Piedmont - Civic Life & History
Piedmont will celebrate its 125th anniversary of being platted as a town on April 10, 2015. Town officials plan to offer additional activities that year during the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration, which includes a parade organized by the American Legion, a car show, library bake sale, silent auction, fireworks and vendors set up in the park.
Although Piedmont has a lengthy history in the Black Hills, its official designation as a city is relatively new. It was founded in 1890, but did not become incorporated until Aug. 16, 2007. The town sits on the eastern slope of the Black Hills, and its name is derived from the French meaning “the foot of the mountain.”
In the late 1800s, Piedmont became an important terminal when the Homestake Mining Company connected its railroad to the Fremont Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad. The land, which had already been platted for settling, became a town site and plans to build houses, a store and warehouses were developed.
With the town established as an important terminal, the town began to blossom with more businesses and social activities. It is believed that the first structures in Piedmont were the Methodist Church, and the Western Bank and Trust Company.
During the first half of the 1900s, the town opened a bank, pool hall, general store, barber shop, feed store, more churches and a four-room school. But with the start of World War II, it faced new challenges. In the 1940s, private builders faced a shortage of lumber and supplies as the government used all available lumber for military bases and defense plants. Many of the homes in Piedmont were moved to Rapid City, and when young men came home from the war, there was not enough housing available in the small town.
But in the 1950s, the volunteer fire department was organized and Piedmont experienced a major boom as a section of Interstate 90 through the town was completed. With easy access to the Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rapid City and Sturgis, families moved to the small community and school enrollment increased.
The town has faced issues of flooding, with a flood event in 2007 that damaged the city hall, library and contaminated several water wells. In response the town supported a municipal water project to bring water from Black Hawk to Piedmont. The first phase of the project brought water to the school. Phase two, which is currently underway, provides water to homes.
Today, Piedmont continues to thrive as a small bedroom community of Rapid City. Town residents elected their first board in November of 2007 and the current population is about 1100. The area continues to grow, with several housing developments recently annexed into the town.
Relationship With Summerset
The town of Piedmont is unmistakably intertwined with an adjacent community with a much shorter history – Summerset, which lies to the southeast of Piedmont.
Despite their close proximity - Summerset’s city boundaries are only a couple miles from the original 16 platted blocks of Piedmont - the two towns have both worked to retain their own identities.
Summerset did not have the historic identity of being its own community when it incorporated in the summer of 2005. The creation of Summerset prompted Piedmont to pursue its own incorporation. Once that was achieved, Piedmont began to grow through voluntary annexations, when some residents cited Piedmont’s long history and taxes lower than Summerset's.
Piedmont Valley Library
The Piedmont Valley Library is the central source of information for Piedmont and the surrounding area. Located in a small cinder-block building at 111 Second Street, it shares space with the town hall. The library was started as a community project in 2005, and opened its doors in 2006 under the direction of the town’s park board. The library was operated entirely by volunteers at the time, and now employs one person.
The library has more than 12,000 items catalogued, and serves all of southeast Meade County and Piedmont Valley. The library offers e-books, story time, book discussion groups, a summer reading program and operates an extension library in Summerset.
The building, centrally-located in the center of town, used to house the town's fire station. The library was originally contained in the old meeting room of the fire station until Piedmont was incorporated in 2007. At that time, the library was moved into the fire bay for more space.
An army of volunteers have helped keep the library running. Almost 30 local residents volunteer each week to serve 1,050 patrons. Before it opened, volunteers traveled across the state to pick up donated books, shelving and decorations. They also sheetrocked and renovated the fire station to accommodate a library.
It was publicly recognized as a South Dakota state library in 2012.