On December 1, 1945, Rapid City businessman Paul Bellamy traveled to London to lobby the United Nations preparatory committee to select the Black Hills as the organization’s world headquarters.If chosen, the international body’s headquarters would have been located in the valley that now holds Reptile Gardens.
Bellamy met with numerous foreign representatives to convince them that Rapid City and the Black Hills would be the best choice for the new UN Headquarters, touting the region as a region as a “tavern-free, prostitute-free, and tax-free” location without “big city problems.” Bellamy also noted the region’s central location within the United States as well as its abundance of building stone. Thanks to Bellamy’s efforts, Rapid City was one of five finalist locations in the United States.
Of course, in the end, the Black Hills were ultimately not the chosen location. The Rockerfeller family won out the bid and donated a parcel of land in New York City, which is the location of the UN headquarters today.
June 16 was later named United Nations and Reptile Gardens Location Remembrance Day by Rapid City Mayor Sam Kookier, commemorating Rapid City’s near-successful bid for the United Nations’ Headquarters in the 1940s, according to the Rapid City Journal.
Read more about Bellamy's United Nations' site bid on the Black Hills Knowledge Network historical archives.