Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Founded in 1931, Wall Drug has come to dominate the town's downtown.
Founded in 1931, Wall Drug has come to dominate the town's downtown.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

Wall - Civic Life & History

Located near the Badlands National Park, Wall got its start thanks to the railroad.

In the summer of 1907, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad opened a station in the city of Wall. The same summer, the Hendrickson Land Company began selling town lots on the homesteads of Gene and Bill Mackrill. (Source: Centennial book, published by the Wall-Badlands Area Chamber of Commerce.) The town was officially incorporated the year of 1907 and named for the Badlands rock formations that essentially form a wall between the town and the prairie to the east.

The first businesses to start up in Wall included a restaurant, bar, hotel, a blacksmith, lumber company, a post office and a pharmacy. In 1909, the first postal routes and the first telephone lines were established. The following year, the city’s first grain elevator was built. Area agriculture producers added a second elevator in 1930.

Wall is home to a variety of service groups, including the "Young at Heart" Senior Citizen GroupAmerican LegionCelebration CommitteeAmerican Legion AuxiliaryCountry Cupboard/Food Pantry and Beautification Committee.

To see a list of Wall community events throughout the year, visit the Wall and Badlands Area Chamber of Commerce website. The community also posts a monthly calendar for Wall events.

Wall Drug

The town of Wall is most well-known for its famous tourism attraction, Wall Drug. Ted and Dorothy Hustead established Wall Drug in 1931. During the summer, Wall Drug draws as many as 20,000 customers a day. The Husteads bought the pharmacy during the bleak Great Depression years and struggled to make it work until Dorothy had an idea. On a blistering hot summer day in 1936, Dorothy watched people driving by on the nearby highway (now Interstate 90) and came up with the idea to advertise free ice cold water. The Husteads put signs along the highway and cars began to stop almost immediately.

In 1941, Mount Rushmore National Memorial was finished and the long line of tourists headed to the Black Hills increased. So did the number of people who dropped in for “Free Ice Water” and other goodies. Today, Wall Drug fills a city block and sells everything from food and trinkets to artwork and books.

Badlands National Park, located to the south of Wall, opened in 1939, offering still another destination for tourists and even more customers for Wall Drug. The park is 244,000 acres of one of the world’s richest fossil beds. It hosts nearly 1 million people each year.

Historical Photos & Documents Online

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has a handful of images of Wall and the surrounding area including a sequence of images taken of the Minuteman Missile Silo near Interior, South Dakota. There are also dozens of photographs related to the Badlands including images made by photographer Carol Highsmith in 2009 and photographs shot by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration during the Depression.

The Black Hills Knowledge Network and the Rapid City Public Library have curated large collections of historic photos, documents, and news articles related to Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills area. Find historic photos and documents concerning Wall in the collections below, or explore our Digital Archives page to learn more.

Infrastructure Damage: A Rapid City Flood Collection: Infrastructure Damage: A Rapid City Flood Collection documents the aftermath of the Rapid City Flood of 1972.  This collection contains photographs of the damage to infrastructure including bridges, building, vehicles, and roads.

Rapid City Flood: Community Damage: Rapid City Flood: Community Damage documents the aftermath of the Rapid City Flood of 1972.  The images capture the damage to public spaces and include the devastation of creeks and canyons, husbandry, vehicles, and various structures.  The collection also examines the effort to memorialize the 283 men, women, and children who lost their lives in the flood.

Rapid City Flood: Residential Damage: Rapid City Flood: Residential Damage documents the aftermath of the Rapid City Flood of 1972. The collection contains photographs of the destruction to residential properties such as houses, mobile homes, exposed foundations, and displaced structures.

Western South Dakota Photographs: A Rapid City Collection: Western South Dakota Photographs: A Rapid City Collection documents the diverse industries, monuments, people, and events of the region throughout the twentieth century. The images also capture the aftermath of the Rapid City Flood of 1972.

Museums, Libraries & Archives

Museums

Wounded Knee Museum: Located in Wall, the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, South Dakota, uses “exhibits and photographs [to] provide a vivid picture of events surrounding the Wounded Knee Massacre” that took place on December 29, 1890.

National Grasslands Visitor Center: The National Grasslands Visitor Center, operated by the U.S. Forest Service, offers more than 20 exhibits on the ecology and history of the Great Plains and America's grasslands. It is located at 708 Main Street in Wall.

Wall Drug: Founded in 1931, world-famous Wall Drug offers an emporium of clothing, books and souvenirs for visitors. The cafe also features an impressive collection of paintings by artists from the region. A history of Wall Drug is available here.

Libraries

Wall Community Library

Located at 407 Main Street, the Wall Community Library offers access to the South Dakota State Library Database and services from South Dakota Titles To Go. Community members can also join book club or attend story time when available. Statistics on the library's collection and services are available here. A list of the library's board of trustees and staff is available here.

Religion

Churches in Wall include St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Wall Evangelical Free Bible Church, First Lutheran Church, and Wall United Methodist Church.

According to a national survey of congregations conducted in 2010, a majority of people (59,336) were not identified with a specific religion or denomination. Of those who did respond, Evangelical Protestants comprise the largest single denomination or faith in Pennington County. At that time, there were 16,338 Evangelical Protestants in the county. The next largest group was the Mainline Protestants with 14,196 members. Between 2000 and 2010, a major decline in membership in the Catholic Church and a major increase in people with unclaimed faiths marked the most important trends. Access the county profile from the Association of Religion Data Archives here. To see a chart with the data from 2000, click here.

More Information

Wall and the surrounding area receives printed news from the Pennington County Courant, which is published in Wall. The paper is published weekly on Thursday. Annual subscription costs $36 in Pennington County and $42 everywhere else.

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