Rumor has it that sometime in the early 20th century, gambling debts caused the owner of the Valentine McGillycuddy home at 727 South St. to split the lot into three parcels for sale.
Fast forward 100 years and another gamble has brought about a more positive change to the home of McGillycuddy, a former Rapid City mayor who played a prominent role in the history of the Black Hills.
Since 2011, Historic Rapid City, a local historic preservation nonprofit organization, has been working to restore the McGillycuddy home to its original form and beauty when it was first constructed in 1888. And with the second story exterior now complete, it appears as though the work is nearly done.
That is until you step inside.
A patchwork of plywood lines the floor, wall frames sit exposed and unfinished, and wiring and plumbing components jut out from ceilings and floorboards.
But to Fred Thurston, a Historic Rapid City board member and contributing architect for the project, things are starting to come together. In two years, Thurston said, he expects the restoration to be complete. In the next few months, the interior of the newly constructed second floor — with the original floorboards intact — should be finished.
The front porch and exterior design in the stick style from the Victorian era — characterized by linear overlay board strips and prominent trussing and beams — are nearly done and, as Thurston points out, located where it was back in 1888 when McGillycuddy and his first wife, Fanny, moved in.
“What’s out there now is actually where it originally was,” said Thurston, noting that minor changes were needed like adding a few more steps to the entranceway as Mount Rushmore Road sits at a lower elevation today than in the 1880s.
As for the work, Thurston said he’s secured commitments from area contractors to cover about 80 percent of the work on the second floor, 60 percent on the first floor, and 20 percent for the building’s east-facing rear, which will require the construction of a handicap accessible entrance, elevator and bathroom.
“Almost everything has been done through donations,” Thurston said, noting most have been in form of materials and labor, like the $37,000 worth of windows donated by Warren Window & Supply.
Still, help is still needed for the finishing touches. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Hotel Alex Johnson, a “Valentine Dance” will be hosted by Historic Rapid City to raise awareness, and funds, for the rest of the project. Thurston, though, said it’s more a celebration than a fundraiser.
“This is a birthday party,” he said, noting that McGillycuddy was born on Valentine’s Day. “This isn’t about what we’re doing here. It’s about Valentine McGillycuddy and what he did."
The former Rapid City mayor also served as president of the School of Mines & Technology, was South Dakota's first surgeon general and the first white man to summit Black Elk Peak in 1875, where his remains are still buried today.
"We want to celebrate his birthday party and at the same time, if we can make a few bucks to be able to continue the work, that’s absolutely wonderful," Thurston said.