Built in 1909, the Mead building in Yankton, S.D., is located on the southern side of the Human Services Center campus, the oldest institution in South Dakota. Funded before the state's penitentiary and universities, the Human Services Center opened in 1878, 10 years before South Dakota became a state. Designed by Dr. Leonard C. Mead, the three-story building is named for him as a tribute to his progressive attitude toward the positive treatment of individuals with mental illnesses.
In charge of the Human Services Center during a time when mental illness was misunderstood and carried stigma, Mead described mental illness as "a misfortune which may come to any of us." Because Mead believed patients should be housed in conditions he wished for himself and his family, the Human Services Center campus features park-like surroundings and residences with broad verandas and tall windows. The marble staircase in the Mead building is an example of the care and attention Mead put into the environment his patients inhabited. His talent for creating serene environments for patients helped produce a 25 percent rehabilitation rate at the center. Mead wrote several textbooks about child psychology and is considered a pioneer in the study of autism.
Abandoned about 30 years ago, the Mead building suffered considerable damage, including significant structural damage to the roof's wooden understructure. In 2009, the Mead building, and much of the campus, was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the U.S.