they left Hope to serve 300 Two Kettle and Sans Arc Sioux at Boque, soon thereafter, called Oahe Station. 

A school and church were necessary.  Lumber to build it was brought in by steamer in June 1877, and by September, Riggs, one carpenter and Indian labor had created a chapel adjacent to his homestead.

Oahe Mission School and Chapel and Riggs Homestead (late 1800s) Plaque, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Where the annual Dacotah chruch meeting was held.  It also served as a missionary school where the Bible was intiaally taught in the Dakotalanguage and later in English only.

The building has not been changed since it served as a school and church

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Photo of Teacher and Students in 1907), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Photo of Students - circa 1907), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05and all of the furnishings, other than the electric organ on the altar are original.

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Altar) Plaque, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Classroom - Nave) Plaque, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

Some writing on the blackboards is in the hand of Louisa Irvine, Thomas Riggs’ second wife, who survived him. 

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Chalk Board in Louise Irvine's Handwriting), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

The church pews were convertible into benches and desks for school children

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Desks - Pews) Plaque, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

and on their sides was a message

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (''Time Flies'' on Bench Seats) Plaque, Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05“Time Flies”

The bell,

Oahe Mission School and Chapel (Bell), Pierre, SD - 2106-07-05

inscribed with “Wakan Tanka Ohala Po” (Praise the Lord in Sioux) was the gift of a New England Congregational Church, Thomas Riggs’ own faith.  The original site of his home stead and the church was originally 11 miles upstream … now lies under 150 feet of water since the dam’s construction.

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