The South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center, located in Pierre, is the headquarters for the South Dakota State Historical Society. It houses the Society’s administrative, historic preservation, and research and publishing offices. The State Archives and the Museum are also located here.
In 1986, architect H. Blake Holman presented a conceptual model of an underground facility inspired by both Arikara Indian earth-berm lodges and pioneer prairie dugouts. Construction began in 1987 on a hillside site overlooking Hilger’s Gulch. The underground facility was sufficiently far enough away from the potential flooding of the Missouri River. The 63,000-square-foot facility is covered with native prairie sod and landscaped with native plants and grasses. From a distance, the building blends into the hillside and is barely visible. The public elevation is clad in polished Carnelian granite; a band of small windows with reflective glass is located along this elevation near the ground. A second and smaller portion of the building (the staff and service entrance), is located on the north side; it, too, is clad with the same materials and also blends into the hillside. A service corridor runs the length of the entire building, equal to approximately two football fields.
The building’s construction provides optimal climate control and energy efficiency—necessary features for a structure intended to house the state’s artifacts and archives. The walls and roof are protected from moisture infiltration by the use of a product called Voclay, made from bentonite mined and processed near Belle Fourche. The building’s design includes a system that controls humidity and temperature.
The South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center opened to the public in May 1989 but was officially dedicated in November of that year as part of the state’s centennial finale.