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The Aberdeen South Dakota Commercial Historic District

Railroad Town Hub City and Main Street Commercial Development

Since its founding in 1881, Aberdeen has been the dominant regional commercial center for northeast South Dakota and the Aberdeen Commercial Historic District is the commercial core of this regional hub.

Main Street is a homogeneous collection of brick buildings built between 1884 and 1983, with special emphasis on the 1908-29 period. The district conveys a strong feeling of architectural cohesiveness with design elements such as corbelling and geometric brick and concrete patterns as distinguishing features that reinforce the feeling of time and place.

General Characteristics the Aberdeen Commercial Historic District extends six full blocks on either side of the predominant commercial street in town, Main Street. All eighty-two buildings were built for commercial use, except for the recent brick Sherman Apartments and the 1899 Masonic Temple. As befits a railroad town, the linear district emanates from the source of Aberdeen’s establishment, the Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad tracks, then continues south to Sixth Avenue – Highway 12.

The commercial development of Main Street has been continuous and the break in construction between 1938 and 1951 offers a distinct end to the period of significance, 1884 to 1938. The lengthy, four-decades-long period provides a significant continuum that illustrates the initial and unbroken economic vitality of Main Street. Within this fifty-four-year period of significance is a notable cluster of construction dates. Fully forty of the eighty-two buildings were built between 1908 and 1929, reflecting the boom years of Aberdeen’s and South Dakota’s commercial development.

Aberdeen was born of railroad construction and the related Dakota land boom of the 1880s. The selection of a site reflected the economic motives behind its creation. Representatives of the Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad were responsible for the town’s founding and based their selection on the best chance for maximum economic return. They chose this site at the expense of the existing settlement of Columbia, favoring an intersection point with the North-Western Railroad, fully recognizing the economic dividends of a location at two intersecting rail lines.

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