Throwback Thursday: The history of McKennan Park

Throwback Thursday: The history of McKennan Park
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 12:54 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - McKennan Park is a gem that can be found on 20 acres of land in the center of Sioux Falls.

Local historian Lori Kent said in 1906, Helen Gale McKennan gave the gift of the park to the city of Sioux Falls, but there were conditions. Those conditions, however, make McKennan Park a safe place to visit.

“One of the conditions was if the house was to be sold that the money from that sale should go to funding the park and maintenance. Another condition was she wanted this to be a safe, healthy environment for women and children to roam freely without any cares and she was a big proponent of the temperance movement. So, McKennan Park is one of several parks in Sioux Falls where you cannot have alcohol,” said Kent.

After the passing of Helen McKennan in 1906, someone needed to be the voice for those conditions.

“EA Sherman was the father of the Sioux Falls Park system, and so, he is the one who started getting McKennan Park to become a park,” said Kent.

Sherman not only made the park beautiful by planting elm and walnut trees, but he also helped make many other parks in Sioux Falls just as beautiful.

“He pushed for parks and that the city establish a board so that these things would remain beautiful and taken care of by the city,” said Dana Wohlwend of Sioux Falls Food Tours.

Many features have called McKennan Park home over the years.

“There once used to be a greenhouse here and a full-time lands keeper that would just keep everything gorgeous all the time. In 1909 the tennis courts are added,” said Kent.

“In 1915, there was a zoo here,” said Wohlwend.

“And in 1921, the horseshoe pits are added,” said Kent.

The most iconic feature at McKennan Park dates back to 1925 when the idea of the bandshell was born.

“The municipal band said, ya know, they didn’t have the sound equipment that they do now, said we need a bandshell, and they told someone in the Cosmopolitan Club. So, they decided to we can help do this, so one year and two days later from their idea they had a dedication on July 4, 1926, for the dedication of the bandshell,” said Minnehaha County Historical Society Marker Chairman Jim A. Carlson.

To this day, from the bandshell to the playground, McKennan Park has plenty of fun things to do while you experience a little piece of history.