Guided tours Tuesday through Sunday afternoons help Mellette House visitors picture not only Watertown’s beginnings, but South Dakota’s as it became a state in 1889. Mellette, an Indiana native who was appointed as the last governor of the Dakota Territory continued that job into statehood and made his home on the highest point in Watertown.
The railroad made settling the state possible, bringing goods and people and helping to fuel businesses such as Mellette’s brickyard that helped him build his Italianate villa. The Victorian-era rooms feature transom windows above doors, eyebrow windows on the second floor, high ceilings, dark woodwork, lots of embroidery and a decorative watchtower where visitors can take a peek at the treetop view.
Artifacts include Indian beadwork and sashes, Maggie Mellette’s china painting, crazy quilts made by the maid, an arrowhead collection, inaugural clothing, and a Knight’s Templar uniform.
The 45-minute tours give visitors a little state history and a picture of life in the 1880s, seen through the lives and home of this one influential family.
While the regular hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday May through September, visitors are welcome to call ahead or arrange special tour times. If the door is locked, a tour is in progress, and you may have to wait for the next one.
Admission: Free, but donations welcome.