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).