Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

The Hot Springs Public Library opened in 2007.
The Hot Springs Public Library opened in 2007.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

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, with sites such as the Mammoth Site, Wind Cave National Park, and Evans Plunge.

Arts & Culture

Hot Springs, like other Black Hills communities, has among its residents a number of artists and writers. Writers are supported by the Wild Burro Bookstore where a writers group meets regularly and other events, such as poetry readings and book signings, are held. The Wild Burro has also co-sponsored several writers conferences. The owner, Laural Bidwell, is herself a published writer, as is another community member, Mary Ellen Goulet.

Galleries include the Shaman Gallery and Works in Clay Gallery, which features pottery by owner Tom Eastburn. Other visual artists in the community include Lorri Phillips and Darlene Lines, both of whom have participated in the Custer Stampede Buffalo Art Auction.

Both local and professional musicians enrich the community throughout the year. The Hot Springs Concert Association offers five concerts annually, bringing in classical musicians from around the world. The Red River Resort holds open mike nights, which allow local musicians to showcase their talent.

The events calendar on the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce website shows a community that 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.

Historical Photos and Documents Online

The Library of Congress has over 100 digital images of the Hot Springs area 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.

The digital collection at the Denver Public Library has over 100 images of early Hot Springs including images of local landscape and businesses like Evans Hotel (now known as Evans Plunge).

The collections of the Digital Library of South Dakota include a handful of early photographs taken by W.R. Cross depicting Hot Springs. 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.

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

Postcards: A Rapid City Collection

Postcards: A Rapid City Collection contains postcards depicting various South Dakota landscapes, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Needles, Spearfish Canyon, and other natural wonders. The collection also includes postcards and photographs of the 1934 Stratobowl balloon, gondola, and crew.

Museums, Libraries & Archives


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.

Trails, Trains and Pioneer Museum is located on Main Street in Edgemont at Mile 0 of the Mickelson Trail. Operated by the Edgemont Area Historical Society, the museum’s mission is to keep voices of the past alive for present and future generations. Exhibits include fossils and artifacts and items that reflect the community's boom and bust years, as well as memorabilia from Teddy Roosevelt’s visit. The museum is open regular hours and by appointment. Admission is free.


The Hot Springs Public Library, located at 2005 Library Drive, is a modern facility that opened in 2007. The library offers a variety of resources such as newspapers, magazines, DVDs and audio books in addition to books. Wireless internet is available as well as 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 Fall River County Historical Society operates the Pioneer Museum in Hot Springs. Housed in a historic sandstone building, the museum displays collections of original art, historical photographs, handcrafted tools, and more. The Society also hosts Hot Springs’ annual Pioneer Day.


Hot Springs is home to a variety of Christian congregations. 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. 

The Association of Religion Data Archives provides county-by-county statistics on membership in churches, synagogues and other religious organizations across the country. A 2010 survey of churches in Fall River County provides only a partial reflection of religious adherence in the area. A majority of people (3,892) were not identified with a specific religion or denomination. Of those who did respond, 1,103 people were members of Mainline Protestant churches. Catholic churches accounted for 812 congregants, while another 1,005 people in the area were listed as Evangelical Protestant. For a graph showing religious affiliation in Fall River County in 2000, click here.

More 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. 

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