LEAD-DEADWOOD | Two historic Lawrence County properties — one a remote log cabin dating back to the Black Hills gold-rush days, and the other an ornate opera house that continues to serve Lead as a community arts center — have received South Dakota State Historical Society grants to aid in their restoration.
Historical Society Director Jay D. Vogt of Pierre recently announced the grants, funded by Deadwood gaming proceeds, include $15,000 awarded to the Pearson Cabin near Deadwood, and $12,500 for the Homestake Opera House theater in Lead.
The opera house, located at 313 W. Main St., will use the grant to assist with the completion of final design documents for the continuing restoration of the theater.
“It’s kind of an unusual thing we fund,” said Kate Nelson, restoration specialist with the State Historic Preservation Office.
“And that’s so we know what they’re planning to do in the future will meet all of the standards that we have for historic buildings. They’ve been slowly going through one area at a time. The next area they want to finish is the theater, and that’s a big area to tackle,” she said.
The Homestake Mining Company built the opera house in 1914. Along with a 1,000-seat theater, the opera house also housed a heated swimming pool, billiard hall, library, bowling alley, smoking room, and social hall.
A 1984 fire severely damaged the building. After sitting empty for 11 years, former Homestake Mine engineer Jerry Aberle purchased it and began making structural improvements and planning for restoration.
A nonprofit was organized in 1998 to continue raising money for restoration. In 2008, the first community-theater production in 25 years was held in the partially-restored theater. Restoration continues as the opera house hosts plays, concerts and other events.
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The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 as part of the Lead Historic District.
The Pearson Cabin, located about 1.5 miles east of Deadwood on private land owned for many years by the Pearson family, is believed to have been built from rough-hewn logs by a single individual around 1876.
The cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 for its role in the exploration and settlement of the Black Hills in the 1870s.
Nelson said the land owner is working with a private contractor on the cabin’s restoration.
Also receiving grants were two other projects: Sioux Falls, the Grand Lodge and Library of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, built in 1924, received $12,500 for comprehensive façade masonry repairs.
The Olive Place in Watertown, built in 1887, received $10,000 for roof restoration to replace asphalt shingles with wood shingles.
“This historic preservation grants program is designed to encourage restoration or rehabilitation of historic properties and is one more way we can promote and protect our history and culture,” said Vogt, in a release.