The Historic Dayton House


Wallace L. Dow

Wallace Dow was known as the "Builder on the Prairie" and considered the premier architect of South Dakota in the late 19th century. At an early age, he specialized in the construction of churches. After moving to the Dakota Territory, his work focused on large private and public institutions. Some of his work in Sioux Falls, S.D., included the State Penitentiary, the Old Minnehaha County Courthouse (now a museum), the School for the Deaf, and the Pettigrew House (museum), along with several other private residences.

Although known for his grand Sioux quartzite governmental structures and elaborate stone Queen Anne Victorians, his 1890 design for the Dayton House was done in the Colonial Revival/Georgian Revival style; a wooden structure, the design of the house appears to relate more to the New England roots of Dayton and Dow rather than the architectural style of Dow at the time.

The Dayton House

The roof was designed with cedar shingles, large pediment dormers, a unique widow's walk, and three chimneys. Ornamental swags stand out in the frieze above the second story windows and are complemented by brackets and dentil molding under the rooflines of both floors. Black storms accentuate the double hung windows, and are commonplace in Dow's designs.

The home has an immense wrap-around front porch with original columns supporting the projecting roof and balcony above, which houses a beautiful Palladian-style window comprised of leaded glass. A small wrap-around porch at the back creates what was called the piazza.

At the front, you enter through cherrywood-paneled doors ornamented by leaded glass sidelights and window transom. Just beyond the small entrance vestibule, with its green, white, and red hexagonal tiles, a central hall welcomes you and is in keeping with the colonial style of the home. The main floor boasts mosaic wood flooring, double-sided cherry and oak pocket doors, intricately carved wooden fretwork above the stairs, decorative tile on the hearths, and more leaded glass windows.

The second floor, with its painted woodwork, is less ornate but has interesting features of its own including a curved wall in the central hall, an open staircase with carved banisters, a balcony, view of copper roofing, decorative fireplaces, four large bedroom chambers, and two servant's chambers.

The Dayton House is truly an artistic masterpiece.