South Dakota's rich western heritage has been remembered along the Interstate highway system at safety rest areas and tourist information centers.
The eight pillars which thrust skyward here merge in the framework of a tipi, the Plains Indian home. The one-by-one and one-half foot concrete lodgepoles rise fifty-six feet in the air and weigh six-and-one-half tons each. The structures were executed in an architectural manner reflecting the spartan lifestyle of the nomadic Lakota (Sioux) Nation.
Beneath each tipi are several concrete isosceles triangles, a basic design of the Lakota Nation, set in a pattern to form a thunderbird, another traditional Indian symbol.
The building which houses the rest rooms and tourist information center is fashioned after the sod houses and dugouts which dotted the South Dakota prairie during pioneer days. Four miles north of here the town of Salem reflects the influence of the railroad in opening Dakota Territory to settlement.
Salem, named after the Massachusetts community, was platted in 1880 and for two years after was the most important railroad point between Sioux Falls and Mitchell. The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway reached Salem in the fall and winter of 1880-81, but the blizzard of 1881 prevented the lines immediate use. During the summer of 1883 the Dakota Central division of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway was completed through the town.
In 1882 Salem, then called Melas, became the third county seat for McCook County in the space of four years, a status it has retained. Although the railroads no longer have the influence of years ago, communities such as Salem serve as reminders that railroads often led, rather than followed, settlement.