SCENIC, S.D. -- Scenic, once known as a Wild West town next to the Badlands, now finds itself in an unlikely place: listed for sale by the woman who has owned much of the town for years.
And she is hoping to get as much as $799,000 for 46 acres of West River land that includes 12 acres of a town that holds fond memories but finds itself in danger of becoming another Western ghost town.
“The businesses and land has always been family-run, but now, it’s time for someone else to come in and bring it back to life,” said LeeAnn Keester, the daughter of Twila Merril, who has listed most of the town of Scenic for sale. “It’s just me and my mom now, and now, with her health being what it is, it’s just too much for us.”
The town of Scenic was established in the early 1900s to serve as a stopping point alongside the railroad that went through the town, said Leo Stangle, who has lived in the eastern Pennington County town since 1949 and owns Gopher Choker, a pest-control business.
Stangle said Scenic holds a rich history hidden beneath its rugged exterior.
“Scenic used to be quite the little town in its day,” he said. “It was once a cowboy and railroad town -- and maybe a little rough now and then.”
Scenic once had a functioning bank, grocery stores, a church, a high school and even a hotel in its early days. However, he said, Scenic hit a downhill slide and businesses began shutting down, beginning in the 1930s, when the Depression set in.
“Farmers had big families to feed, and there just wasn’t enough employment for everyone anymore, so gradually, people started to leave, and then the businesses in town suffered and also started shutting down,” he said. “People had no choice but to move out.”
Stangle said he is now only one of eight people who still live and have a home in the town.
Scenic still sees traffic pass through day to day, but the vehicles rarely stop.
“The town sees around 700 cars go through on a day-to-day basis,” said David Olsen, broker associate for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate. “We just need one to stop long enough and get a buyer in here.”
The listing includes 46 acres, with 12 acres in town and 34 acres surrounding it. It includes a U.S Post Office land lease, the Longhorn Fuel & Food Convenience Store, the Longhorn Saloon, a museum with knotty pine interiors, two homes and two jails.
Keester said her mother loved Scenic and acquired the properties as they were put up for sale. They also kept animals -- one of which is a two-year-old bull named Freckles, who can still be spotted roaming around town.
“She just bought them one by one, until we have what we have today,” Keester said. “I have so many memories in each of the stores and the bar. I’ve worked in every single one and grew up around everything.”
Keester said her mother was once an adventurous cowgirl who never walked away from a fight -- with or without guns involved. She was forced, however, to put the property up for sale when her health started to decline. She now is receiving medical treatment in Rochester, Minn.
“It’ll be sad to let it all go,” Keester said.
Stangle said the Longhorn Saloon was once a popular watering hole for farmers, ranchers and tourists passing through. However, if someone approached the saloon today, they would be greeted by a locked door instead of the warm welcome travelers and locals once received when they stepped through the door.
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“I used to go there, and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “My grandfather said he would always start there one night and then hop to the other bar afterward; there were two at the time. Then, he’d flip that and do the same thing the following night in reverse.”
Kathy Jobgen, the postmaster at Scenic, also had fond memories of the Longhorn Saloon, where she said many people experienced wild and exciting weekends.
“It was such a unique bar with sawdust on the floor and branded square tiles on display,” she said. “There were also signatures everywhere of all the people who had been there over the years on the walls. It was a lot of fun.”
Scenic is an unincorporated town that is governed by a township board, which means that a sale of the community to another party will have no effect on fire protection or the availability of water and sewer services, according to Scenic Fire Chief Mike Lehrkamp.
“As far as the fire department, it won’t affect us at all because it’s owned by the township,” he said. “The water and sewer system is owned by the township, too, so that won’t be affected, and everything will go as it always has up until this point.”
Jobgen, who has been the postmaster in Scenic for about 24 years, said she isn’t worried about the post office being closed once the property is sold. She said her real concern is the time until a buyer is in the picture.
“I know when a buyer comes the post office will be OK, because they’ll want us here, because it’s good for the community,” she said. “But it’s tough, because we need residents to save it, and right now, we’re sort of in a state of limbo.”
Olsen said the listing has the potential to do very well during the Sturgis rally, especially the Longhorn Saloon, which he said was once a hot spot for motorcyclists passing through.
“It has so much history and was once a great little rally town,” he said. “It’s really a bargain price, and it has a lot to offer.”
The original asking price for the property was $3 million, but Olsen said the price dropped after being on the market for two years.
“It’s priced now how it should be,” he said.
Olsen said there have been nibbles on the listing but no major bites.
“We’ve had some general interest in the property, but nothing substantial yet, and nothing in writing,” he said. “We’re optimistic that with the newer price, people will jump on this opportunity.”
Keester said listing the property for sale and moving on is bittersweet for her and her ailing mother.
“I have a lot of memories there, and I’m really going to miss it,” she said. “I hope the person who buys it really enjoys it like we did.”
Contact Hannah Baker at 394-8419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.