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Corn Palace

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1921, Rapp and Rapp; 1937 enhancements; 2015 renovation, Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle. 604 N. Main.

The Corn Palace is a multipurpose facility built to celebrate South Dakota’s agriculture. Notable for its exterior mural “crop art” made from corn and grains, this Moorish Revival building, located in Mitchell, continues to be a popular tourist destination, welcoming approximately 500,000 visitors annually. This is Mitchell’s third corn palace: the first, built in 1892, celebrated local agriculture in an effort to encourage more settlers in the area, while the second was constructed in 1905 during Mitchell’s effort to become the state capital. In 1921, Rapp and Rapp of Chicago designed a larger and more permanent structure, and the Moorish Revival onion domes and minarets were added in 1937.

The exterior is decorated by local artists with elaborate murals made of various-colored corn, grains, and native grasses, which are generally replaced each fall and are designed with a different annual theme, typically related to some element of South Dakota history. Oscar Howe designed the murals from 1948 to 1971, Calvin Schultz from 1977 to 2002, and Cherie Ramsdell from 2003 to 2018; since 2019, the murals have been designed in partnership with Digital Media and Design students at Dakota Wesleyan University. The murals are dependent upon that year’s crop, and thus, some years the murals cannot be replaced due to extreme drought or other growing conditions.

Since its construction, the Corn Palace has been the center for community events. Aside from agricultural fairs, the vast interior space, with its 3,200-seat auditorium, is also host to concerts, banquets, graduations, basketball tournaments, and other events throughout the year. In 2015, Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle of Minneapolis renovated the entire facility, including replacement of the metal onion domes and minarets. The metal work was fabricated by McGrath Sheet Metal.

Although corn palaces were built elsewhere in the late nineteenth century, in places like Sioux City, Iowa, and Gregory, South Dakota, Mitchell’s Corn Palace remains the only extant example.

References

Briggs, John E. “The Sioux City Corn Palaces.” The Palimpsest 3 (1922): 313-326.

French, Edith, “Mitchell Historic Commercial District,” Davison County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1974. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Mitchell Chamber of Commerce. A Year by Year History Of ... The World's Only Corn Palace. 5th ed. Mitchell, SD: Educator Supply Company, 1957.

Simpson, Pamela H. “Cereal Architecture: Late-Nineteenth-Century Grain Palaces and Crop Art.” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture 10 (2005): 269-282.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Michelle L. Dennis
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Data

Timeline

  • 1921

    Built
  • 1937

    Domes and minarets added
  • 2015

    Renovated

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Citation

Michelle L. Dennis, "Corn Palace", [Mitchell, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/SD-01-035-0035.

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