The University of South Dakota, Springfield is gone, but not forgotten. Established shortly after statehood, the West Wing of the Main Hall was built in 1896 on land granted to Springfield State Normal School.
However, the state legislature did begin funding to operate the school until 1901, and even then, there were proposals to shutter the school or move it to another location.
Despite periodic threats to its very existence, the school continued in its mission to train teachers. Following World War II, USD Springfield added vocational training programs. Enrollment peaked at over one thousand students in the late sixties but soon declined.
Things changes during a cascade of events in 1983. First, Governor Janklow proposed moving minimum-security inmates to buildings on the campus and providing them with vocational training. Then a few months later, a federal judge ordered the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls to file a plan to address overcrowding. And then the plan evolved into one that ended, rather than altered, USD Springfield’s historic mission.
Faculty, staff, students and local supporters fought the plan, but on May 6, 1984, the final commencement ceremony took place at USD Springfield. The first inmates were transferred that summer.
Just a few years after Springfield was established, citizens had staked the future of town to education. A hundred years later, there were differences of opinion about whether USD Springfield was a sustainable enterprise, but losing the university fundamentally altered Springfield’s identity.
Today a small museum is all that remains of USD Springfield.