Sioux Falls in Minnehaha County, South Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Artisans at the Falls
Drake Polishing Works operated on the east bank of the river, across from where you are now standing. Like other industries that located by the falls, it used the flow of the Big Sioux River to run its equipment. Unlike the other industries, Drake Polishing Works created works of art and ornate building materials rather than more basic necessities like flour and electricity.
The business started in 1883 as a stone polishing plant. The stone was cut and polished for use in arches, pillars, monuments and building ornamentation.
In the late 1880s, Drake Polishing Works became world famous when it began cutting and polishing petrified logs. The logs were taken from an ancient petrified forest in Arizona . When cut into slabs and polished, the stones were very colorful. Large slabs were made into table tops. Smaller pieces were fashioned into jewelry, cane heads, picture frames and other decorative items.
Tiffany's of New York City was a major retailer of the Drake Polishing Works' creations. The creations were also displayed at the 1903 Columbian Exposition in Chicago an the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.
The company continued to polish stone for several more years until building construction methods changed, and the company went out of business.
This monument at the entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery in Sioux Falls is a excellent example of the artistry of Drake Polishing Works. Two 12 1/2 foot high petrified tree trunks frame the polished slabs cut from petrified wood.
Great artistry and manufacturing skill were required to create the stone works of art. The finished pieces, like this elaborate tombstone, were shipped by train to cities across the country.
This would have been your view across the river in 1884. Drake Polishing Works used the flow of the river coming over the lower Falls.
After the Drake building was abandoned, the stone in the Lower Falls was removed by quarrying companies and Sioux Falls Light & Power to create the tail race for the hydroelectric plant.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1883.
Location. 43° 33.491′ N, 96° 43.299′ W. Marker is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in Minnehaha County. Marker is on North Weber Avenue. Marker is located in Falls Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sioux Falls SD 57103, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. In the Name of Progress (here, next to this marker); The Promise of Electricity (within shouting distance of this marker); Monarch of the Plains (within shouting distance of this marker); Falls Park Bridge (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Frederick Manfred’s “Siouxland” (about 300 feet away); The Dubuque House (about 600 feet away); Prison Quarry (about 600 feet away); Legacy of Ice and Rock (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sioux Falls.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 18, 2018. It was originally submitted on January 16, 2018, by Ruth VanSteenwyk of Aberdeen, South Dakota. This page has been viewed 189 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 16, 2018, by Ruth VanSteenwyk of Aberdeen, South Dakota. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.