Wecota: the transformation from the 20th century to now


Wecota Hall, originally a women’s dormitory, is one of the oldest buildings on campus and now holds more inside than meets the eye. 

Wecota was registered as a National Historic Site in 1980 after first being built in 1915.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, Wecota was built after Wenona as the second women’s dormitory on the South Dakota State College campus.  Both Wenona and Wecota were designed by John J. Schwartz, an architect, in the neo-classic style.

Instead of being a women’s dormitory, Wecota now houses the Geography Department office, the Geological Science Center of Excellence, the Ethel Austin (EA) Martin Program and classrooms.

The EA Martin Program works to develop knowledge about human nutrition through research and educational programs. 

The Geological Science Center of Excellence has been located in Wecota since its beginning in 2005. It is not part of any college, but it is within the division of research and economic development. 

Geoffrey Henebry, the co-director of the Geological Science Center of Excellence, said their purpose is to bring in federal funds to support basic and fundamental research in terrestrial remote sensing. 

The center was set up as a collaborative effort with United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center to formalize the relationship for education and research purposes. The primary federal funder for the program is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

Women who used to live in the dormitories located at Wecota will sometimes visit the building to find it has transformed, Henebry said.

“Things have really transformed here over the past many years,” Henebry said. “Focusing a lot of the research in this building is one way of making sure it is used. It’s not really configured for classrooms.”

More renovations are likely to come, Henebry said. At some point the basement will be renovated. 

Faculty offices and research are not the only uses of the building. The basement houses several classrooms some of which are used by the geography department, but they can be used by any college.

Wecota does not stand on its own. The building is also connected to Wenona through the “sunroom” and to the Wecota Annex.

Wecota and Wecota Annex’s floors are numbered differently, which tends to cause confusion.  Wecota’s first floor is technically second floor in Wecota Annex.

“The first time I came here for class I was lost,” Tucker Kerkhove, a freshman psychology major said.

Although it can be confusing to navigate, students appreciate the building’s beauty.

“I like that it’s an older building,” Caitlin Oeltjenbruns, a freshman agriculture education major said. “It has a really nice feel to it.”

Faculty said they enjoy having their offices in there.

George White, geography department head, feels his office in Wecota is an improvement over the previous office in Scobey Hall.

“I like the tall ceilings and the woodwork,” White said. “I like the big windows and light—I kind of like older buildings.”

Henebry agrees that older buildings have their own appeal. 

“I always get a little bit of a thrill,” Heneby said, “walking into this beautiful façade with corinthian columns.”