Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

DOW, WALLACE (1844-1911)

Born in Croydon, New Hampshire, on September 22, 1844, Wallace Leroy Dow learned building skills by working in his father's Newport, New Hampshire, contracting business. In 1873 Dow formed his own contracting company there and was involved in the construction of several public buildings. He also studied under his uncle Edward Dow, who operated a successful architecture firm.

Wallace Dow moved to Pierre, Dakota Territory, in October 1880. He relocated to Yankton in the winter of 1880-81 and maintained an architectural and contracting office there until 1883. Dow's first major job was supervising the construction of John M. Allen's design for the original Main Building (now the Conservatory of Music) at Yankton College. Beginning in 1882 Dow served as architect for the territorial penitentiary at Sioux Falls. During his time in Yankton, Dow also designed the first structure at the Territorial Hospital for the Insane.

In 1883 Dow moved his offices to Sioux Falls and dominated the architectural field in South Dakota during the 1880s and 1890s. He was well connected to the Republican territorial and state governments, so there is hardly a state institution dating from the late nineteenth century that does not have at least one Dow building.

Dow was a versatile designer, at home with all the popular styles of his time. He utilized local quartzite and jasper in many of his most striking commissions. Quartzite was particularly suited to the masonry Romanesque style popularized by H. H. Richardson in the 1870s and 1880s. One of Dow's most important commissions, the Minnehaha County Courthouse in Sioux Falls (1889–92), is a tribute to Richardsonian design rendered in massive rough-finished quartzite blocks. Dow was also an early advocate of concrete. His design for the South Dakota Pavilion at the 1893 Columbian Exposition was composed entirely in precast concrete panels attached to a wooden frame.

Dow retired in 1905, but he remained active. He had patented a device for making concrete blocks in 1904, and he spent his later years promoting concrete building technology as the owner of the Prefection Block Machine Company. He died in Sioux Falls on July 5, 1911.

Michael Bedeau Idaho State Historic Preservation Office

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