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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Palace in the Middle of the USA

Since the Revolutionary War was fought to free the colonies from the rule of a Monarch, it is surprising that the U.S.A. has so many palaces. Of course, the Governor’s Palaces in Williamsburg, Virginia, and New Bern, North Carolina, are left over from the British reign. The palaces in Hawaii are vestiges of the days the Hawaiian royal family ruled the islands. And Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico was originally constructed in the early 17th century as Spain's seat of government for what is today the American Southwest.

One of the most unique American palaces is located in Mitchell, South Dakota.

In 1892, the “World’s Only Corn Palace” was established on the city’s Main Street as a gathering place for locals and visitors at the annual fall festival celebrating the end of the growing season and the harvest.

The venue hosted stage entertainment, and became so popular that a new Palace was built in 1905. When this new building was outgrown, it was replaced by a third Palace, which was completed in 1921. This is the Palace that stands today. Later, in the 1930’s the exterior was restored to the original Moorish style, with minarets and kiosks.

Mitchell still hosts the annual fall festival, but it also serves as a venue for basketball tournaments, local high school events and commercial shows and exhibits.

This unique structure, decorated with naturally-colored corns, other grains, and native grasses, draws half a million tourists each year.

The murals on the exterior are changed each year. The ears of corn are sliced in half lengthwise and then nailed into place by hand in the pre-drawn designs. Approximately 325,00 ears of corn are used, with each ear having 4-5 nails to hold it in place.

The theme for this year is “Salute to the Military.” In addition to the murals on the front of the building, a series of huge panels graces the side wall.

 The detail in the designs is mind-boggling, given the number and variety of colors in the ears of corn that are required. Here are a couple of examples.

Inside the Palace there is an entry and lobby with displays and exhibits. On the second floor is a gallery displaying the works of Oscar Howe, the artist who was the longest-running mural designer.

It is often said that “place” can become a character in a novel, as important as the protagonist(s). The “World’s Only Corn Palace” is certainly a fascinating place with a great deal of character. If you’re in the area, it’s a unique and interesting destination.

Please comment with a fascinating place you have visited or somewhere that pleasantly surprised you.

Ann Markim

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Source material: Handouts from the Corn Palace and tourist guides to Mitchell, South Dakota.


  1. That's really interesting. I've never heard of the Corn Palace.

    1. Thanks for checking out my blog. My parents took my sister and me to see it when we were too young to appreciate all the work that went into it. It was fun to return as adults.
      Do you have a place that far exceeded your expectations?

  2. What a fun post. I'd never heard of this place.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your comment. Do you have a place that unexpectedly captured your interest?

  3. Amazingly, I read briefly about the Corn Palace when I was researching for a blog on another subject. There are so many interesting places to see in America. We could spend our entire lifetimes checking them out. What fun would that be?
    A fascinating place to visit for me has been the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. The first time I visited it in 1972, it had just recently opened to the public. Most of the rooms were empty or sparse, but it was still majestic. Things have greatly evolved since then. The present descendent lives on the top floor which is not for public viewing. He has transformed this once derelict relic of an American castle into a huge success by investing in filling its rooms with period pieces, establishing a vineyard with its own brand of wine, and creating grand holiday exhibitions that are breathtaking. They now have grand hotels to accommodate out of town visitors and the Biltmore House has become a spectacular tourist attraction that has revitalized Asheville already famous for its art.
    A wonderful post, Ann.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing. I've heard about the Biltmore House, but have never been there. If I'm in North Carolina, I'll be sure to check it out. Isn't it fun to discover these hidden gems?