Hot Springs - Civic Life & History
The defining characteristic of Hot Springs also played an instrumental role in the development of the community – the warm mineral springs. They first attracted Native Americans who valued the healing waters and even fought for possession. Later, in the 1880s, when the area was opened as part of the Dakota Territory, entrepreneur Fred Evans and other local businessmen worked to develop the area as a health spa. The railroad, which arrived in 1891, contributed to the realization of this dream by bringing passengers from the metropolitan centers of the United States. Historic sandstone buildings still evidence the prosperity of this era, and are now part of the Hot Springs Historical District registered with the National Register of Historic Places.
The health benefits of the mineral springs also resulted in construction of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, which opened in 1907 and is now operated as part of the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System. The presence of the Sanitarium contributed to the economic stability of the community by bringing jobs to Hot Springs. The original buildings were designed in a Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style of sandstone and remain in use. Designed for intensive, short-term treatment, Battle Mountain first served Civil War veterans. While it remains in operation today, its mission has changed.
The springs were not the sole attraction to the area, according to the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. The tall grass and vast rangeland attracted cattlemen, and they in turn attracted merchants. Today, ranching continues to contribute to the economy of the area as does tourism, which was given a boost in 2009 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation chose Hot Springs as a Distinctive Destination.
Arts & Culture
The events calendar on the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce website shows a community which offers a variety of cultural activities throughout the year, including the Spring Fling Home and Garden Show in April, the Miss South Dakota Pageant held concurrently with the Main Street Arts and Crafts Festival in June, concerts throughout July and August, the Lean Horse Ultra-Marathon in August, the Badger Clark Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering in September, a concert series which begins in October, a hometown shopping extravaganza in November, and a variety of holiday activities in December.
The culture of the community is also deeply associated with the great outdoors. Visitors as well as residents can enjoy water sport and summer activities, such as camping, at the Angostura Recreation Area. The Angostura Reservoir is also a strong fishery known for its walleye, smallmouth bass and crappies. Another glimpse into the Western culture of the region can be seen at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, where unadoptable wild horses run free.
Museums, Libraries & Archives
The Hot Springs Public Library, located at 2005 Library Drive, is a modern facility opened in 2007. Its mission is to create and maintain an environment in which people can readily share resources. The library not only offers the community a variety of resources such as newspapers, magazines, DVDs and audio books in addition to books, but also offers wireless internet, public access to computers and a variety of programs, including Friday movies with popcorn, preschool story time and book discussions. With a meeting room and patio, the library also functions as a community center.
The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, located on the U.S. Highway 18 bypass, is an active paleontological dig site as well as the world’s largest mammoth research facility. Mammoth bones were first unearthed in 1974 during excavation for a housing development. Since then, a climate controlled building with walkways has been constructed to allow visitors to view the fossils. The site offers educational programs in addition to conducting research. The museum has a gift shop and offers tours year round.
The Pioneer Museum in Hot Springs is housed in a Romanesque-style sandstone building constructed in 1893 and used as an elementary school through 1961. Open Monday through Saturday from May to October, the museum includes 25 displays showcasing original art, historical photographs, quilts and tapestries, as well as handcrafted tools and other implements used in the daily lives of pioneer farmers and ranchers. It is operated by the Fall River County Historical Society and hosts an annual Pioneer Day in September.
Historical Photos and Documents Online
Library of Congress. The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has more than 50 historic images of Hot Springs online, including a number of photographs by John Grabil taken in 1891. The collection also includes early postcards of Evans Plunge and other attractions that were sold by the Detroit Photographic Company in the early 1900s. In addition, there are photographs that were taken of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in 1933 as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Digital Library of South Dakota. A handful of early photographs taken by W.R. Cross are available through the Digital Library of South Dakota. These images are held by the Leland D. Case Library at Black Hills State University. The DLSD has also digitized documents relating to the history of Hot Springs including the January 1928 issue of Black Hills Engineer, which profiled the community.
Media & Information
The Hot Springs Star provides news and information about Hot Springs and surrounding communities in Fall River County. The paper is published by the Rapid City Journal/Lee Enterprises.
Hot Springs is home to a variety of Christian congretions. Among them are mainstream churches, such as St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Calvary Baptist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, ELCA, Bethesda Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Hot Springs Wesleyan Church, Prairie View United Methodist Church, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The community also includes interdenominational churches, such as the United Churches, which is a union of American Baptist, Presbyterian and United Methodist congregations. Local residents also belong to independent churches, such as Evangelical Free Church and Lakota Chapel. Altogether, the community includes 22 churches, according to the Chamber of Commerce.