Sioux Falls City Council Sticks with “Veteran’s Parkway” over “Powder House Road”

Concern for history and brand equity keeps the state Board on Geographic Names from replacing the name of a colonialist Indian killer William Hareny on South Dakota’s highest peak with a traditional Lakota name. But the Sioux Falls City Council will pitch history on the spot in favor of a cheap display of vote-for-me patriotism.

Highway 11 on the east side of Sioux Falls has been known for nearly a century as Powder House Road. It’s story is really dynamite:

On Dec. 31, 1936, a group of Sioux City gang members ignited the Larson’s Hardware powder house – a building full of dynamite – to kill a fellow thief and his girlfriend.

The offending gang member, Floyd Parker, fought with two other men during an attempted dynamite theft that night. Helen Sieler ran inside to help him, but was hit with a hammer and shot eight times.

She survived and managed to crawl away from the building before the burning fuse hit the house’s 3,000 pounds of dynamite. She was thrown 150 feet, but survived and lived to join the circus as “The Woman With 10 Lives.”

The powder house sat in the spot where the Century East at Dawley Farms multiplex sits now. A historical marker on Highway 11 that told the story was removed for construction years ago, but will be returned eventually [John Hult, “Historians Irked by Powder House Road Proposal,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.07..07].

Last week, the Sioux Falls City Council decided to redesignate Highway 11 as “Veteran’s Parkway.” (Or is that “Veterans’ Parkway”, meaning it belongs to veterans, plural? Or is it “Veterans Parkway“? Hmm, no apostrophes to worry about in “Powder House Road!) They consigned “Powder House Road” to a mere frontage road nearby.

“Powder House Road” reminds us of a really interesting story that happened on that very spot. “Veteran’s Parkway” honors veterans in a place where nothing uniquely veteran-y seems to have taken place. Veterans don’t take that road to get to the VA hospital or the Veterans’ Memorial Park just south of Russell Avenue six miles away. Slapping a “Veterans” label on any old thing without a real sense of history makes the term seem generic, when it should be used intentionally and respectfully. Sioux Falls residents have brought up this disconnect, and a couple councillors last night wanted to reconsider the rename, but the majority declined to reclaim the Powder House Road name (complete with some minor parliamentary monkey business from Mayor Huether).

In the Black Hills, in Gettysburg, and in Sioux Falls, we South Dakotans have a quirky sense of history.

11 Responses to Sioux Falls City Council Sticks with “Veteran’s Parkway” over “Powder House Road”

  1. Eric Leggett

    Thanks for the post, Cory. I grew up out by Powder House Road on 6 mile. My dad used to love to the story about the road got it’s name. Granted, with everything going on in the state, this is a pretty small issue. Nevertheless, I am disappointed in the council’s decision.

  2. I know this road. Calling it Veteran’s Parkway is almost a slap in the face for every Veteran who has served. A lightly used road on the edge of the city? is this what you think of those you call heroes?

  3. Dave Baumeister

    I agree with MC. It almost sounds like this was done to spite veterans, not support them.

  4. Jeff Barth

    I agree with MC and Dave and I have served in the military.

  5. Porter Lansing

    I’ve e-mailed our President and asked him to deny the request from SD Board of Geographic Names and to carry out the will of the people in renaming the mountain. It helps to remind Washington OFTEN that the Black Hills are owned by the Lakota and overriding their wishes has little benefit to USA. Please write.

  6. mike from iowa

    Maybe it was named with chickenhawk neocon veterans in mind-the road less travelled by those most eager for war.

  7. Deb Geelsdottir

    Hahahahahahahaha! I love that Mike!

  8. Veteran’s Parkway should have been by Veterans’ Memorial Park south of Joe Foss Field (airport) in Sioux Falls. In the alternative it should at least have been somewhere in the vicinity of the airport where the National Guard and Air National Guard still have bases. That’s also the area where the large WWII base and barracks were located. Very poor decision by the council to ignore the obvious location for Veteran’s Parkway and replace a unique and historical road name instead.

  9. Jeff Barth

    Remember the changed the name of Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy… then changed it back some years later.

  10. R, good idea. Geographic names should connect with their location.

    MC, on traffic, isn’t part of the idea that the Powder House Road will become part of the next great outer beltway, carrying increased traffic around the expanding city?

    Cape Canaveral—interesting! That name came from the Spanish, literally, “Cape of Cane Bearers,” likely for the sugar-cane-like vegetation the Spanish explorers saw growing there, possibly for an incident in which the local Indians shot a Spanish explorer with an arrow made of cane (shades of Powder House violence!). LBJ ordered the name change just days after Kennedy was killed; the Florida Legislature changed it back in 1973.

  11. I know it is supposed to become part of the belt way around the city. I still don’t know what’s wrong with ‘ Powder House Road’