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First Congregational Church of Milbank

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1883, James P. Niblo. 405 E. 3rd Ave.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

The First Congregational Church of Milbank, built in 1883, is one of South Dakota’s oldest churches in continual use. Located in the northeastern part of the state, Milbank was founded in 1880 when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad extended its line westward from Minnesota. The town was named for Jeremiah Milbank, one of the directors of the railroad line, who pledged $15,000 to the town for the construction of a non-denominational church. Architect James P. Niblo began construction on the Gothic Revival structure in May 1883 and it was completed by September.

The church is clad in white brick from Minnesota (later known as Chaska brick, named for its point of origin). The prominent two-story bell tower on the southeast corner features a pyramidal steeple clad in metal sheathing. The church’s main entrance is at the base of this tower and a louvered opening at the bell level is situated above the door; west of the main entrance is a large, pointed arched window with heavy tracery. These arched openings are typical of the Gothic style, as are the paired lancet windows on the east and west facades.

At the time of the church’s completion, Milbank deeded the building to the American Home Missionary Society, which donated it to the local Congregational Church in 1889. A fire in 1906, caused by a chandelier falling from the ceiling, resulted in a complete interior remodel by Minneapolis architect Charles S. Sedgwick. Another major renovation occurred in 1936, with the addition of a full basement.

The church was the site of several women’s suffrage events (in 1890, 1910, and 1914), and was affiliated in the later twentieth century with the United Church of Christ. It is currently operated by the Grant County Historical Society.


Gerloff, Scott, “First Congregational Church of Milbank,” Grant County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1978. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

University of South Dakota Business Research Bureau and the Historical Preservation Center. Historic Sites of South Dakota: A Guidebook. Sioux Falls, SD: Modern Press, 1980.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1883

  • 1906

    Interior remodel
  • 1936

    Basement addition

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Michelle L. Dennis, "First Congregational Church of Milbank", [Milbank, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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