Andrew Jackson insists that you stop in Rapid City.
Andrew Jackson insists that you stop in Rapid City.

America's Street Corner Presidents

Field review by the editors.

Rapid City, South Dakota

For decades the civic leaders of Rapid City, South Dakota, watched in frustration as millions of tourists bypassed downtown as they headed south to view the big heads at Mt. Rushmore. It seemed unlikely that people might also want to see life-size Presidents -- until 1999, when a life-size bronze Lincoln was displayed in a local hotel lobby, and became a huge hit.

Thomas Jefferson drafts the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson drafts the Declaration of Independence.

"We were surprised," said Dallerie Davis, co-founder of the City of Presidents Project. "We thought, if they're gonna get that excited about one statue of a President, why don't we give them all of the Presidents?"

Now they're all here -- well, almost all of them.

Methodically, over ten years, life-size bronze statues of every President (minus whoever's currently in office) have been added to street corners in downtown Rapid City.


"There goes Rutherford B. Hayes," thought Grover Cleveland.

Dallerie said that the placement of the pose-with-me Presidents has nothing to do with whatever businesses happen to occupy the same corner, and that they've brought tourists and foot traffic into downtown. Even Richard Nixon is popular -- finally -- and the artists have gone out of their way to make each President worthy of a snapshot. The sculptor of George W. Bush, for example, at the last minute added him holding cuddly Barney the dog under one arm.

William McKinley on his smart phone.
William McKinley on his smart phone.

Since we're so used to seeing our attraction Presidents at an epic scale, the street corner Presidents of Rapid City can seem unnaturally small. Dallerie said that people sometimes confuse the uniformed William Henry Harrison with Julius Caesar, and often ask where Benjamin Franklin is (despite his status as Mr. $100 Bill, he was never a President).

Despite its lengthy history, America has had only 43 former Presidents, which means that Rapid City still has 37 unoccupied downtown street corners. We asked Dallerie if the "City of Vice-Presidents Project" might be next. She answered with an emphatic "No," but said that the city was thinking about erecting statues of First Ladies, or, perhaps inspired by Barney, presidential pets.

Roadside Presidents
Roadside Presidents App for iPhone. Find this attraction and more: museums, birthplaces, graves of the Chief Execs, first ladies, pets, assassins and wannabes. Prez bios and oddball trivia. Available on the App Store.

America's Street Corner Presidents

Address:
W. St. Joseph St., Rapid City, SD
Directions:
Downtown, at street corners along Main and St. Joseph Sts (which parallel each other) between 4th and 9th Sts. The Info Center -- where you can pick up a map -- is on the northwest corner of 7th and Main. Nixon is on the southwest corner of 5th and St. Joseph.
Phone:
605-718-8484
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Street Corner President: George W. BushStreet Corner President: George W. Bush, Rapid City, SD - < 1 mi.
Art AlleyArt Alley, Rapid City, SD - < 1 mi.
Berlin Wall SegmentsBerlin Wall Segments, Rapid City, SD - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Chief Crazy Horse Memorial, Crazy Horse, SD - 26 mi.

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August 19, 2019

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