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Union County citizens joined together to fix the big porch on the old Spink Store near Beresford. The store continues to serve as a restaurant.
Union County citizens joined together to fix the big porch on the old Spink Store near Beresford. The store continues to serve as a restaurant.

What's Worth Saving in South Dakota?

May 28, 2013

A foreigner visited Yankton last week and made the comment that the historic downtown area seemed rather dilapidated. He was polite. I don't think that he thought he was saying something we didn't already know. But do we?

He should have seen the 1903 courthouse when it was being braced by timbers (before we tore it down). He should have seen the empty storefronts that now comprise the successful Riverfront Event Center, a beautiful hotel, eatery and meeting place. He should have seen the Gurney's property before the preservation work that has been accomplished in the last 24 months.

But maybe we should also take a look through his eyes. Could we do better?

Should it concern us that we don't practice preservation for preservation's sake? We are not likely to save a building just because we value it; just because we think a future generation might find it interesting. That's a gene we might have acquired from the Dust Bowl. Don't fix up what might just blow away next year.

Despite that practical prairie approach, we've seen towns across South Dakota accomplish some laudable historic development. Our largest cities have led the way, not surprisingly. Rapid City and Sioux Falls have downtown districts that could rival any comparable city in America. Europeans might even find them interesting. As for smaller towns, Deadwood and Mobridge have accomplished much. Deadwood's gambling revenues have made its progress possible, but Mobridge made it happen the old-fashioned way. Or is gambling the old way?

As for Yankton, this town has looked far worse at times. Beautification efforts and architectural improvements have been considerable. Bars and restaurants seem to thrive downtown. Retail isn't as strong as we would like, but our downtown is still blessed with furniture stores, a fine hardware establishment, two pharmacies and several other smaller but vitally important speciality shops. And the downtown is a media center for the entire region — featuring two newspapers and two of the city's three radio stations.

City taxpayers have invested several million dollars in improvements. The riverfront area has been transformed as a park. It's hard to find any existing critic of the expensive conversion of the Meridian Bridge to pedestrian and bike traffic.

As we write this, city leaders are making plans to better connect the walking bridge to the downtown business district. The Masonic Temple is getting a facelift. The historic old Elks Lodge, vacant for many years, is about to be auctioned. Governor Daugaard got $6 million from the legislature to restore a few old buildings on the state hospital campus and then raze a number of others.

We've had successes and failures. A city of 14,000 can only do so much.

Should we expect more of our towns and our cities and ourselves in South Dakota? Or is the exercise world's slogan "use it or lose it" good enough to double as our policy for historic preservation?


07:27 am - Wed, May 29 2013
Richard Papousek said:
Yes its a unfortunate situation, Many of the small towns are full of the elderly population and most do not give a hoot about historic preservation, It seems it takes a younger crowd around here to get anything moving. and that we are lacking but its a double edged sword if you do have a younger crowd then it seems there lives are so busy going to sporting matches all year round, they really dont give a hoot about preservation either, they enjoy So Falls downtown when there visiting there for a game but come home and go into hiding again, belonging to a historical society is also a lesson in frustration to,,,, there has to be more than just raising 5.00 at a bake sale , Gregory SD is a lesson in how lack of leadership on the part of the schoolboard, and city council, they will soon will be faced with the return of the former high school and middle school and will be looking at a huge demolition cost, were as some vision in the early on process could have saved the school building and revitalized a area that is now blighted, there is no quick and easy answer but becoming a monolithic population of elderly is the doom of many historic buildings
07:54 am - Wed, May 29 2013
Marcene Heeren said:
I enjoyed your this article and especially the Spink Cafe photo.
The Spink community actually set out to raise money to fix the slanted roof on the north addition. The response to our fund-raising efforts was so great that we raised twice as much money as expected. That enabled us to fix the porch too.
We always refer to the Spink Cafe as a privately-owned community gathering place, The atmosphere is not fancy, but the food is outstanding. That is why the business has expanded to include customers from a large area.
The Spink Cafe has a rural Elk Point address. It is located on SD Hwy 48, two miles off of I-29. Take the Akron exit and head east.
07:59 am - Wed, May 29 2013
kathy stalzer said:
save the cafe!! You just don't see those wonderful old towns that really something to give to its cafe/restaurants, bars or even antique stores!!

10:05 am - Wed, May 29 2013
Janelle O'Connor said:
SPINK CAFE? it is the best.....the food is awesome. Go there every morning and there is a oblong table + of farmers and friends drinking coffee and having conversation. Or to the round table by the window of a group playing Spink Rummy. Spink Café has character...............There are specials every evening and the you can't beat the Sunday salad bar around. Please come and enjoy. Elvis is even there!!!!!!! Phone: 356-2663
11:10 am - Wed, May 29 2013
Mary Abraham said:
Was just at Spink about an hour ago for lunch. There is always a pleasant interaction with people there, even if you don't know them personally. It serves the community wonderfully.

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