Some say the only constant is change, and for the Silverado-Franklin Historic Gaming Complex, those words continue to echo down Deadwood’s Main Street.
Billed as the finest lodging property between Chicago and Denver when it opened in 1903, the Franklin Hotel has hosted a long line of celebrated personalities, from U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft to Babe Ruth, John Wayne and Kevin Costner.
The historic hotel received a shot in the arm with the advent of legalized gaming in 1989, then again with the Silverado’s acquisition of the property in 2005. Super G Investment, the parent company that owns the Silverado-Franklin, then infused $6 million in a comprehensive restoration of the Franklin’s lower level and main casino floor, transforming the property while retaining its historical attributes.
“The Franklin hotel is a landmark within a National Historic Landmark,” said Tom Rensch, managing partner of the Silverado-Franklin. “And its top-tier veranda is a favored place to sit, relax, look down on historic Main Street and enjoy a libation on a lazy afternoon.”
In 2014, the Franklin opened the doors of its Legends Steakhouse featuring a wide variety of fare as well a large wine list, and its quickly established itself as one of Deadwood’s most sought-after fine-dining destinations.
“We’ve had people from all over the world say it’s the best steakhouse they’ve ever eaten at,” Rensch said.
But, the Franklin’s transformation is still incomplete. Crews are currently working to restore the property’s exterior to its original luster, reconstructing a decorative parapet that once fronted the hotel. The $230,000 project, funded in part by Deadwood Historic Preservation, is part of a larger $543,000 exterior remodeling that includes structural repairs, window restoration and tuckpointing designed to return the façade to its earliest grandeur.
In addition, the Franklin’s owners are currently examining a major remodeling of the hotel’s guest rooms. They have even hired a designer to help determine what the 68 rooms of the historic lodging property could look like and are working to determine the best financing mechanism to make the major rehabilitation project a reality, Rensch said.
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Just across the street, the “Top of the Town” casino known as the Silverado was once a mom-and-pop drug store, before its new owners opened the expansive casino in April 1990. Today, it’s a highlight of Deadwood, offering the latest slots and table games, including roulette and craps, as well as a popular poker room. To date, the casino has presented gamers with more than 500 sparkling sedans since the Silverado’s Great Car Giveaway began in the 1990s.
Downstairs, diners delight in the Vegas-style Grand Buffet and its renowned all-you-can-eat crab and prime rib on Friday and Saturday nights.
And, further changes are on the horizon for the Silverado-Franklin in a “new beginning” tied to the new Deadwood Square, a commons similar to Rapid City’s Main Street Square, and which secured funding in late October thanks to a $2 million matching grant from the state of South Dakota.
Doing its part, the Silverado-Franklin agreed to a land swap with the city to make the project a reality. Under the plan, the 13-room Franklin Motor Inn will be demolished, making way for the new Deadwood Square.
“It’s a big investment for us,” Rensch said, “but it shows we’re an investor in the community and we’re willing to step up to the plate and help our community.”
As part of the plan, the Silverado’s north-facing façade will be transformed into a welcoming entrance off the square, using historic brick, a large deck or patio, and “a whole new venue with service and cocktails similar to the Franklin’s veranda, Rensch explained.
“We’re constantly reinventing ourselves,” he said. “This project is so cool and exciting and it will change the face of Deadwood’s Main Street. It’s really time for Deadwood to change its identity, moving from not just an Old West gambling town, but becoming an historic retail destination for millions of visitors.”