prather hall dwu
Prather Hall, also known as Music Hall, was built in 1906.
Photo by Sam Fosness and courtesy of the Mitchell Republic.

Demo projects likely on South Dakota campus

Dakota Wesleyan University buildings, each more than 100 years old, approved for demolition.

June 22, 2022

Two of the oldest buildings on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) in Mitchell, South Dakota, may soon be dismantled to make way for additional campus green space.

According to an article on the website of the Mitchell Republic newspaper, based in that city, the Mitchell City Council has approved the university’s plans to take down Hughes Hall, built in 1912, and Prather Hall, built in 1906.

“Years of aging have drastically deteriorated the historic buildings,” writes the newspaper, which adds that they have been largely unoccupied since last year. To restore the buildings would have entailed “multi-million-dollar renovation projects,” according to DWU representatives.

The Mitchell City Council unanimous approved the university’s demolition plans at a June meeting, although the Republic reports some members did so while expressing regret.

Prather Hall also was informally known as Music Hall, with council member Susan Tjarks quoted as saying her children played piano at the venue. “They are beautiful buildings, but I understand it’s what you have to do as a sign of progress,” Tjarks is quoted as saying.

After being built in 1906, Prather Hall initially served as the college’s president’s home, according to the Republic. Hughes Hall, meanwhile, “housed a variety of classes,” according to the article.

 “A timeline for when the demolition process will begin has yet to be determined, pending completion of a survey on both properties conducted by the National Parks Service's Historic American Buildings,” writes the Republic.

The newspaper names Louie Schoenfelder, DWU’s physical plant director, as a university staff member who will oversee some of the pre-demolition coordination.

A DWU vice president is quoted as saying items and material worth salvaging also will be identified, commenting, “We will salvage as much of the material as we can. They will make use of it.”