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The Mead Riverboat captains, politicians, Native American leaders, military generals, missionaries, homesteaders and business pioneers all converged in Yankton in the 19th century, leaving this old Missouri River port with legends and stories as rich as any place in the West. That rollicking history remains evident in the architecture, cemeteries, streets and neighborhoods of Yankton, but today the best place to savor it is at South Dakota’s newest museum, the Mead Cultural Education Center, which will open in early summer of 2018. The Mead, as it’s called locally, is a dreamcome-true for historians and civic leaders. For years, Yanktonians have worked together on a grand vision to relocate the old Dakota Territorial Museum into a three-story granite building that once was the hub of the state’s mental health hospital. The 50,000 square-foot Mead building was built in 1909 at the urging of Dr. Leonard Mead, who was superintendent at the hospital for several decades. After a building fire caused the deaths of 17 female patients in 1899, Dr. Mead convinced state lawmakers that a beautiful hospital campus would be good therapy for his mental health patients, and it proved to be true: his success rates were considered impressive in that age of medicine. Dr. Mead was a health care visionary who also fancied himself an amateur architect. He was quite involved in designing the building that now bears his name, as well as other structures built on the hospital campus. Most of the structures were built of Sioux granite, a popular material in the 19th century that is still mined on South Dakota’s eastern border. Dr. Mead’s amazing campus served the state well for several generations. But when a new state hospital complex was constructed in the 1980s, the Mead building was abandoned and sat empty for decades. Many times, it seemed destined for the wrecking ball; at one point, a governor called for demolition bids. But about 10 years ago, the Yankton County Historical Society made a last-ditch effort to save the building. Local historians and leaders worked with Governor Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels (a longtime Yankton resident) to develop a plan to restore the building into a world-class museum. The effort is now reaching fruition. The $5 million effort has been an interesting collaboration for local craftspeople and volunteers because even though the Mead was built of Dakota granite, the building also has an international flavor. The first step was to repair the red tile roof to stop moisture damage. Amazing balconies were also stabilized. Then the work moved indoors. Workers have also tended to terrazzo floors, a grand marble staircase that came from Italy and beautiful arched windows that have been carefully restored or meticulously recreated by woodworkers. Crystal Nelson, executive director of the Yankton County Historical Society, shepherded the project from dream to reality. She is excited to finally welcome visitors to the Mead. “Yankton has always been proud of our history and heritage,” she says. “We now have a museum building that is as rich and beautiful as the stories and artifacts that we’re entrusted to preserve.” Eight historic buildings at the historical society’s old complex by Westside park are also being moved to the campus, including a railroad depot, country school and log cabin. Yanktonians are excited to see a new neighborhood unfolding on the north edge of their community. Commercial and residential development will eventually grow there, inspired by the community-wide effort to save the vision of Dr. Mead. But first the people of Yankton will celebrate a major accomplishment of repurposing one of the West’s most impressive buildings. They welcome you to join them at The Mead. vSouth Dakota Magazine Yankton, South Dakota – 9