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Typical Sod House


PIERRE, S.D. - In the 1800’s, sod houses were the primary structure for homes on the Dakota prairie. The Dakota Territory began to offer free land to settlers who built dwellings and occupied the land for five years. The problem which ensued was that wood and trees were not readily abundant or available on the prairie. The few parcels of land containing trees were along rivers and lakes, and they were quickly snatched up by the first settlers. 

Later settlers, who were left with treeless property, had to find a way to build homes without wood. They found that the deep, strong prairie roots held the soil together. A method was developed to cut sod pieces out of the Earth.  They would pile the sod pieces on top of each other to build the homes. Sod homes provided great insulation against the harsh Dakota weather; however, they were vulnerable to rain and insect infestations.  Today only a handful of sod houses are still standing. A typical sod house may be viewed in the Badlands off US Hwy 16A ½ mile north of the east entrance to the Badlands at the Prairie Homestead. It is the place where Edgar Brown homesteaded with his family. 

The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight historical markers all across South Dakota. Click on the special “Marks of History” link at to access the complete list of articles.

The Marks of History series is part of Goal 1 of the 2010 Initiative to double visitor spending in South Dakota from 2003-2010 and Goal 4 to enhance history and arts as a tool for economic development and cultural tourism in South Dakota. The Office of Tourism serves under the direction of Richard Benda, Secretary of the Department of Tourism and State Development.


Media Notes: 
Information for this release was obtained from “Brevet’s South Dakota Historical Markers”.
The South Dakota Office of Tourism is not responsible for the text included on these markers. Some of the language used at the time of production may not be appropriate by today’s standards. Please view the markers at your own discretion.