OLD ELEVATOR GOES DOWN
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
The former Shanard’s Elevator that has stood at the corner of Main Street and Railway since at least 1914 — with roots that go back even further — came crashing down Monday, Aug. 1.
The structure located along what was the line of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, which resulted in the establishment of towns like Freeman, Menno and Marion in 1879, had been abandoned for more than 30 years. It was taken down by Knodel Contractors beginning on the backside (west) side late Monday morning, with the building’s front frame toppling toward the west several hours later. Cleanup was continuing Tuesday.
While it is not officially part of the Main Street rebuild, that project prompted officials with the city of Freeman to expediate its removal. That included the acquisition of the property from Daniel Hauck of Olivet on April 13 of this year and a bidding process for its demolition. The bid of $168,340 from Knodel Contractors was the only one submitted, according to the city finance office.
The cost of its removal is not included in the $5.1 million Main Street project.
The elevator that came down on Monday, still stamped with “Shanard’s” lettering on its east side, was last used by Freeman Farmers Elevator after it purchased the property in 1978. Its removal follows the demolition of another historic elevator, Park Lane in 2007, and more recently the 2013 demolition of the elevator last used by Central Farmers Cooperative just across the street from Shanard’s.
And it reflects just how much things have changed. Grain elevators were representative of considerable prosperity in the early days in towns like Freeman. George H. Shanard started his business in Yankton in the 1800s before expanding across eastern South Dakota. At one point, the Shanards owned 27 grain elevators, according to the South Dakota Hall of Fame, of which he is a member.
A farmer’s elevator was first erected in Freeman in the 1880s, according to a history book written by J.J. Mendel, although it is unclear if that was Shanard’s. Mendel’s book does confirm, however, that Shanard’s was one of eight grain elevators in operation by 1900.
However, according to the Freeman Courier in its Aug. 13, 1954 “Diamond Jubilee (75 years)” edition, “one of the first elevators owned by the Shanard Elevator Company was located in Freeman.”
Historic accounts also confirm that the elevator that came down on Monday was not the original Shanard’s Elevator. According to the Courier in July of 1914:
“The Shanard elevator at this place will be taken down and replaced by a fine new house. As soon as all the grain is shipped and the house is empty work will commence. This is a good town for any kind of a business and the Shanards were here long enough to know it. Comparatively few towns, if any, in the state ship as much grain as does this town.”
Freeman Farmers Elevator continued to use the elevator through at least the 1980s.