Walls came tumbling down

Carleen Wild
Posted 3/28/23

Flandreau Elevator

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Walls came tumbling down


“It’s probably the best thing for Flandreau instead of it just sitting there, falling down,” said Scott Duncan. “Move it forward. It’s a totally different era than it was 50 years ago.”
Those words this past weekend from Duncan, who is a former owner of the structure, as the city prepares to remove the historic Duncan Brothers Elevator from the skyline. The towering structure was being demolished Monday morning to make way for a new fire station and other development. The city had purchased the land the elevator sat on for the new fire station and future development.
The Duncan Brothers Elevator has been a landmark just south of the Moody County Courthouse in Flandreau for generations. Duncan’s grandfather William built the business, along with the bank (now First National) and the Flandreau Bakery.
His Uncle Bill farmed. His uncle Mel ran the bakery. His dad, Lloyd, ran the elevator. As boys, they were part of the crew and while it has sat quiet for decades, it was busy in its heyday.
“It was a Farmer’s elevator,” he said, “back before everybody got so big. Smaller farmers used it…and it was a lot of work. A lot of shoveling out little granaries on people’s farms. I just did what my dad told me to do,” he chuckled.

His cousin Ken, who worked alongside him at times, remembers climbing up in it and sweeping it out and sweeping grain into the pit as well. He still drives by every time he’s back in town, Ken said, and thinks back on that time in their lives.
Scott recalled the night the original elevator burned in 1965.
“I was like 8 years old…and I remember my brother Tom was a senior in high school and dad woke him up in the middle of the night and said, ‘c’mon we’ve got to go’, and off they went. We had a porch on the front of the house and we watched it from there,” he recalled.
The family rebuilt. Scott and his brother ultimately took the business over and kept it running until about 2001. But times had changed. Bigger farms meant bigger partnerships with ethanol plants and larger corporations, said Duncan. There just wasn’t enough business to keep a small family-run elevator going.  
“It’s a little sad to see it come down but it’s been a long time since we quit the elevator business. I know it’s part of Flandreau’s history, but I got used to it being gone a long time ago,” said Duncan.
The aging elevator was already scheduled for demolition but ongoing snowstorms have pushed its removal date back along with that of an adjacent quonset storage building.
The quonset buildlings are also being torn down this week.
Also weather depending, the groundbreaking on a new fire station. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin later this spring.