Brookings, South Dakota (population 18,504), located on the Big Sioux River, was platted in 1879 after the Chicago and North Western Railroad decided to establish a station there. In 1881 the Dakota Agricultural College, today South Dakota State University, was established and two years later the city was incorporated. Emigrants from Europe and Scandinavia flocked to Brookings, which continued to develop as a diversified agricultural area and a seat of learning.
The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, located on the campus of South Dakota State University, is dedicated to preserving the area’s rich agricultural history and rural heritage. Its collections and exhibits depict technology, crops, and livestock and examine human experiences, institutions, and cultures that were shaped by the state's rural landscape and diverse environment.
Today Brookings is the county seat of Brookings County. This college town has four historic districts, including the commercial district, the central historic residential area, the University’s historic residential district, and the Sexauer Seed Company complex. In recent years Brookings seen the creation of a preservation non-profit and has updated its historic preservation ordinance. Downtown Brookings, Inc., the City’s Main Street program, has also created design and maintenance guidelines for the historic downtown.
The Brookings Historic Preservation Commission has produced walking tour brochures, runs guided tours, and participates in a radio show about the community’s historic resources during National Preservation Week. An annual History and Garden Festival includes hands-on historic preservation workshops. Mayor’s Awards recognize property owners who restore and preserve their historic structures in categories including sympathetic additions or infill, historically appropriate landscaping, and restoration.
After the failure of a bond issue to restore the 1921 Brookings Middle School, vacant since 1998, the County decided to raze it. Local volunteers opposed to the demolition collected enough signatures to send the decision to a countywide vote. Thanks to pubic support for preserving the school, the City transferred ownership to a private developer, who worked with a non-profit Economic Development Corporation and used a Housing and Urban Development loan to renovate the building.
Other support for the project came from the Save America’s Treasures program, the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, and State grants and tax incentives. The former school now houses a mixture of government offices, commercial space, and 18 apartments.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2005.