Eye on KELOLAND: City of Presidents


RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Mount Rushmore may be South Dakota’s best-known carving of U.S. Presidents, but the state is actually home to many presidential statues. You can find one at nearly every intersection in downtown Rapid City.

Following George Floyd’s death, many statues have come down. But that hasn’t happened in South Dakota. Every president is still standing proud in Rapid City.

President Barack Obama was the most recent addition.

“We are a very patriotic community and so it seemed to be a perfect fit. In the beginning we had as our logo, you go up to the mountain and you see four presidents, now come back down to Rapid City and see all of them,” Davis said.

Dallerie Davis is the co-founder of the City of Presidents project, which was created in the 2000 to teach people about history.

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know that some of things that are happening today are not really all that outrageous because we’ve always had a lot of presidential conflict. It happened before and it will happen again,” Davis said.

Davis says each president has done something wrong and something to be proud of. Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender agrees.

“I think it’s ludacris that tearing down select statues will make anyone feel better. No one is going to tear these statues down, they’re highly valued. We’re not debating whether we should erase names out of textbooks or off of the internet. A statue in Rapid City South Dakota plays little significance in the overall social justice dilemma that we seem to be facing in America,” Mayor Allender said.

Alleder says each presidential statue is important, because together they represent all of the stepping stones that led our country to where we are today.

Visitors, like Keira Miller and Daniel Mello, often stop to look.

“A lot of them depict something about the president’s personality that I maybe didn’t know, which was pretty cool. Like seeing, I think it was Gerald Ford had a dog with him,” Miller said.

Mello and his family are from California. They came to the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore and they were excited to learn about the City of Presidents in nearby Rapid City.

“My family and I, my two boys, my wife, we really love presidential history. My two boys have all the presidents memorized. They all have their favorite presidents, James Garfield is the youngest one and our oldest one likes Abraham Lincoln of course,” Mello said.

Mello says he understands why some people would want to remove statues in other parts of the country. However, he believes despite their flaws each US president did something great for our country.

“I get that, but where do you draw the line. If you want to criticize every president or every statue for something bad that they’ve done, you’ll find something,” Mello said.

The Director of South Dakota Historic Preservation says out of the 162 statues of people in the state that he knows of, none of them were confederates. The director said during the civil war, South Dakota was known as a territory and did not belong to the union or confederacy.”

Dallerie Davis says the statue of President Donald Trump is already funded for when he finishes his presidency.

“We also have a funder for the first American woman to become president. We’ve already got her funded and we don’t even know who she is yet,” Davis said.

The South Dakota Historic Preservation Office says they are still doing research on statues in the state.

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