1How do I register my property on the National Registry of Historic Places?

Any individual or party interested in having their property or properties nominated to the National Register of Historic Places should contact The South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre. The historic preservation specialist for the southeastern part of the state will assist you in determining potential eligibility and preparing a nomination. All nominations deemed potentially eligible by the Historic Preservation staff will be presented before the South Dakota Historical Society Board. The Board meets quarterly. If approved by the State Board, the nomination is forwarded to the National Park Service in Washington D.C. for approval or denial. The process from beginning to end usually takes about six to nine months.

In preparation for a nomination, the property owner is required to complete a National Register Preliminary Assessment Form. These forms may be obtained by contacting the regional historic preservation specialist. The completed Assessment Form is utilized by the staff to determine if potential eligibility for the National Register exists.

Information needed to complete the form includes:

  1. Historic and current name of the property
  2. Property address
  3. Historic and current owners of the property
  4. Historic and current use of the property
  5. Date of construction
  6. Exterior materials (both historic and current) for foundation, walls and roof
  7. Interior materials (both historic and current) for ceilings walls and floors
  8. Alterations to the property such as additions, window or door changes, changes to porches or changes to the decorative elements of the property including brackets balconies, railings, columns, shutters, cornices, molding, brackets, etc.
  9. Site features including any outbuildings and a description of the setting/landscaping.

All properties on the National Register of Historic Places are significant for one or more of the following criteria:

  • Criterion A (history)
  • Criterion B (person)
  • Criterion C (architecture)
  • Criterion D (archeology)

Property owners must select one or more of the criteria and describe the history of the property and why it is significant on either a local, state, or national level. Owners should document their sources of information. (county records, family history, local historical society etc. etc.)

Recent photos of the property need to be submitted along with historic photos (if available). The photos should be full shots of each exterior side of the building(s) and representative photos of the interior.

To request a National Register Preliminary Assessment Form or to learn more about the process for nomination, please contact:

South Dakota State Historical Society
Historic Preservation Program
900 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501-2217
Phone (605) 773-3458
Fax (605) 773-6041
2How do I research my home?

These resources will help you investigate the history of your home in Vermillion, SD.

  1. Seek out oral histories. Talk with former owners and renters of your house. Do it now! Life is fragile. The information may be lost if the people die or move out of the area. If possible, do informal interviews of past owners and renters.
  2. Read your abstract if you received one when you purchased your house. If you do not have the abstract, check with the former owner to see if he/she has the original abstract.
  3. Go to the Register of Deeds Office in the Clay County Courthouse. Tell them you would like to investigate the history of your tract of land. Take along the legal description of the property.
  4. Go to the Director of Equalization in the Clay County Courthouse. Look for changes to the property's valuation. Again, take along the legal description of the property.
  5. Check the Sanborn Insurance Maps that are kept at the Austin-Whittemore House in Vermillion. If you have names, dates, and events associated with the house, it can be helpful in your research!
  6. Go to the Clerk of Courts Office in the Courthouse. Ask to see the probate records for people who may have died while owning the house.
  7. Check old Vermillion newspapers. Original newspapers are on file at the Austin Whittemore House and microfilm copies are at the I.D. Weeks Library at the University of South Dakota.
  8. Visit the Vermillion Public Library. Go through the indexes of local history books available at the Vermillion Public Library: History of Clay County, South Dakota by Herbert Schell, Clay County: Chapters Out of the Past by Herbert Schell, and The Forest Avenue Historical District 1873-1980 by Judith Gudger Krueger.
  9. Check other resources at the Austin-Whittemore House and the Vermillion Public Library.

Please note that there may be retrieval fees associated with this research.

3Why shouldn't I replace my old windows?
Traditionally constructed windows are maintainable - you are able to remove, scrape, oil and repaint the sash, replace glass and glazing compound, replace the sash cords and parting beads, clean and lubricate the pulleys and edges of the sash and stops, and maintain both interior and exterior casings to prevent infiltration. Using a storm sash improves thermal performance during the winter, protects the operable sash, and gives you an opportunity to inspect your windows twice a year. If you compromise the integrity of a traditional dwelling by installing "maintenance free" replacement windows, there's nothing you can do - except replace them again. It's true that you can improve overall thermal performance by replacing windows - but not by much. The r-value of the windows might go from 2 to 4 (doubled - wow!), but the windows take up a small area within the wall, which might have an r-value of 16. So, if you don't like your windows, determine what's wrong with them, and how to remedy the situation. If you can make your old windows function as well as they did when they were young, then you will have learned to love them.
4Why do enduring buildings seem to be a thing of the past?
The shoddy old buildings have fallen down, so they're not part of our frame of reference, but - more importantly - the context in which we make building decisions has shifted. To housing industry professionals, laminate flooring represents a predictable ample profit margin, so they'll tend to recommend it, since most of us have yet to realize that laminate doesn't belong on a floor. Realtors, who tend to think of houses as investments, may recommend installation of granite counter tops and recreational plumbing fixtures, even if you don't want them, because the housing market expects them. Corporations and universities may put up show-piece buildings filled with design flaws obvious to their users. In these cases, building decisions are problematical in the context of a rate of growth seen in nature typically when systems are out of kilter - in a locust swarm, for instance, or cancer.