Deadwood has seen plenty of change over the past 20 years.
For many, those changes have been a mixed bag. Some improvements, such as additional parking via the downtown ramp or a wider variety of restaurants, are widely considered welcome improvements. Others, such as the loss of retail stores in the core downtown district, have been seen as a detriment. And still other longtime features have survived the transition and carry on in the limited-stakes gambling era.
Of course, not all of them are directly related to gambling and the taxes generated from Deadwood's two-decade adventure, nor was the demise of those that disappeared necessarily directly linked to gambling. But they do reflect the constant changing face of Deadwood.
Here are a few of the good, the bad and those that have persevered in the town in the gulch.
Deadwood City Hall -- Sure, the old Deadwood City Hall in the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad depot in the center of town looked great from the outside, but inside, the archaic building was cramped and oddly configured for a place that deals in the business of government. So city officials up and moved their digs to a different historic building: the Fish & Hunter warehouse building across from the Deadwood Recreation Center. With a spacious, well-lit meeting room and much more modern office space, City Hall looks and feels like, well, a city hall.
The Deadwood Social Club -- An extension of the most prominent business in Deadwood - the Old Style Saloon No. 10 on
Historic Main Street - the
Deadwood Social Club is one of Deadwood's hidden gems. Although the setting can only at best be described as rustic, the Italian fare is simply divine and an unexpected treat even on return visits.
Deadwood Trolley -- Rumor has it the decision to buy the classic green trolleys was made during a breakfast meeting among some of the movers and shakers in Deadwood. It ranks among the best the city has made in terms of nonrenovation projects. The trolley system has proven invaluable to residents, workers and visitors alike. With the heavy visitor traffic, the trolley ensures that businesses and hotels not situated along Main Street still have a reasonable chance at success. It provides residents a worthwhile form of transportation. And workers are able to get to designated city lots.
Free Main Street concerts -- In some ways, Deadwood still has a seasonal economy, and the primary season remains summer. After big bucks began rolling into Deadwood, the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce began working to boost its series of celebrations through the summer. And one of the ways they did that was to
begin offering free Main Street concerts: Glen Campbell, Three Dog Night, Chubby Checker, Tommy Tutone. OK, so the list skews a bit toward the older crowd, but for free entertainment, there's little else like it in South Dakota.
Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center -- Still a work in progress, the collection of items gathered over the 125-year life of Homestake Gold Mine in Lead is a true diamond in the rough. Although public access is extremely limited to the historical treasures housed at the former F.L. Thorpe building on Sherman Street, their value is as great as any of the relics in Deadwood's history. A 213-seat meeting hall is being built upstairs, which will be available for classes and student residencies. Community groups also can have meetings in the
center and use its full-service kitchen when it is completed, which is expected to be sometime next summer.
The bowling alley -- For a time in the 1970s through the 1980s, Deadwood had a thriving bowling alley with daily league bowling and a strong youth program. But like many of the retail shops in the town, the decline in population in the Lead-Deadwood area - especially after the Homestake Mine strike in the early 1980s - put a significant pinch on business. Located on the south end of traditional Deadwood, it was situated across from another lost Deadwood treasure, the A&W Drive-In. Today, the Comfort Inn Gulches of Fun Hotel and Casino Resort - including a casino, arcade, mini-golf and go-cart track - sits where the bowling lanes and drive-in once were.
Durty Nelly's -- Next to the No. 10, it would hard to find a tavern more identifiable with Deadwood. The bar, in the basement of the Historic Franklin Hotel, was small, dark and out of the way, but locals flocked to it both in pre-gambling Deadwood and after Nov. 1, 1989. As the casino service-sector grew, it became a popular hangout for local workers after they got off their shifts, especially on Sunday nights. However, when longtime owner Bill Walsh sold the hotel to the Silverado Gaming Establishment across the street, the bar was converted into office space for the expanding casino business.
KSQY -- Founded in 1982, the popular FM radio station was one of the few businesses in the twin cities of Lead and Deadwood that found continued success both before and after the advent of legalized limited- stakes gambling. Multiple format changes in the years that followed failed to deter its audience, rising to be a stalwart in the Black Hills market. Although it continues on today, it was lost to Deadwood after the station's parent company, Haugo Broadcasting, moved its offices to Rapid City. The former "K-SKY" offices at 666 Deadwood Main St. now house a tourism-based gift store.
Bandido/China Doll -- In one of the most distinctive restaurant combinations ever known to the era, the Bandido/China Doll offered up somewhat Americanized but pretty tasty Mexican and Chinese food, respectively. Although the restaurants moved, their set-up before gambling on Main Street offered some downtown dining before the mass of restaurants made their way onto Main Street. The Bullock Hotel was eventually sold and restored as one of the jewels of the city's historic preservation efforts.
The Deadwood Bears -- The identity of the town's high school wasn't lost in 1972, when Deadwood High School merged with Lead High School. High school students began attending Lead, but the junior high school was put in Deadwood, and the school kept its nickname, the Bears. However, Lead-Deadwood School District 40-1's enrollment began a long decline beginning that year. Eventually, the enrollment shrank enough that the district decided to reduce the number of its facilities, and Deadwood Middle School was moved to Lead and called the Lead-Deadwood Middle School Gold Diggers. The Deadwood facility became the home of the Lead-Deadwood
Elementary School, and the Bears name was forever lost.
Deadwood Rodeo Grounds -- The showcase of Deadwood's biggest pre-gambling era, the Days of '76 Parade and Museum always put the focus on the rodeo grounds and its surrounding facilities. The general condition of those facilities, which included the Ferguson Field football field and the city's Little League fields, lagged badly in the 1980s. But a new infusion of cash not only brought back a sheen to the rodeo - which is annually in the running for tops in its class nationwide - but brought a new ballfield complex and significant renovations at Ferguson Field.
Adams House -- Left abandoned for more than a half-century, the Adams House, at 54 Sherman St., had become the epitome of the so-called "haunted house" by the mid-1980s. Sold in 1987, the building was patched up and was a bed and breakfast for a time before eventually being sold to the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission. The move saved Deadwood's perhaps grandest historic building. Today, it is operated as a museum.
Franklin Hotel veranda -- In contrast with Durty Nelly's, the Franklin Hotel's veranda was saved in the makeover by Silverado officials. Although there isn't much fancy about the open-air area, it provides one of the best views of Deadwood's Historic Main Street.
Deadwood Rec Center -- The Rec Center, at 105 Sherman St., went through several makeovers in its nearly century-old existence, but it was in declining condition when limited-stakes gambling came along. Physical limitations kept enhancements somewhat in check, but a massive project is under way to build an annex to the building to improve recreation opportunities.