The Physical Tale of USD's Campus
By Jarett C. Bies
Scroll down to view a slideshow of various campus buildings, changes and more.
Lot No. 4, of section 24, in township No. 92. This legal real estate description of what was to become the University of South Dakota is forever part of the public record, but its author certainly could not have know that lot would grow to become an NCAA Division I flagship university. From those first few acres of prairie, the campus stretched in each direction forever changing Vermillion, and with the impact of the accomplishments of its faculty, students and alumni encircled the world.
The historic tale of USD has to include a look at the buildings, grounds, fields, and stadiums that embellished the experiences of all who attended it. Take a look at some of the earliest images of the three buildings that were the University’s physical footprint and all the old songs and tales of a limitless prairie are brought into clear relief. Sticking out from the pastures and fields around it, University Hall was first and it struck an imposing figure upon the long low grasslands of Dakota, before it became South Dakota, in 1889. University Hall served as an “all-in-one” headquarters for the university until East and Dakota Halls joined the landscape before the 20th century.
Economic realities shaped the growth of USD from its founding. Between booms and busts, the university added facilities, some which remain today, and others that have stepped aside for progress. USD once possessed an observatory with telescope, and the site where USD’s School of Law now stands once served as an open-air Inman Field, site of many Coyote victories before the rise of the DakotaDome.
Student comforts in the first dorms were augmented by the South Dakota Union, built in the early 20th century. It stands today as the headquarters of the USD Department of Psychology. The Coyote Student Center replaced it, and in turn, in the early part of this century, Muenster University Center became the student’s hub between halls and classrooms. The journey from past to future is quite stark when one looks at the Belbas Center, USD’s first building to serve as a gym, then compares it to the tony glass and steel of the Wellness Center.
Other changes are more subtle. Look closely and the remnants of the short-lived “driving campus” of the 1960s can be seen where only pedestrians walk about these days. When it was opened in the late 1970s, the DakotaDome seemed far away from the heart of campus, but the addition of Coyote Village and the Wagner Center make USD’s distinct indoor stadium seem much closer. As the University continues to evolve, so too will its bricks-and-mortar underpinnings, leading all of us to wonder what exactly the USD of 2162 might look like. Here’s to hoping it looks as good then as it does today, as we contemplate 150 years of the flagship university’s campus.