". . . from dust to dust. A vernacular legacy"

Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)Documentation of Dunn County's historic

Hutmacher Complex

1995 architecture field research project near Killdeer/Manning, North Dakota

field research activity led by

Steve C. Martens, AIA Associate Professor and James W. Nelson, AIAAssociate Professor

Dept. of Architecture & Landscape Architecture North Dakota State University

The project investigation team is grateful to the Dunn County Historical Society and the State Historical Society of North Dakota

for grant support, field assistance, and generous access to historic photos and other pertinent information from their collections, some of which are reproduced in this brochure.

As part of their ongoing research interest, the NDSU HABS investigation team would greatly appreciate correspondence from individuals or county historical societies with additional information pertaining to surviving earthen or stone slab structures built on the Great Plains by Germans from Russia.


The Frank and Veronica Hutmacher Farmstead (part of the Hutmacher Complex, including St. Edwards Cemetery and ruins of the Valentine and Francis Hutmacher farm); rural Dunn County, near the former Fayette townsite in the vicinity of Manning and Killdeer, North Dakota

Sein Leben war ein Augenblick Ein Frühligstraum sein Erdenglück.

This life lasted but a moment [like the blink of an eye]. A Spring dream only imagined.

[-from a cemetery marker in St. Edward's Cemetery]

For further information about the kinds of buildings constructed by Germans from Russia, please see:

Koop, Michael and Carolyn Torma. "Folk Building of the South Dakota German-Russians". (Vermillion, SD: Collections of the South Dakota Preservation Office; n.d. 1984, videotape, 30 min)

Koop, Michael and Stephen Ludwig. "German-Russian Folk Architecture in Southeastern South Dakota". (Vermillion, SD: State Historical Preservation Center; 1984, 187 slides, 1 cassette tape, 1 script).

Koop, Michael. "German-Russians", in Dell Upton (ed.) America's Architectural Roots. (Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation; 1986).

Murphy, David. "Building in Clay on the Central Plains", in Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, III. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1982.)

Sherman, Fr. William C. "Prairie Architecture of the Russian-German Settlers", in Richard Sallett (ed.) Russian German Settlements in the United States. (Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies; 1974).

Please contact the team leaders, care of:

Steve Martens, AIA; Associate Professor or James W. Nelson, AIA; Associate Professor

Dept. of Architecture & Landscape Architecture North Dakota State University

P.O. Box 5285; S.U. Station Fargo, ND 58105-5285

(701) 231-7387 or FAX 701-231-7342 e-mail: Steve.Martens@ndsu.edu

What is HABS?

The Historic American Buildings Survey (or HABS) was begun during the Great Depression as a means of recording -- through photos, precise field measurements, and archival drawings -- unique historic buildings that form part of our national heritage. The completed pen-and-ink drawings are part of the most extensively accessed collection in the Library of Congress, encompassing over 120,000 documents that describe more than 30,000 buildings (both high-style and commonplace). Measured drawings developed by student groups like the NDSU team will eventually be placed in the HABS collection after being submitted to the annual Charles E. Peterson Prize national competition.


The Hutmacher Complex is comprised of two adjacent farmsteads constructed in a traditional, ethnic architectural form that originated in the Black Sea region of Russia and Ukraine. The most distinctive and significant aspects of the property are its architectural form (that is, the shape and arrangement of rooms) and the means by which the buildings were constructed. Significance of the Hutmacher Complex has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. For many years, the Hutmacher Complex has been protected, in a sense, by its relative remoteness and by continued occupance and use of the buildings until the 1970s. Though several of the buildings existed in a fragile condition at the time of this documentation effort, the county and state historical societies remain committed to their protection and preservation. Stone slab structures at the Frank Hutmacher farmsite include a house, below-grade cellar, the ruins of a barn/granary, a summer kitchen/butchering shed, a poultry barn, and a garage (which also may have stabled livestock at one time).

Ethnic Origins:

During the 18th- and 19th-centuries, Germans and German-speaking peoples relocated to the Steppes of Russia under encouragement from Catherine the Great and Czar Alexander I. There they adopted and modified an extant national tradition of constructing load-bearing earthen buildings. This ethnically-distinct building tradition was brought to the Great Plains of North America and modified using a variety of similar, but distinguishable methods and materials. The stone slab buildings of the Hutmacher Complex are part of an ethnically distinct folk complex that includes language, foodways, and burial customs (such as iron cross cemetery markers).

The Hutmacher complex is the best known example of stone-slab construction in North Dakota. The Hutmacher families were typical of other Germans from Russia who emigrated to the northern Great Plains a short time after Native Americans were forced off their Dakota Territory treaty lands around the turn of the twentieth century. The buildings the Hutmachers built on their farmsteads were highly labor-intensive to construct and maintain, but also highly appropriate in terms of their environmental response and their use of locally available materials. In addition to the carefully-worked, coursed ashlar sandstone slabs and clay mortar found in the Hutmacher Complex, German-Russian methods of construction by the immigrants included rammed earth, puddled clay, and batsa bricks.

Environmental Response:

All principal openings orient toward the south as deep window recesses. Though the Frank Hutmacher house was constructed and added-to over several years' time (from 1928 to 1963), all rooms in the house are aligned along a single east-west axis with an entry vestibule recalling the immigrants' tradition of a vörhausel. Unhewn Badlands Cedar roof rafters bear on the masonry walls and on a cottonwood ridge beam referred to as an "erstbaum" (or "first beam"), with the entire roof assembly then covered by branches, flax straw and clay. Beehive-shaped, clay coated chimneys that are visible in two locations originally served freestanding, cast iron stoves in which the Hutmachers burned coal they harvested from a nearby excavation, about 100-yards to the west. Other German-Russians as nearby as South Dakota are known to have built much larger bake ovens in this new world setting. On several of the outbuildings, hogwire fencing was also used as a "binder" for the roofing clay. Exterior surfaces of the sandstone walls were originally covered with a mixture of clay and chopped straw, which remains visible in several locations.

Project Information:

Field research and documentation of the Hutmacher Complex were conducted during the summer of 1995 by Scott Gilbertson, Lee Dobrinz and Eric Oleson, all students of the Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at North Dakota State University, working under direction of Steve C. Martens, Associate Professor and James W. Nelson, Assistant Professor, with financial support from the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Ella Guenther, Dorothy Galyen, and Agnes Fisher of the Dunn County Historical Society provided a substantial amount of information, support and encouragement for the recording effort.

The activities of the recording team have been observed and filmed by Prairie Public Television, in anticipation of a documentary that would capture the process of measuring and preserving a unique North Dakota architectural treasure.

All photo images on this webpage are by Steve C. Martens

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller