We were heading south on Highway 16 before the sun had risen. We got to Rockerville early and the dozen or so firetrucks had already beaten us there. We stumbled through the deep snow and circled the old historic buildings on last time and then patiently waited for the burn to start. Understandable for the land owners, but just a sad situation to lose a piece of history like that.
It’s a reminder to live in the moment, live for your current season, and do your best not to take anything for granted because tomorrow it could be gone.
For those of you that asked, the buildings that were burned down were the ones directly across from the Gaslight Saloon, one directly west of those buildings, and one directly west of the Gaslight Saloon. I believe these were the buildings from the 1950s. The other historic buildings (east of the Gaslight saloon) are still there.
It was a tourist town in the 1950s and 1960s because of its key location on US Highway 16 between Rapid City and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It had a variety of tourist attractions, including a “Mellerdrammer” (Mellodrama) live theatre, a “Ghosttown” of various buildings with tourist shops and small amusements, “It’s a Small World” Museum (featuring an 1880 Tiny Town model and other miniature collections), a motel, campgrounds and RV parks. However, in the conversion of US Highway 16 to four lanes in the mid-1960s, the original townsite was placed literally between the two separate roadways, as there was no way to widen the original highway through the town without completely destroying it. Despite the construction of at least three exits into the town from both directions, the town virtually died because travelers on their way to and from Mount Rushmore never saw the town when whizzing past at 55 miles per hour. Every business closed, and many remain abandoned to this day, although the “Gaslight Saloon” remains a local restaurant and attraction.