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Historic Rapid City bought the McGillycuddy House, which is located at 727 South St. The organization will be raising money to restore the historic stick-style house, which was built by Valentine McGillycuddy in 1888. It is seen here on Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. (Ryan Soderlin/Journal staff)

A group of local historic preservation advocates has purchased the house that Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy built and has plans to restore it to its 1888 grandeur.

The McGillycuddy House at 727 South St. will be the second major project for Historic Rapid City, the non-profit foundation that successfully saved the Feigel House near Roosevelt Park from demolition in 1992, converting it into offices that were completed in late 2001.

"It wasn't just someone who built a house. This was a mayor of Rapid City, the dean of the School of Mines. He was one of the original founders of the city," said Fred Thurston, a member of the board and one of the architects on the restoration project. "It was never a question of whether we should. We have to save this building."

Valentine McGillycuddy holds an outsized role in Black Hills history, serving as mayor of Rapid City, president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, state surgeon general and government agent at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during his lifetime. He was also the first white man to climb Harney Peak, where his remains are buried to this day.

The house itself, a stick style from the Victorian era, has seen better days but remains structurally sound, board member Jean Kessloff said.

At some point in time, the original second floor was demolished, and the entryway was moved from the diagonal location shown in historic photos to its current street-facing configuration. The entire house, which was almost gutted, has also been shortened by four to six feet in the rear of the building to accommodate a second house behind it.

Thurston said the goal is to restore the building to McGillycuddy's original vision, including rebuilding the stick-style second floor, something that Historic Rapid City knew could not be accomplished by just a casual homeowner.

To get there, Thurston and Kessloff estimated that they would have to raise $500,000 to $1 million in cash and in-kind donations.

But Kessloff said the group has already had conversations with Job Corps about doing a lot of the construction, and MAC Construction has volunteered to manage the project. Mike Albertson Engineering has also assisted in the structural design and West River Masonry has agreed to help with the stone work.

"It's not the East Coast, but this is all we have," Kessloff said. "When it's gone, it's gone."

Historic Rapid City, which was formerly known as the Feigel Foundation for Historic Preservation, bought the house over the summer thanks to a loan from a private benefactor, Kessloff said. The previous owner, Daniel and Ruth Stanton, had been trying to sell the house for more than a year but had made it clear they would not part with the 1888 gem to just anyone.

Historic Rapid City has also received a "substantial donation" from McGillycuddy's grandson toward the purchase and renovation of the house, Thurston said.

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The project's first major fundraiser on Oct. 29 is inspired by McGillycuddy's daughter, who married an Italian man, Kessloff said.

For $10 per person, guests will be treated to a bagna cauda, which is similar to fondue and involves vegetables cooked in a creamy garlic and anchovy sauce. A participatory meal, guests will also be asked to bring a specific kind of vegetable to share, she said.

A potential tenant for the restored house, described as a research center open to the public, has also been lined up, Kessloff said.

"Being open to the public, people can see what preservation really is," Kessloff said. "You can have a viable building rather than building something that will last 20 years."

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or


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