The Old Courthouse Historic District
The Old Courthouse and Warehouse District
This small collection of historic commercial buildings is centered around the Old Courthouse building in the north end of downtown. The district has served as a wholesale warehouse center for the region since the late 1880s. Stone and brick predominate in the office, governmental, warehouse and rail related structures of this district.
The Old Courthouse, an imposing Richardsonian Romanesque building designed by prominent architect Wallace Dow, is now occupied by the Siouxland Heritage Museums System. The massive building, its polished interior, and the original oil paint wall murals have been gently restored. The Museum and its interpretive displays are open to the public.
A construction boom in the district was ignited in 1889 when construction began on both the Courthouse and the Sixth Street bridge crossing the Big Sioux River. A number of prominent businessmen and speculators drew up a binding agreement with each pledging to construct a major commercial block building near the Courthouse by November 1, 1890. Failure would cause each to forfeit $1000 to those who did complete a building.
Three fine buildings resulting from the agreement still exist. The Law Exchange Block and the Willey-Williams Building on the southwest and southeast corners of 6th and Main, respectively, are both in the district. The Parker Block at 315 N. Main is nearby. Ultimately, the national economic depression of 1893 and a plague of grasshoppers in the region brought all construction in the district to a halt.
Among other notable buildings in the district is the City Coliseum, built in 1917. This early convention and performing arts facility played a key role in the economic, cultural, and political evolution of Sioux Falls. President Woodrow Wilson spoke there in 1919 on a tour promoting the League of Nations. Many Broadway shows and entertainers such as Al Jolson, John Phillip Sousa, George Gershwin, Basil Rathbone, John Barrymore, and Bob Hope appeared on the stage.