Historic Norbeck home needs extensive restorationFundraising under way for Geddes property once home to SD's 9th governor; $40k in repairs needed.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
GEDDES — A boyhood home of a popular South Dakota governor is in disrepair, but volunteers are raising money to fix it. The Peter Norbeck House in Geddes needs a new foundation, floors, windows, walls and shingles.
The Charles Mix County Restoration Historical Society started raising money in December after realizing the extent of the deterioration. “A lot of people don’t know the significance of the house,” said Sharon Ackley, treasurer of the society. “People haven’t been there, but we haven’t had it open because of the sag in the floor. It’s not safe.”
According to the book “Peter Norbeck: Prairie Statesman,” by Gilbert Fite, Norbeck was born near Vermillion in Clay County in 1870. His family moved to the Geddes area in Charles Mix County in 1886 when he was almost 16.
He called his family’s homestead in Charles Mix County home until the late 1800s. Throughout that time, he perfected drilling for artesian wells, which became a lucrative business for him. He and his wife Lydia moved to Redfield in 1901, where Norbeck and his partner set up an office for their well-drilling business.
Norbeck was the first governor of South Dakota to be born in the state. He was also the first U.S. senator from the state to be born here. He became governor in 1917 at the age of 47. His efforts and ideas were essential in the creation of Custer State Park and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, among other historic sites and features in the Black Hills.
In 1920, Norbeck won a U.S. Senate seat from South Dakota. He was re-elected in 1926 and 1932. He served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, which investigated the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and formed the basis for reforms to the financial industry.
In his book on Norbeck, Fite wrote about Norbeck’s leadership of the committee: “It was a task for which he was hardly prepared, but one which subsequent events demonstrated to be part of his most significant and lasting work.”
Norbeck died in December 1936.
The Norbeck house in Geddes features a bedroom, kitchen, dining area, living room and pastor’s study (Norbeck’s father was a pastor) on the first floor.
The second floor has two bedrooms. The historical society moved the house into town in the late 1980s after the family who owned it donated it to the society, Ackley said.
Contractor Jim Simmermon, of Lake Andes, assessed the house and said it will cost approximately $40,000 to repair.
“The foundation needs to be fixed,” Ackley said. “It’s on a cement-block foundation around the perimeter and some blocks are cracked. There’s no support along the main weight-bearing walls. And the house has settled.”
Simmermon also told her the floor boards sag about 3 or 4 inches, so they will need to be replaced.
“The next step would be to do the shingles,” Ackley said. “The shingles were put on in 1992. We need to keep it dry inside.”
Ackley also said most of the windows are bad, having weathered through the years. She said some may be repaired, but the rest should be replaced with storm windows.
“Then would come the walls,” she said.
The second-level walls were all plastered, and the plaster is peeling away. Those walls would be torn out and replaced with sheetrock, which would be taped, primed and painted.
“Jim said in the process of raising up that floor, he’s sure some of the downstairs walls will have more damage to them,” Ackley said. “He’d repair them as needed and do sections or perhaps the whole thing.”
So far, the society has raised $2,000 and applied for a South Dakota Community Foundation grant.
Ackley said the society plans to apply for the Larson Family Foundation Grant as well and is seeking anyone who is able to donate.
As soon as the weather cooperates, Simmermon plans to start restoring the Norbeck house, she said.
“I feel confident once people see the work is in progress that the local people will be there for support,” she said.