City of Sioux Falls should remodel Tuthill Event House

For the record I have not spoken to anyone that is for or against tearing down this house, and if the city council approves it being torn down, I guess I won’t lose too much sleep over it. I have never been to any events at the home. But my main concern is how did we get to this point? My short answer (guess) is that the Parks Director is completely and utterly incompetent, a consistent liar, and should have been fired a long, long, long time ago. I also think Mayor TenHaken has been robbing money from the parks budget to spend on other stuff. The Parks Director has had a habit over a very long period of time to neglect maintenance in certain parks so things he wants to see gone gets rundown and gives him a reason to tear it up. He is currently playing that game at Terrace Park.

As you listen to the testimony (FF: 9:00) at the last Parks Board meeting where they approved the demolition (Motion passed with board members Stavenger, Nachtigal, and Begeman voting YES, and Conlin and Weber voting NO) you will hear several stories from neighbors about the suspicious neglect of the structure even though it has been taking in revenue. Also notice that the Parks Board Chair put NO time limits on the testimony and even allowed CALL IN testimony. Bravo! When can we get this at the regular council meetings?

As for what it would cost to remodel the home, even if the bid was close to $250K being floated by the Parks Department, that is a spit in the bucket. Heck even the neighbors said they would raise money privately to remodel it if the city would grant a one year moratorium. In my opinion, they should not have to raise the money privately, the city should have kept up on the maintenance. Also, remember, we are losing millions each year on venues all across the city, like the EC, Sioux Falls Stadium, The Arena, and the Convention Center (Maintenance and Mortgage is well north of $25 million per year). The remodel costs pale in comparison.

The home is also historical, kind of. I am often on the fence about what should be considered ‘historical’ or not. I guess I wouldn’t be opposed to building a more functional event structure to replace it, but that is not in the Parks Department plans, so remodeling the home seems to make the most sense.

Let’s face it, it is just another example of the Parks Director scorched earth plan for certain parks and a weird obsession by the current mayor to start defunding our parks. He probably wants more people spending time in church instead of in our parks.

I am not sure how the city council will vote on it, but I have heard a couple of them are NOT happy about the lapse in maintenance.


Speaking of waste of money, I have been after the city for years about what this costs taxpayers each year. I have heard all kinds of various estimates from $50K to $100K a year (installation, tear down and electricity costs) but I don’t think the actual numbers have been released for well over a decade, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost was closer to $500K a year, and to be honest with you, I don’t think the city could even produce the numbers.

Now I’m not some kind of Scrooge, I think we should keep the exhibit, it’s nice in a cheesy small city Crissmassy sort of way. But I have suggested for a long time we should have it sponsored by various businesses and non-profits and let volunteers decorate the park while the city foots the bill for electricity. I guess the way I look at it, if we call church volunteers to clean up after a natural disaster (and then get reimbursement from FEMA), why not use volunteers to put up holiday decorations? Heck, the city and parks department might even be able to make some money from it to go towards expanding it?

We suggest remodeling a historic home is a waste of taxpayer money but blow money on ‘decorations’ year after year when we could privately raise that money. This is just another example of how the parks department likes to change the narrative when they don’t want something.


#1 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 12.03.20 at 9:30 pm

They should move it to McKennan Park and paint it yellow.

#2 The Guy From Guernsey on 12.04.20 at 9:20 am

“… how did we get to this point?”
The regular and routine maintenance of this City asset has obviously been neglected. I am unable to reward that neglect with the action requested by the Parks Department. This question needs to be answered.

#3 D@ily Spin on 12.04.20 at 1:15 pm

Leave it. Where’s the Tuthill Ghost gonna live. I’m opposed to this type of spending until there’s been accounting for revenue lost during the pandemic. In particular while the mall and restaurants were closed. I’m also opposed to any Parks funding until the Director is replaced. There’s to much kingdom given a separate logo, to many employees, discrimination, and projects that are twice the cost.

#4 Mike Lee Zitterich on 12.05.20 at 8:53 am

(My Letter to Parks Department – City);

Let us find a solution to save and remodel the home in question, I would hate for the city to demolish this home, and destroy a link to our past, I urge this Council to save the home, put forth a plan to repair it, remodel it, and maintain it. “WE” as a community agreed back in the late 1950’s to take possession of this land in order to preserve a part of our history, let alone this piece of property dates back to our early ancestors who settled this part of the land.

Like my many stories done regarding Seney Island (Sioux Steel Property); this is another piece of land with historic meaning to many people, and the home has tons of support from many in this city. Lets review the history shall we …

This land was originally claimed by a man believed to be a Civil War Veteran sometime between 1890-1902; the civil war was only a short thirty-seven (37) years prior, this man would have been in his 20’s during the war (1861-65); which would put him in his 50’s at the time he purchased his ‘land claim’ under the 1862 Homestead Act, which allowed many Americans to move westward to escape government regulations, start a new life, and claim land to enrich their own families.

Let’s look at the process involved shall we – the 1862 Homestead Act was passed by Congress under Abraham Lincoln; for the first thirty years roughly, the act was amended several times in order to convince Americans to purchase land under the act; many of these early claims were made by Railroad Companies, Land Surveyors, Land Speculators, Other Land Investors, mostly cause it was expensive to buy land; it cost $1.25 per acre, and law itself stated that a land claim must be 160 acres, many of these early homesteads were in fact 160 acres, and purchased under this historic act.

To name a few examples, based on my research done on Seney Island – in 1862 the Dakota Land Company first comes to Sioux Falls to establish their land claim along the western bank of the Sioux River, their main intention was to purchase land claims to establish their railroad connection. A trust company out of St. Paul, Minnesota; they owned stock in the St. Paul/Omaha Railroad Lines, today known as the Burlington Northern/St Paul/Alburque lines. Sometime between 1870-77, they surrendered their land claim to a man whom was an investor in the WESTERN TOWN COMPANY out of Dubuque, Iowa – this company was a group of investors whom wished to claim land with the intent to establish townsites, in fact, this company is single handedly responsible for establishing townsites called Sioux Falls, Omaha, Desmet, Harrisburg, Brookings, Yankton, etc-etc – in fact out of this group appears the Brookings Family whom purchased the land claim on the west bank known today as Seney Island, of whom cede that property to the State of South Dakota in 1902, in order to pave the way to bring the St Paul Railroad to the State, linking St Pail to Sioux Falls to Omaha, then north to Desmet, across the State; while the land was then redeveloped, the West Channel filled in, while the land developed to usher in Sioux Steel in 1918, and Pitt Steel in 1922.

TUT-HILL PROPERTY – Mr Tuttle, whom was a civil war veteran moved to this area in the late 1890’s – sought out land to settle his family, start his farm, and leave his legacy; he purchased 160 acres of land known today as Otanka Acres – a family plot of land where by age 50, he built his home in 1902, started his farm, developed the land, and finally, paid $1.25 per acre to claim the land in his name, his family name. Yes, this home has been part of South Sioux Falls all this time, a living reminder of our past, our history, and in the true spirit of being American, this home represents ‘early life’ of many settlers in the history of Sioux Falls. The house, the property was ceded to the City of Sioux Falls in the 1950’s in order to preserve the land, build a city park, and for many future generations to enjoy, cherish our past, and remind ourselves of our early days gone by. “WE” promised the Tuttle’s to take care of their property, maintain their land, their home, and ensured them the land and property will never become anything but a “Family Park”, where parties, events, weddings, picnics, you name can be done, in their lasting memory. This LAND has a historic meaning to so many people, let alone the Home is a lasting memory of the family whom helped build and founded the City itself. Look around – that entire region is made up of residents descended from their ancestors years before, it has become an iconic symbol of the fact dreams can come true.

We promised to maintain that property, maintain the home, and that home has collected many revenues in order to help maintain the property, let alone the home. I would question the fact why did the Park’s Department not carry out that plan, maintain the home over the past ten years, let alone where did all that ‘revenue’ go from the duties (user fees) collected by those whom rented, used, the house for parties, gatherings, weddings, picnics, if all it will cost is $150,000 to $350,000 to repair, remodel, and fix up, then why are we wanting to destroy a part of our history?

Janet Brekke is proposing that we use $120,000 to go out and market a more healthier lifestyle, to promote masks, whereas I believe that money can be put aside to help fix up this home, just another example that we have tons of tax revenues that we can utilize for this chance to rebuild the home, ‘we’ waste so much money as a city, that we can in my opinion set aside $500,000 to fix up this house, and still be able to raise revenues in the distance future for other needs and wants.

From a budget of nearly $600,000,000 million, I would safely bet we can find somewhere in our capital improvement plan to cut out $500,000 dollars today, pushing another project back a few years, to live up to the promise ‘we’ made to the Tuttle Family – Maintaining their Land, their Property, preserving their legacy. After all, they were one of the first early pioneers whom made the city what it is today, just look at Tut-Hill today – a lasting image to the Family.

The Tuttle Family Trust – If I had to guess on the land claim regarding the TUTTLE Family – I would assume the original land claimant purchased 160 acres of land, settled the land, and then purchased the land grant sometime around 1902; I also believe him to be a Civil War Veteran, while he was only 37 years removed from the war, which if he was 18-20 years old during the war, he would have been in his 50’s at the time he purchased the land, I am only guessing here, but I would say the HOUSE was built between 1902 to 1910; while the Family ceded the property to the City of Sioux Falls sometime in the 1950’s in order to preserve that early legacy, protect the land, and to preserve our history …

I do not agree with the plot to tear down this home cause it could bring forth future crime, while the plight of the story told to the council by one lone resident that she has two daughters that she fears could be raped in that abandoned, worn down home; I feel while her plight is real, its simply an assumption, she has the duty as a parent to keep her family safe; however – many others within that neighborhood strongly feel the CITY let them down, allowed the home to get ran down, allowed it to be an eyesore, while using the “money” collected for other uses, and furthermore the city continued to NOT appropriate funding to maintain the house, I feel as they do – the CITY broke a promise made in the 1950’s to preserve the property. I think we owe it to the FAMILY and the neighbors to get this project right, and I feel the home can be saved, and I urge the City Council to put forth a plan to direct the Mayor to enter into a public-private partnership with the community, developers, residents to raise capital and to repair, remodel, and maintain the home in order to allow future generations to enjoy the property. There is NO need to demolish the house, especially if it only will cost $250,000 to $500,000 to fix up. The “City” may feel its not a good way to spend tax payers money, but I differ on that assessment, ‘we’ made a promise as a caretaker, to maintain a piece of property, the land, the home, in the image of the claimant, let’s be real, anytime in the future, the FAMILY can come forward anytime to take back their property as per the terms set forth in the agreement.

We are talking about a home built by a Civil War Veteran, an early pioneer of Sioux Falls, and a promise we agreed to keep. I urge you to vote NO against demolishing the home, and work with the group that is asking for a 1 year mortarium to create a plan forward. “WE” owe it to the family, we owe it to our history, and we owe it to our future generations to enjoy the same landscapes as we have had in our past; DO NOT tear down this home.

We torn down the McKennan Park Home in the 1960’s – are we really going to go down that path again and ruin our own history? Why is it so important to us to tear down old buildings in place of new steel based, plaster buildings we see today? We are losing our history, let alone, breaking promises kept cause as a city, we want to progress forward building cookie cutter homes, STOP tearing down old homes, they represent “We The People” and tell a story of how we once lived 100 years ago … SAVE THE TUT-HILL HOME !!!

Mike Zitterich
(605) 376-0527

#5 The Guy From Guernsey on 12.05.20 at 12:30 pm

I am (I think) in agreement with this statesman, Mr Zitterich.
My tl; dr verdion:

#6 The Guy From Guernsey on 12.05.20 at 12:36 pm

I am (I think) in agreement with this statesman, Mr. Zitterich.
My tl;dr version –
If you have been able to find $1.5 million to pitch into the restoration project of a private non-profit organization, then most certainly there is money to restore the Tuthill House for the benefit of all citizens (and visitors to the City, too).

#7 theresa stehly on 12.05.20 at 7:58 pm

There is a great online Argus article by Eric Renshaw chronicling the history of Tuthill Park.

It is an excellent article. I suspect it will be in the Sunday December 6th paper.

The last paragraph written by Eric Renshaw sums up the current situation:

“The house remains, for now, where it was constructed; the home that the Howie family built and Arthur and Dot Tuthill cherished as their summer home. The house has become an event space for countless marriages, anniversaries, birthday parties and other celebrations.

The park board has recently designated the house “surplus” and recommended that it be torn down. The city council should tread carefully on the artifacts of the pioneers.”

#8 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 12.05.20 at 8:48 pm

A greater tragedy is that recently the Crown Casino on 41st removed its iconic mid-70s A-frame shaker roof (Pizza Hut style roof) and replaced it with a flat roof. The prior roof survived a tornado, was put there by the once Village Inn Pizza, and even served Hooters well, when it was there and not flat. So, history needs to be respected more in this town and not less with such flattening or demolishing attitudes.