Charles H. Prior, a Milwaukee road superintendent, is credited with founding Aberdeen, South Dakota, (population 25,000) in 1880. Prior directed where the railroads were built and chose Aberdeen as a rail hub for five railroads, thus earning it the nickname “the Hub City.”
Aberdeen is still a hub of activity in preservation, the arts, entertainment, education, and technology for the northeast quarter of the state. The city has also been recognized nationally for a superior park system. Aberdeen also hosts the Oz Festival, an annual celebration of the Dakota Heritage.
Aberdeen is home to the Dacotah Prairie Museum, which has occupied the same 1898 building for almost 40 years. The city of Aberdeen, along with the entire community, has supported substantial fundraising efforts to restore the building and the museum.
Special exhibits and programs, revolving art galleries, and the building itself all draw visitors to the museum. The Dacotah Prairie Museum hosts “Afternoons in the Past” for school children, who come by the busload from city and county schools. In 1999, staff and volunteers welcomed about 59,000 people, including visitors from 14 foreign countries and 46 states.
The Aberdeen/Brown County Landmarks Commission has been active in preserving the area’s heritage since 1978. The commission was recognized in 1993 and 2005 with state awards. Its major activities include conducting educational programs, applying for grants, promoting National Preservation Month and Week, and assisting with renovating structures. It has established three historic districts in Aberdeen and authored educational material that has been distributed to schools, libraries, and museums.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2006.