This is a guest post from Pam Range of the Carnegie Resource Center in Mitchell, SD.
Just a short walk from the World’s Only Corn Palace lies a hidden gem in Mitchell’s downtown area: the Carnegie Resource Center. Built in 1903 as the Carnegie Library, this historic building amazes all who enter its majestic splendor.
Upon entering this grand building, look up! You will find a magnificent dome decorated with a mural, “Sun and Rain Clouds over Hills.” This beautiful painting was created by the famous Yanktonai Sioux artist Oscar Howe, who spent much of his life in Mitchell. Howe painted the mural in 1940 as a WPA project to employ out of work artists and was paid $60 for his work. To reach the tall heights of the dome, he made a scaffold out of wooden boxes and planks. Howe laid out the mural in such a fashion that at night, with the lights in the dome area on, one of the thunderbirds is perfectly framed by the window.
Due to the extreme heat during the day, Howe worked during the nighttime hours. The heat affected more than just his schedule, however; it also determined his medium. On his second day of work, Howe returned to the building only to find that all the painting he had done the first night had run down the walls! He had been using tempera paint (an egg-based substance), and the heat had ruined his work. Not to be discouraged, Howe switched to an oil-based paint to finish the project.
The west wing of the Carnegie building houses a fireplace built to model the one that was in Andrew Carnegie’s house at the time. Carnegie provided $10,000 to the city of Mitchell to construct the library. Additions were added in 1930 and 1960 to the library.
The Carnegie Resource Center is owned by the Mitchell Area Historical Society and, along with the Mitchell Area Genealogical Society, is preserving the building. Displays of Mitchell history and special exhibits celebrating the Corn Palace legacy can be viewed by the public at no charge. An entire room of Corn Palace memorabilia chronicles the history of the three buildings that have been home to the attraction, as well as the entertainers who have appeared there. Many research materials are housed in the Carnegie for historians seeking to know more about the Mitchell area, as well as genealogists looking for information on their families.
Hours are Monday through Saturday, 1-5 pm. Special tours and times may be scheduled by calling 605-996-3209 or email Pam@mitchellcarnegie.com. Check out our website www.mitchellcarnegie.com or find us on Facebook.