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Dumkes' Dow documentary debuts at Dayton House

Sioux Falls, S.D., filmmakers Brad and Jennifer Dumke have created a documentary on the architect of buildings that include the Dayton House

WORTHINGTON -- Architect Wallace L. Dow, best known in Worthington as the mastermind behind the Historic Dayton House at 1311 Fourth Ave., is the subject of a new documentary recently completed by Sioux Falls, S.D., filmmakers Brad and Jennifer Dumke.

An excerpt of "W. L. Dow, Architect," a 56-minute-long film tribute to Dow and his distinctive architectural contributions to South Dakota and the surrounding region, will debut Thursday evening at the Historic Dayton House. The public is welcome to attend.

The Dumkes spent time last fall at the Dayton House, shooting footage of the 1890 structure to include in their documentary, and were impressed with what they saw.

"It was absolutely amazing, and so meticulously, beautifully restored," praised Jennifer Dumke, who served as writer and researcher for the project. "We're so proud of what the town has done to keep not only George Dayton's legacy alive but to honor Dow's work, too.

"We definitely wanted to give the Dayton House what it deserved in the film, and including the Dayton House helped us show that Dow did a lot of work in outlying areas and really helped form cities in the region," she continued. "He designed courthouses in Canton and DeSmet, S.D., and he did the Carnegie libraries in Pierre and Mitchell."

Brad Dumke, a videographer and film editor who works for CityLink of Sioux Falls, and his wife, Jennifer, first began work on the Dow documentary in 2004.

"We lived in a historic Sioux Falls home at the time, we took a lot of walks, we were interested in architecture and design, and as writers and journalists, we always have our eyes out for that next great thing, especially something to collaborate on," explained Jennifer.

"We found that Wallace Dow was one of the main people who had done so many of the important buildings in downtown Sioux Falls and its residential area, and we were surprised many people didn't know about him and who he was, so it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell his story."

But life interrupted their project between 2007-2010, as they moved to a new house, Jennifer began a new job and they had a baby daughter, Kaydence.

"When we learned the Pettigrew Home and Museum was going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Dow's death and wanted a video to go with it, we applied for grant assistance from the South Dakota State Historical Society to help with the music for it," she detailed.

The grant, combined with the Dow anniversary celebration, provided the needed impetus for the Dumkes to complete the film project.

Dow, often referred to as "the Builder on the Prairie" and "the premier architect of South Dakota in the late 19th century," first came to the region from New Hampshire in 1880 to design the South Dakota Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

"That was his first commission," confirmed Jennifer, "and he stayed here after that. He also designed All Saints, now a retirement home, in Sioux Falls, and the Minnehaha County Courthouse -- now the Old Courthouse Museum -- was his jewel."

Other buildings for which Dow is known include the Pettigrew Home, the South Dakota School for the Deaf and Old Main at South Dakota State University, Vermillion.

"The Dayton House is a different style for Dow and has a unique story to it," said Jennifer. "It has no quartzite, for instance, and it's family-friendly.

"Apparently George Dayton was a family man and was OK with children being allowed and welcomed there."

Jennifer Dumke grew up in George, Iowa, and, with a grandmother living in Rushmore, had visited Worthington several times in her youth -- but she had never seen the Historic Dayton House until last year. She and her husband were intrigued by the Dayton Department Store legacy, which later grew into the Target Corporation, and the Dayton family's roots in Worthington.

"The Dumkes' documentary enhances the history of the Dayton House in yet another way," said Colleen Bents, Historic Dayton House manager. "There are so many rich stories that have come from the families that lived here -- the Daytons, Smallwoods and Cashels -- and we are fortunate the Dumkes included the Dayton House in their project."

An excerpt of the documentary "W.L. Dow, Architect," will be screened at 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the Historic Dayton House, 1311 Fourth Ave., Worthington, in conjunction with the House's annual meeting. The public is invited to attend this free event; a cash bar and light refreshments will be available. Brad Dumke will be present for a brief question-and-answer period following the screening. Copies of the documentary DVD will be available for sale at the Historic Dayton House, with sale proceeds benefiting the House. Future area screenings of the Dow documentary will be at 7 p.m. March 21 and April 7 at the Old Courthouse Museum, Sioux Falls, S.D. DVDs of the documentary purchased in South Dakota will benefit Siouxland Heritage Museums. For more information, call either Jennifer Dumke at (605) 310-3844 or the Historic Dayton House, 727-1311.