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Sanford B. Coulson House

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1878, A. E. Cobby; John F. MacNamara, builder. 517 Mulberry St.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

The Sanford B. Coulson House, on the southwest corner of Mulberry and Sixth streets in Yankton, is a rare example of Second Empire architecture in South Dakota. Coulson was a co-founder of the Missouri River Transportation Company and moved to Yankton to oversee operations. He hired architect A.E. Cobby to build this one-and-a-half-story house, which is characterized by its mansard roof and prominent central tower, from which Coulson could observe the river and his steamboats to the south.

A wide, curved staircase leads to a full-width porch, whose roof is supported by square posts topped with decorative capitals beneath a frieze with dentils; the uprights of the railing match the details of the support posts. The tower’s entablature also features a dentil course with ornamental brackets; other detailing includes roof cresting with finials. The house has many dormer windows: one on each of the tower facades, and twelve on the main roof. All roofs are clad in wooden fish-scale shingles; the rest of the house has clapboard siding.

The house took seven months to build, at a cost of $10,000. Coulson was active in the financial and social life of Yankton, but after his death in 1896, his family returned to Pennsylvania.

An extensive 2013 restoration included stabilizing porch supports; replicating damaged woodwork on the porch and railings; repairing the siding, roofing, and windows; and refinishing interior walls, floors, and ceilings.


Peterson, J. Michael, “Yankton Historic District,” Yankton County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1975. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1878

  • 2013


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Michelle L. Dennis, "Sanford B. Coulson House", [Yankton, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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