During the Summer months of 1887, a man by the name of Ralph Jaybush kept pestering the Sioux Falls City Council about affixing addresses to buildings. Finally on July 2, action was taken. Ninth Street and Phillips Avenue was deemed the center of the city and the place where numbering would begin. It was also deemed that streets shall run East and West and avenues shall run North and South.
I contacted Daniel Neeves at Siouxland Libraries to assist me in learning about the history of some of the street names. He contacted the Sioux Falls Street Naming Committee. To my surprise, he found that there is no history maintained on street names.
Most street names are selected by the original land developer. Street names must satisfy specific criteria. If the criteria is satisfied, then the name is allowed. The City does not require an explanation of why the name was selected. Nor does the City maintain a history of why a private land developer selected the name.
Despite there being no official records on street names, I was able to research and find a few resources that detailed the origin of some street names in Sioux Falls. Here are a few.
Possibly the most popular street in Sioux Falls. Phillips Avenue is the center of Downtown. It was named after Dr. Josiah Phillips, a Surgeon in the 16th Iowa Infantry during the Civil War. He became a member of the Dakota Land Company, and secured the original land that would eventually become Downtown Sioux Falls.
Cruising down Walts Avenue, near the center of the city will take you through a path of overly embellished homes, much like the home of the family it was named after, Cyrus and Mary Walts (whose home is oddly on Duluth). Cyrus came to Sioux Falls in 1870 where he platted land and performed a wide range of duties for the City of Sioux Falls that ranged from Deputy Postmaster to City Justice. Mary was the first public School Teacher in the city.
Powder House Road
Sorry, I refuse to call it Veterans Parkway. It will always be Powder House Road to me. Named because there was a powder house that sat along the road on the property where the Cinemark movie theater stands now. It wasn’t just an ordinary powder house though. It was the scene of one of the most brutal murders in Sioux Falls history. On December 31, 1936, a jewel thief named William Nesbit got angry and killed his accomplice and attempted to kill witness Nelen Sieler by shooting them and lighting up the powder house to cover up evidence of the crime. The blast shook the city, causing damage to windows all the way to Downtown and reportedly could be felt all the way to California. Sieler crawled away from the blast and survived.
Though the name of the stretch of road along Highway 11 was changed in 2015, a frontage road that runs parallel to it has kept the Powder House name.
Also the name of a park, both were named after E.A. Sherman. Arriving in Sioux Falls in 1873, Sherman helped make our awesome park system a thing with the creation of McKennan, Sherman, and Terrace Park.
Van Eps Avenue
Another street named after an early pioneer. William Van Eps caught word of a military reservation at Sioux Falls that was about to be abandoned. In 1870, Van Eps pounced on the opportunity and took over the grounds.
Van Eps later became a merchant, operating business out of a building that sat where the parking ramp for Wells Fargo sits today.
Named for Silas Blauvelt. Nephew of pioneer William Van Eps. There really isn’t much history I could find on Silas. But there used to be a building named after him on the corner of 5th and Main St.
Why the heck is a street named after a local Kiwanis club? Well, in 1932, the Sioux Falls Kiwanis Club offered to plant trees alongside Sherman Park, from 12th Street to 22nd Street. This was done during The Great Depression, at a time when park development was not high on the agenda. As a “thank you”, it’s likely the reason Kiwanis Avenue got its name.