DEADWOOD | Another step in restoring a landmark western South Dakota hotel to its original luster is underway, with the rebuilding of a decorative parapet atop the historic Franklin Hotel in downtown Deadwood.
“This is truly going to bring back what was part of the historic landscape of Deadwood from years ago,” said Tom Rensch, managing partner of the Silverado-Franklin Historic Gaming Complex.
When the Franklin opened in June 1903, it was one of the largest buildings in Deadwood and featured the parapet, a decorative brick and stone wall extending from the roof at the front of the four-story building.
According to the hotel website, the original parapet was made from hydraulically-pressed brick brought in from St. Louis, carved stone accents quarried in the Black Hills and painted wood, supporting a 25-foot flagpole.
The name Franklin was carved in bold letters into the parapet and referred to Harris Franklin, a developer who helped finance the building’s original construction in the early 1900s, later becoming a chief stockholder of the new hotel.
In its heyday, the Franklin hosted such dignitaries as John Wayne, Buffalo Bill Cody, Babe Ruth, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and world heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan.
However, the 1929 stock market crash, combined with an ill-timed addition, caused financial problems that ultimately resulted in the hotel closing and its conversion into residential apartments.
The parapet and flagpole apparently fell into disrepair and were removed sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s.
The hotel reopened to guests when Deadwood citizens voted to legalize limited-stakes gaming in 1989, but only began its first major renovation in decades after being purchased by the owners of the Silverado Gaming Establishment across the street.
Remodeling began in 2005 to open up a main ballroom and add a casino. The initial first-floor restoration, including ceiling woodwork, fluted columns with chandeliers, colored glass and gilded fixture accents, was completed in 2007.
The $230,000 parapet project is part of an overall $543,000 exterior remodeling that will include window restoration, tuckpointing (replacement of mortar between bricks) and other structural repairs.
Eighty percent of the project cost comes from the Deadwood Historical Preservation Commission’s Façade Conservation Easement Program, which helps the owners of historic buildings improve cosmetic appearances, changes that won’t necessarily improve a business’ bottom line, said Kevin Kuchenbecker, Deadwood Historic Preservation officer.
“I don’t think it would have been done without the Historic Preservation Commission’s support. There’a not a lot of return on investment,” Kuchenbecker said.
Rensch said the new parapet, designed by Rapid City architect Dave Stafford, will closely replicate the original design including a flagpole, but will use modern materials, such as fiberglass, and be heavily reinforced.
“There’s a lot of steel you won’t see to keep the structure in place,” Rensch said. “There’s some engineering there that was a big part of it, so it won’t come down again.”
Kuchenbecker said the new parapet should be complete in 45 to 60 days, enhancing a main landmark in a community as a whole designated as a national historic site.
“I consider it still being a landmark within the landmark, a significant piece of Deadwood’s history, from the turn of the century when Deadwood was in one of its booms trying to get tourism and people staying in the community,” Kuchenbecker said.