Girton House

"If only it could talk – the stories it could tell."

In 1896 the Girton House was built by Professor and Mrs. W.W. Girton and family.

In 1919, it was used as an Emergency Hospital. There were over ninety cases of influenza treated in the house.

girton_house.jpgIn 1921, it was purchased by the State of South Dakota for $8,417.80 to accommodate the overflow from East Hall. When Dakota State University, known as Dakota Normal School at the time, purchased the house it became a dormitory for women enrolled in Elementary course at the school. After the Elementary course was discontinued in 1924, students training at the Madison Hospital moved in. In 1931 the Girton House had its first and only all-male occupants. According to an open house pamphlet from 1987, the house was discontinued for use as a dormitory in 1933. Oddly, an article in the student newspaper published on December 17, 1934 gave the Girton House Rules for visitors.

 

Girton House Rules

The rules for people visiting the "gang" for the winter quarter are as follows.

Visitor Rules

1. Please do not enter a student's room while the owner is absent or without special permission. The men need a chance to study occasionally and like to have the privacy of their rooms respected.
2. If a man is not present, wait for him in the parlor or see him some other time.
3. Do not bring any intoxicating liquor into the building or come here under the influence of it.
4. Roomers must get permission each time they have an over-night guest. If Mrs. Peterson is not present, report to her the next morning.

Residents Rules

1. The Girton House is a private house and not a public hangout.
2. Visiting room is downstairs, not in private rooms.
3. Please refrain from sitting on any beds other than your own.
4. Put your cigarette stubs and ashes in tray, not on the floor.
5. Study hours are from 7:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. on all nights proceeding school nights.
6. Please respect another's desire to study.

 

girton_house2.jpgWith the drought and the depression in full force the Regents tried to sell the house, but with only one offer for a mere $1,750 the Regents felt it would be a give-away and choose to keep it. According to an article published about old houses in Lake County, the Girton House sat empty until 1935 and was in dire need of a resident. President V.A. Lowry agreed to move in with his family and make it the President's Home. In 1935 State College was the only institution to have a President's Home. But in an article published on September 30, 1936 it states, "The Lowry family moved into the house last week." It remained the Presidents House until 2009. The only time between 1935 to 2009 that the Girton House was not occupied by the president, the institution was sharing a president with the University of South Dakota. During that time the Girton House was used for music recitals, art shows, and various meetings the college deemed fit.

Remodeling over the years

When President Lowry and his family moved into the Girton House it had been abandoned for the previous two years, and the house needed much remodeling to be livable again. The plumbing and heating system was overhauled; the roof was re-shingled; new floors were laid, and everything was either wallpapered or painted both inside and out.

girton_house3.jpgIn 1962 the Girton House went through a massive remodeling. The porch became part of the living room while the library and bedroom were combined to create a new dining room. The fireplace was removed, and all bedrooms were placed on the second floor.

Between 1967 and 1971 the Girton House had the basement finished and a back entry and stairs put on. Like any house, minor changes constantly occur, but nothing major has happened since 1971.

Girton House Timeline

1921 to 1924 Women Elementary Course Students
1924 to 1931 Women Madison Hospital Students
1931 to 1933 Male Students
1933 to 1935 Abandoned
1935 to 1962 President V.A. Lowry
1962 to 1967 President Lawrence M. Flaum
1967 to 1971 President Harry P. Bowes
1971 to 1972 Acting President Allen R. Millar
1972 to 1974 President Gordon Foster
1974 to 1978 Housed art shows, recitals, and school meetings
1978 to 1983 President Carleton M. Opgaard
1983 to 1984 President Charles L. Luke
1984 to 1987 President Richard J. Gowen
1987 to 2004 President Jerald A. Tunheim
2004 to 2009 President Douglas Knowlton

The Girton House was used as a Presidents Home until January 2009. The Stahl-Phillips house (1022 NE Ninth St) became the official home of the DSU President at that time.


 

Source:

Photo courtesy of Dakota State University Archives: Box 855, Folder 13

“Forty Years at General Beadle 1922-1962” – Page 32; 115