Scenic & Historic Dell Rapids

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As Easterners made their way to Dakota Territory, included with their worldly possessions were their cultural values and refinement.  Upon their arrival, lodges, clubs and literary societies were formed to meet their social needs. Architectural ideas were reflected in the homes they built, and mirrored the regions from which they came, such as the “widow’s walk” from the coast of Maine, and from the state of Vermont the classic Queen Anne style with “wrap around” porches and balconies framed in an Italian style arch.

Many other Eastern architectural ideas are noticeable when one takes a look at some of the historic homes in Dell Rapids. Many of these grand old homes remain preserved, adding grace, beauty and style to current residential neighborhoods. Many business buildings have undergone renovation to meet current needs, but have preserved the original architectural style.

Provision for a community water supply began with a town pump near the dam and mill site.  In 1894, a quarried rock tower and storage tank with three miles of mains met the needs of residents in their homes and for fire protection.  The tower is one of only three of its kind in the United States.  A new water tower was constructed in 1961. In 1986, Dell Rapids joined the Minnehaha County Water Corporation, which provides for its present and future water needs.

In 1887, three street lamps illuminated a portion of what used to be Pearl Street—now 4th, or Main. Gas for street lights, home lighting, and cooking became another city utility in 1908.  Gas was generated from tar shipped in by rail and processed at a city-operated plant.  Natural gas was piped into town in 1961.  As gas changed the city’s home energy needs, the M.A. Dieson  residence became the first home with a furnace.

Electricity began to supply many of the city’s energy needs as the First World War broke out overseas in 1914.  Dell Rapids’ first electricity was generated from turbines powered by water at a dam near Baltic. Electric street lights illuminated “Dells” when the Sterling Electric company wired the city in 1919.  Northern States Power Company picked-up the contract the following year and continues to provide the service.

Another utility that hooked-up neighbors was the telephone.  In 1897, the Dell Rapids Telephone company began operating with eleven homes and 17 businesses.  Yesterday, as today, proper phone etiquette was stressed, being reminded by rule number seven which “…Prohibited profane language or rough usage.”

The city’s first newspaper, The Dells City Journal, first was circulated in 1872.  It became the Exponent in 1879 and changed names once again in 1885 when it was called the Dell Rapids Times.  In addition to several name changes, the paper has had various owners and has been printed at different locations.  Today we know it as the Dell Rapids Tribune.