The Stidworthy-Kemper House in Viborg has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register is the official federal list of properties identified as important to American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture. The State Historic Preservation Office of the State Historical Society works in conjunction with the National Park Service, which oversees the National Register program, to list the properties.
The Turner County Stidworthy-Kemper House is a two-and-a-half story, wood framed, Colonial Revival foursquare house built in 1910-1911. The house was originally built as a residence, initially for C.H. and Agneta Olsen, and was later converted into a hospital in 1942. The house holds many significant architectural elements including a rough-faced Sioux quartzite stone foundation, a full-width one-story open porch, and a flared hip roof. The interior has historic elements as well, such as pocket doors, two-button light switches, and historic and restored trim molding.
In October 1918, the house was sold from the Olsens to Dr. George H. Stidworthy. Stidworthy was originally from Illinois and attended medical school at the Sioux City College of Medicine. While in Viborg, his medical practice included home visits, and he would travel by horse and buggy to rural areas to visit patients. During especially challenging times such as epidemics and the Great Depression, Stidworthy often took food as payment and would have to sleep in the buggy between visiting patients because he was so busy. He served Viborg and the surrounding community for nearly 40 years.
In 1937 Dr. Carlos E. Kemper took over the practice and in 1942 Kemper began the process of converting the house into an official hospital. This renovation provided additional services and more space for patients that Viborg and the rest of the county had never had before. The first floor became a reception area, X-ray room, lab, kitchen, and doctor’s office. The second floor and attic were used for patient beds, an obstetrics suite, and nursery. Surgical operations were held wherever they could find room. In the 1992 centennial history of Viborg, Dr. Stidworthy and Dr. Kemper were credited with making Viborg the medical center of Turner County, and this house is a representation of that history and their dedication.
“South Dakota has a very rich history and culture ranging from prehistoric Indian villages, homesteader cabins, and unique businesses to richly detailed historic neighborhoods – which are all wonderful testaments to our state,” said Ted M. Spencer, State Historic Preservation Officer and Director of the State Historic Preservation Office.
Buildings, sites, structures, and objects at least fifty years old possessing historical significance may qualify for the National Register, per the National Park Service guidelines. Properties must also maintain their historic location, design, materials, and association. Listing in the National Register does not place any limitations on private property owners by the federal government.
For more information on the National Register or other historic preservation programs, contact the State Historic Preservation Office at the Cultural Heritage Center, 900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501-2217; telephone 605-773-3458 or website history.sd.gov/Preservation (click on National Register of Historic Places in the right column).
About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.