A Brief History of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Family Home on Third Street in De Smet, South Dakota

In June of 1886, Caroline Ingalls purchased two lots on Third Street in De Smet, South Dakota, from Eliza Jane Wilder for just $100.

Earliest known photo of the Ingalls Home on Third Street in De Smet, SD. However, the date of the photo is unknown.

Earliest known photo of the Ingalls Home on Third Street in De Smet, SD. However, the date of the photo is unknown.

Farming was a tough time and Pa, Ma and the girls moved to town from the homestead to be closer to work and school. First, Pa dug the cellar in 1887. It was a simple cellar with a dirt floor and dirt walls. His efforts on the new home were noted in the De Smet news, therefore an accurate date is available. Next, he began building the house. It was a simple, small home. Like many pioneer homes, this one was built one section at a time as time and funds allowed. The first portion of the home consisted of two rooms on the main floor and a large room upstairs. Pa and Ma slept downstairs and the girls slept upstairs. At this time, Laura was no longer living with her family. The rest of the additions to the house are not as easily dated, although studying the wood, layout and family history enables historians to make educated speculations. The next portion of the house was the back kitchen. It is most commonly noted for the beautiful wall of cupboards on the west side that Pa built for Ma. It’s most likely that this addition to the house was made in the spring following the family’s first winter in the home. 1997.101.1313   1997.101.1312 In 1906, the city added a sidewalk in front of the homes on Third Street. Later, at an unknown date, the house was added onto again for the final time, and a parlor and a bedroom were added. At this point, the house felt large and spacious. Ma and Pa slept in the newest portion of the home, Mary slept in a small bedroom near the dining room and Carrie and Grace slept upstairs. Eventually, the house passed from Ma, to Mary, and finally to Carrie. Carrie was the last Ingalls family member to own the home. Fast-forward to 1957, when the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society held its very first meeting. By 1964, they incorporated with the state of South Dakota. In October of 1973, the LIWMS acquired the house and began the long process of restoration. At the time of purchase, the house was in a poor state. The initial repairs were conducted by the local Jaycees and Jaycettes.

Project summary from the 1973 restorations.

Project summary from the 1973 restorations.

In the process of restoring the house, they discovered newspaper on the main floor in the walls of Mary’s bedroom. The newspaper had been used for insulation and is dated to be from 1890. The following three photos were taken following the initial restoration process.1997.101.1317 1997.101.1319 1997.101.1318 Today, during the historic homes tour, visitors can see the original newspaper on display in the original location in the home. In 1977, a new foundation and basement were built, and in 1978, the roof was outfitted with cedar shingles.

1997.101.1312 1

Notice the shingles in this photo of the Ingalls Home.

1997.101.1315

Before the addition of the basement.

After the addition of the basement.

ingalls home 300 dpi

Ingalls Home after the addition of the basement.

This information was collected from interviews with Cheryl Palmlund, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society archives and “The Laura Ingalls Wilder Lore”, Volume 5, Number 2.

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10 comments on “A Brief History of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Family Home on Third Street in De Smet, South Dakota

  1. Linda says:

    I’ve been there once and will be visiting again. I am so happy people are keeping her legacy alive for future generations.

  2. Judy Williamson says:

    What are the original two rooms of the house?

  3. why did it pass just to Carrie and not Grace also?

  4. […] an interesting blog post about the building of the […]

  5. I went through this home on a tour over the weekend. I couldn’t help but notice an afghan on display on the sofa. I believe that our tour guide said that it was replicated from the photo taken inside that room that was on display as well. I was wondering if someone would happen to know where I could find a pattern to make that afghan???

  6. I’m so happy for Caroline Ingalls that her final home was one in town. After her years of accompanying Charles as he searched for his dream, and after the graceful way she repeatedly adapted to the pioneer lifestyle, it’s heartwarming to know she was happy in her house in town. She certainly deserved it!

  7. Patty says:

    I simply can’t imagine just saying “ok Charles lets go where you want to go without having her say . even in that time. Ma had to have had some reservations. Im happy she finally was able to be abe to settle somewhere and put down roots. She was pretty amazing in many ways.

  8. linda says:

    why was Lara not living at home at that time

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