Then and Now: History Edition
Press & Dakotan

Then and Now: History Edition


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    PAGE 8C: THEN & NOW PRESS & DAKOTAN n MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 A Thing Of The Past, Mead Now Has A Bright Future Former Mental Facility Is About To Become A Showcase For Yankton BY DILLON DWYER W hile people might be aware that the Mead Building on the south side of the Human Services campus in Yankton is currently being restored by the Dakota Territorial Museum as the future home of its collection of historical artifacts, they might not be aware of the historical significance of the building and its architecture. Completed in 1909 as the women s receiving hospital at the Dakota Hospital for the Insane, the building was the visionary project of Dr. Leonard C. Mead, architect and hospital administrator. Dr. Mead s progressive mindset on how to treat the mentally ill crossed over into his love of architecture, resulting in the creation of a building with many elaborate features and beautiful landscaping. Dr. Mead felt that beauty of the grounds and buildings at the facility were instrumental in helping his patients find some serenity in their lives. The marble staircase at the main entrance of the building was designed to create a sense of dignity in the patients upon their arrival and a noble atmosphere for the entire facility. The reward for Dr. Mead s architectural efforts was the establishment of a mental health environment that recorded an approximately 25 percent rehabilitation rate. However, Dr. Mead s grandiose designs were met with their share of skepticism and opposition from the public, considering how expensive it would be to produce them in a building that would house the mentally ill. People were calling him crazy for spending so much effort and time and money into constructing buildings like this that were so architecturally unique and decorative, said Crystal Nelson, director of the Dakota Territorial Museum, in an interview with South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He built a huge marble staircase you d probably see in mansions at the time, and put it in a building for mentally ill patients. People could not understand his philosophy. They couldn t understand why he would do this, but he was a progressive thinker. He felt that every patient had something that makes them tick. Every patient had something that he knew would be needed to get inside them, past the mentally ill part, and help them find some serenity within. The building, which features neo-Renaissance design, was encased in concrete blocks and faced with Sioux quartzite chips. It houses three floors in a U shape with large parlors, patterned terrazzo floors, large verandas and tall windows. The fire-resistant construction of the building was a direct result of state legislation passed after the 1899 fire that ripped through the campus of the institution and killed 17 women. Prior to that fire, five men were killed in another fire incident on the campus in 1882. While the building would remain in operation for just shy of the century mark, the opening of the George S. Mickelson Center for Neurosciences in 1996 would mark the end of its use as a campus facility. The Mead building would become one of the only buildings from the old Yankton State Hospital campus that was spared from destruction during this period because of a large amount of community support behind PHOTO: DAKOTA TERRITORIAL MUSEUM An archival photo (above) of the stately lobby of the Mead Building, which has been saved from destruction and will next year become the new home of the Dakota Territorial Museum and the offices of Yankton College (below). keeping it intact. The building sat vacant for more than 20 years as the elements eroded its structure before the Yankton County Historical Society intervened. In 2008, the society s board of directors unanimously voted to pursue the renovation necessary to restore the building with the hope of establishing a new museum and cultural center to house its large collection of memorabilia. We had been looking at finding a new home for a while because of a lack of space and the need for upgrades to our current facility across from Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Nelson said in an interview with the Press and Dakotan. We were told that the Mead building was supposed to be demolished by the state, so we asked to see it with the thought that it might be a possibility for a new location. After touring the facility, the historical society put together a proposal to purchase the building. The state accepted the proposal and leased the building to the society with stipulations concerning a renovation and occupancy timeline. The building was also added to the list of America s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2009. We put together a proposal that asked, if we succeeded with renovating the building, they would let us have it, Nelson said. They said yes and gave us a 20-year lease. Once we completed renovations and occupied part of the building, we could buy it and land within 100 yards of the structure for one dollar. They also granted us first rights to the adjacent property to the west. While the one dollar price tag might seem like a steal for the organization, the estimated cost of renovations and repairs on the project is approximately $5 million. The organization KELLY HERTZ/P&D is more than halfway to their goal, collecting $2.1 million within the first two years of fundraising. The organization hopes to use the building and surrounding property to better present and interpret history. The society plans on using the grounds to the west of the building to recreate a town setting with the structures currently located at the Dakota Territorial Museum site on Summit St. The Mead building itself will house several collections of period pieces organized chronologically by room. Right now, we can only show you a minor amount of history, but with the new building, we can organize and present the information we have in a better way than ever before, Nelson said. The current location of the Dakota Territorial Museum will close on Oct. 1 Exhibits at the new location will begin opening up in 2018, but the project will not see total completed for several more years. YSD Facilities Upgrade To Meet Modern Needs BY REILLY BIEL T he Yankton School District (YSD) school buildings have undergone some major changes in the last few decades. Chuck Turner, who has been supervisor of buildings/grounds for YSD since 1988, has overseen several of these changes during his career, such as the increase of technology that changed the dynamic of classrooms. Back in the early years, starting in 1926 through the 1960s, all you had for power in the classroom was one outlet in front for the overhead projector and an outlet in the back for the tape recorder or projector, he said. Now you have outlets and power all over the place. He also oversaw the rise of Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, through which schools underwent changes to make themselves more easily accessible to those with disabilities. This hit home for Turner, whose father was a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. I have a built-in radar for handicapped accessibility from having to get my dad around in places, he said. (I notice) the standard for a ramp, for example. A half-inch raise on a ramp doesn t seem like a lot to us who are fully mobile. But my dad told me he could tell the difference. LEFT: The old Yankton High School on Walnut St., as seen from Pine St. shortly after it was built in 1916. The school later became the middle school when a new high school was built in the late 1950s. (Photo: Dakota Territorial Museum) RIGHT: The 1950s high school became the new middle school in the 1990s after the YHS/Summit Activities Center was built. A gym was added on to the former 1950s high school, and the Boys & Girls Club was added to that complex last year. (Kelly Hertz/P&D) All of the YSD school buildings are accessible to those who are disabled in some way. However, Turner acknowledges that some facilities, like Beadle Elementary the oldest of the existing YSD buildings could use some improvements. Even with adding two elevators to that building, you can t get to every room, he said of Beadle. I think at some point, the district will have to entertain discussion of a new Beadle, or (have) a very significant upgrade to the building. It wouldn t be the first time the YSD made great changes to its school buildings. In 1950, Webster Elementary relocated to its current location at 317 Seventh St. and in the 1990s, the district auctioned off its middle school building (which is now an assisted living facility) and moved the middle school into the old high school. The high school was moved to its current location at 1801 Summit Street in 1995. The latter change came from the need for a new middle school, Turner explained, adding that the only major change done to the middle school at the time was adding on the north gym to allow for more space for PE for all three grade levels. The new location of the high school offered fewer constraints, with additional real estate for football practice, field and track, Turner explained. In addition, classrooms were large and the joint facility, now known as the Summit Center, provided additional space for city league sports like basketball and volleyball. (The old location) really put a burden on court space and availability, Turner said. We had to make sure each entity knew the other s schedule so we could work around things. He recalls the community reaction being mixed to all these changes, with criticism leveled at the selling of the old middle school and the idea of the new high school having joint use with the community. The former decision was especially criticized, which he understands. I went to school at the old middle school and high school, but I m also somewhat of a progressive thinker and understand that sometimes changes have to be big, he said. Complaints about the new high school were mostly silenced within a couple years of the project s completion. (Some people) couldn t believe how well used (the Summit Center) was and basically jumped on the other side of the fence to support the decision, Turner said. The decision to move the high school seems especially wise in hindsight, as Yankton is growing in a western direction. As Yankton continues to grow west, there could be an argument to have a neighborhood school in that area, Turner said. The growth in that direction has positively affected Lincoln Elementary, with add-ons and three of each grade levels showcasing the growth of student enrollments during the 2000s. Turner estimates that the earliest window of potentially relocating one of the YSD elementary schools to be 5-10 years down the road. Right now, we re trying to get some things knocked down in existing buildings so that when we do talk about a new building, we don t have all those other items hanging out there yet, he said. Right now, we ve kind of leveled off, so I don t see enrollment dragging (down) any buildings. Follow @ReillyBiel on Twitter.
    YSD Facilities Upgrade to Meet Modern Needs
    A Thing of the Past