Today we are excited to bring you an in-depth look at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in De Smet, South Dakota. This is part of our on-going series highlighting popular historic locations and sites related to Little House on the Prairie. If you are in the area during the summer, you will want to make sure to see the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant performances.
Details about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes site
Founding and History of the Site:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes was founded in 1957, which was the year Laura passed away.
For the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society of De Smet, South Dakota, bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books to life is a labor of love. As the setting for five of Wilder’s books about prairie life, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years, the Memorial Society is dedicated to preserving her legacy.
When Aubrey Sherwood, Alice Kirchmeier and Vera McCaskell formed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in 1957, they wanted a way to honor their dear friend Laura Ingalls Wilder. They wanted to highlight the sites in De Smet that Laura mentions in her books. They had no real budget or specific plan, but they loved Laura’s books and De Smet.
The Memorial Society slowly began recognizing the buildings in town referenced in the Little House books, and they also began collecting Ingalls family belongings. By 1972, as funding, involvement and community support grew, the organization had acquired the Surveryors’ House and the “House that Pa built” as well as hundreds of original Ingalls artifacts.
The Memorial Society has added another irreplaceable building to the historical collection, when the first school Laura and her sister Carrie attended was purchased and restored to its original condition as a school.
The organization currently maintains more than 2,000 original artifacts of Laura and her family. A must-see for all Laura fans.
Visitors travel from across the globe to the wind-swept prairies to walk the path of Laura Ingalls Wilder and to tour the historic homes. During the summer, guests from places as far away as New York, Japan and Australia will sign into the guest book.
What began over a cup of coffee as three friends’ desire to honor a local author has grown into an internationally recognized organization which preserves Wilder’s literary contribution and teaches new generations about the struggles and joys of pioneering life.
The Site is Best Known For:
- Preserving the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder and preserving and exhibiting original belongings of Laura and her family.
- The original Surveyors’ House from By the Shores of Silver Lake.
- The original First School of De Smet attended by Laura and Carrie in Laura’s books The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie.
Other Interesting Attractions in the Area:
The Society offers a self-guided tour map of over fifty sites Laura mentions in her Little House books. Included on the map is the De Smet cemetery where some of the family members are laid to rest, the original Loftus store, and the store site where the family spent the Long Winter.
Special Events During the Year:
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant Society presents an outdoor theater production on the beautiful Dakota prairie in July. Each summer a Little House book is presented in an amphitheater overlooking the original cottonwoods that Pa planted on this land. The 2015 pageant performances were of By the Shores of Silver Lake.
Resources for Visitors and Tour Options:
The historical home tours of the Society offer a special look into the lives of Laura and her family. The Society offers tours of the archival room and research opportunities upon written request. The archival room contains over 2,000 original artifacts of the Ingalls family, including photographs, objects, documents and books. It also includes databases on Kingsbury County cemeteries, original land plats and the local newspapers from 1883 to the present.
The Society tour guides are well-informed and enjoy personalizing the tour to fit the audience. Offerings include field trips, a Girl Scout patch and bus line groups:
Field trips: The Society offers field trips to school and home school groups. There are 12 options that you can mix and match based on your interests. Each session lasts 30 minutes. One of the most popular options is “Pa goes hunting.” This session starts with a 10-minute presentation about what Pa hunted and why he hunted. During the presentation, real animal pelts are shown and passed around. Then the real fun begins when each student casts a rubber animal track mold with plaster of Paris. Each student takes home his or her track at the end of the presentation.
Girl Scouts: The Society has developed a Girl Scout patch that scouts can earn by learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Requirements include reading Little House books, touring the Surveyors’ House and making and eating pioneer foods.
Bus Line Groups: The Society hosts bus lines and personalizes their tours to the audience and time allowed.
Contact Information, Admission and Hours of Operation:
P.O. Box 426
105 Olivet Avenue
De Smet, SD 57231
Phone number: 800-880-3383
Admission: Adults $12.00, Children $6.00, Preschoolers Free
- January – April: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- May: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- June – August: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:50 pm (extended hours on Pageant days)
- September: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- October – December: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
If you love Little House on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder you’ll want to be sure to subscribe to the newsletter for more in-depth profiles.
Rebecca was one of the driving forces in developing and launching the Little House on the Prairie® website. She is committed to preserving Laura Ingalls Wilder's legacy and meeting fans from around the world. For the past four years, she has worked in the education technology sector in both early learning and higher education, helping people access opportunities to learn and succeed. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and enjoys hiking and gardening.