Chapel Story


It was in 1904, that Dan L. Glidden was asked to serve on the board of trustees for the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Association. As usual, the more action-oriented member of the Glidden team, Josephine, became very interested in her husband’s responsibilities. In 1912, Dan died and the cemetery became a regular visiting place for her.

After her death on Christmas Day, 1921, it was revealed that she had left the Cemetery Association $13,000 with which to build a Memorial Chapel for her family. It was due to the work of a long time friend of the family, Dennis L. McKinney, that the Chapel was built.

Moutn Pleasant Cemeterys Glidden Chappel is a historic part of Sioux Falls, SD

Dennis L. McKinney served on the cemetery board as treasurer from 1895 to 1910 and again as president from 1920 to his death in 1925. It was at the July 3, 1899 meeting of the board that president W.L. Baker entertained a motion that “D. McKinney, F.C. Angel, and H.W. Avery be appointed a committee to look up the matter of erecting a suitable building in the cemetery for a chapel, lavatory, and shelter house”. It was just too hard and too costly to dig graves when the ground was frozen in winter. The problem of body storage was real, and a yearly headache for undertakers and cemetery sextons. Also the era of the public funeral parlor had just begun. Most of the Sioux Falls Undertakers operated out of a furniture store backroom, livery stable, or jewelry store. If you did not belong to a church, or had a home big enough, your family had to rent a downtown hall for your funeral.

No mention was made of the work of this committee until July 15, 1901, when McKinney reported: “The committee appointed to investigated the matter of erecting a chapel and vault-building reports that the cost of such a building is beyond the present ability of the association and the matter is dropped.”

After Josephine Glidden’s bequest was made known, Dennis McKinney wasted no time in contacting architectural firms and called a special meeting of the board on Feb. 24, 1922. The drawings and ideas of architects Hugill and Blatherwick were accepted and they were instructed to go ahead and make detailed plans and specifications, with the understanding that the construction costs shall not exceed the sum of $13,000. April 7, 1922 Carlson & Snitky Contractors Bid $12,975. Due to legal entanglements the committee did not receive the inheritance for nearly a year, and no mention of the chapel is made in the minutes of the association until 1925. Dennis McKinney worked hard supervising the building and ironically, was the first person to use it upon completion.

Records about the chapel through the years are sparse. How it was furnished is a mystery. The pews disappeared in the 1950’s or 1960’s. The only recorded upkeep were repairs in 1930 of $100 and in 1931 of $246.16. For what repairs we do not know.

In 1937, J.B. Allen became secretary of the Board, and for the next 26 years he personally supervised the insuring of the chapel and other cemetery buildings. He also kept up the minor repair and painting of the Chapel at little cost. After Allen left the board in 1963, even though the board records state the chapel plans included building an office and rest room inside, no real action was taken. When the maintenance garage wore out, the doors of the chapel were opened and it became a home to mowers, tractors, and grounds-keeping equipment—a final indignity for this magnificent building.

In the late 1970’s the board association decided something must be done with the old chapel. Estimates were received for demolition of the old building for approximately $7,000, and since there were no funds available the chapel was saved from the wrecking ball. The board did not allocate funds to remove the slate roof as the weight of this roof was causing the interior to cave in. The chapel was allowed to further deteriorate and the trees and shrubs allowed to engulf the exterior even though the building still was used as a work and storage building.

It was not until 1984, that a group of Mount Pleasant volunteers took on the task of saving the old Glidden Chapel, in May of that year several adults and youth began cleaning up the area. The first task undertaken that year was the removal of all trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the building and the cleaning out of the interior of the building, which had been allowed to accumulate much trash and a terrible mess made by the hundreds of pigeons that took up housekeeping in the old chapel via the holes in the room and windows. The Chapel Restoration Committee also at this time began a fund for financing some of the work that the volunteers were unable to do. The total monies received were $13,300, of which $13,000 was used to restore three walls of the chapel. Work on repairing the roof begin the fall of 1986 with much donated lumbar and all the work or labor done entirely by volunteers. The Chapel was recently tuck-pointed again and stands ready for use.

The Glidden Memorial Chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Its small and intimate interior seats up to 50 and is ideal for private funeral services, commital services in inclement weather, and weddings.