Landmarks : The Pickler Mansion in Faulkton

Posted by Michael Zimny on

The Pickler Mansion, the historic home of Major John A. and Alice Pickler in Faulkton South Dakota, has been a Faulk County landmark for well over 130 years.

The record isn’t definitive on what year construction began — maybe 1882, maybe a couple years later. The “Pink Castle” began as a claim shanty and grew more grandiose in parallel with the Picklers’ prosperity. Over the years, additions budded and bloomed. By the 1890’s it had become a sprawling, eccentric Victorian mansion. Faulkton artist Charles T. Greener is credited with the signature pink that bursts against the big blue Faulk County sky. 

John_A._Pickler.jpgJohn A. Pickler

Major Pickler served in the Iowa State Legislature before moving to the Dakota Territory. He was elected to the Territorial Legislature in 1884, and after the Dakotas were granted statehood, elected to Congress, where he served until 1897. The Pickler home housed many prominent guests in South Dakota, including Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Grover Cleveland.

Alice and John Pickler were both pioneers in the women’s suffragist movement. Alice was a leader in the Women's Relief Corps of the G.A.R., Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association (ESA). (The WCTU had a very close, if sometimes contentious, working relationship with the ESA.)

alicepickler2.pngAlice Pickler

John played a major role in introducing legislation to give South Dakota women the right to vote, first as a territorial legislator in 1885 (the bill failed), and then as a Congressman. He was derided by his opponents as “Petticoats Pickler” but the couple remained steadfast suffragists for life. Upon admission into the Union, the new state’s constitution required a referendum on an amendment to give women the vote. The suffragists lost the ballot in 1890 — it would take six more referendums, and 28 years, but in 1918 South Dakota women won the right to vote.

The Pickler Mansion was abandoned for nearly thirty years, beginning in 1955. Faulk County Historical Society President Jody Moritz says the role the Picklers played in the suffragist movement, and their association with Susan B. Anthony, is what initially lead the Historical society to investigate the house, which, despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, was lapsing into disrepair by the 1980’s.

“The Pickler's granddaughter - (the late) Lois Bull gave us the house [in 1987], and the papers to Pierre, because we are not an archives. Our original purpose was to find a letter from Susan B. Anthony to the Picklers. We found 15 letters in total from Susan B. Anthony. Not all were to the Picklers. Some were written to the South Dakota Suffrage Association, of which Mrs. Pickler was the secretary.” The Mansion still retains in its collections a book signed by Susan B. Anthony, among many other artifacts.

picklermansion.png1973 photo of the Pickler MansionSD Historic Preservation

The cataloguing of the Picklers’ correspondence soon turned into a larger project when the Historical society found a virtual time capsule inside the house. Much care has been taken to preserve the contents of the house as an authentic representation of the Picklers' times.  

“All of the furniture is original to the home,” says Moritz, “… the pictures on the walls, the bedding, doilies, dishes… Only the working old crank phone is added, as well as some rugs.”

pickler3.JPGThe Pickler Mansion today

Restoration is still a work in progress, funded in part by summer tours. One-hour tours through all 20 rooms of the mansion are available daily from 1-4pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day. If you're ever in Faulk County, the Pickler Mansion is a truly unique place in a state known for them, combining a near-whimsical architectural genius with reams of national and South Dakota history, all wrapped up in pink. 

subscribe to SDPB email updates banner image Web_Art&Culture_330x85-2.png sdpb food pages link children and education link banner image sdpb news and information link image science and technology posts link sports and leisure link banner image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

Dignity Dedicated Near Chamberlain

South Dakota has a new monumental piece of art. A fifty foot tall stainless steel sculpture now stands on the...

NATIVE Act Boosts Tribal Tourism, Art

This week Congress passed an act to spur tribal tourism and increase support for tribal art. The act boosts federal...

Dakota Midday: 'Rivers, Wings, And Sky' And Artistic Partnership

Art and poetry go hand in hand. Artist Nancy Losacker and and poet Norma Wilson show just how to combine the two creative outlets in their joint-exhibit and new...

Eagle Butte Explores Culture And Art At Graffiti Jam

Artists from around the world are shaking their spray paint cans in preparation for the second annual RedCan Graffiti Jam. Hosted by the Cheyenne River Youth Project,...

Books

Dakota Midday: Jerry Nelson, "Dear County Agent Guy"

Jerry Nelson embraced the American farming dream and lived to tell about it. His book, "Dear County Agent Guy" is a...

Dakota Midday Book Club: Denice Turner's "Worthy"

Denice Turner teaches at Black Hills State University. Her book "Worthy" was chosen as a Dakota Midday Book Club...

Midday Margins Blog: The Reading Life of SD Chief Justice David Gilbertson

The first time I interviewed South Dakota Chief Justice David Gilbertson, we were in Pierre, and I was still getting...

Midday Margins Blog: The Reading Life Of Senator Tom Daschle

The way people read fascinates me. Most people don't think about it much, but there are as many different reading...

Music

Dakota Midday: Bob Everhart Tours With Rural Music

Live phone interview with Smithsonian-Folkways recording artist Bob Everhart. He’ll discuss the preservation of...

Glenn Miller Music Still Puts Folks "In The Mood"

Glenn Miller and his big band were at the height of their fame when World War Two began. Two years after...

Original Compositions Celebrate National Parks

A Michigan ensemble is hitting the road with new music to celebrate the anniversary of the National Park System. Two...

Dakota Midday: Hank Harris And Jeff Severson

Hank Harris and Jeff Severson join Dakota Midday for live music and musings on everything from the influence of...

Theater

Dakota Midday: Lisa McNulty On Female Artists

The Off-Broadway Women's Project Theater is the oldest and largest theater company that promotes women artists in...

Dakota Midday: Playwright Bill Russell's Journey to Broadway

Tony nominated Broadway lyricist and playwright Bill Russell was born in Deadwood and raised in Spearfish. His...

DWU Plans $1 Million Theater Project

After dedicating a new sports and wellness center this past month, Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell is now...

DakotaCast Podcast (Episode #12): Rapid City Central Theater Director Justin Speck

The 60th annual State One Act Play Festival took place at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls over the weekend. It...