The Black Hills Travel Blog

Rapid City’s Oldest Building

By • Dec 11th, 2007 • Category: Uncategorized

Halley Park and Pap Madison Cabin

Quick! Can you name the oldest building in Rapid City?

Many Rapid City residents may drive past this building every day without even noticing it is there. Located in Halley Park (where Main and St. Joseph Streets split), the “Pap” Madison cabin is easy to miss as you speed by. In the summer, the park is aflame with flowers of every color, but the cabin sits demurely between a few spruces and leafy bushes.

Pap Madison (whose real name was Rufus – can you blame him for going by “Pap?”) was one of the earliest men to settle in the Rapid City area. He built his cabin in 1876, a “cozy” fifteen square feet of space.

I don’t know about you, but I have a closet bigger than that. We keep old shoes and a vacuum cleaner in there. Can you imagine eating, sleeping, and storing all your stuff in such a space? It was comfy enough for Pap Madison, though, who lived there for a couple years before moving to a farm in what is now the Rapid Valley area.

I’ve been fascinated with this little cabin ever since I learned about it during “Pioneer Days” at my grade school. At the time, we were required to memorize the poem that sits on the doorstep of the cabin. Written by Richard B. Hughes, it reads:

I was built in the olden, golden days
When this was an unknown land;
My timbers were hewn by a pioneer,
With a rifle near at hand.

I stand as a relic of ‘seventy-six,
Our nation’s centennial year;
That all may see as they enter the Hills
The home of a pioneer.

No, I didn’t remember that from third grade – I had to look it up.

I find it sad that the cabin is so overlooked and underappreciated. A friend and I rode our bikes there once (probably not long after the poem-memorizing event) and, after dodging scary Main Street traffic, managed to walk the length of the park and peer through the cabin’s windows. I don’t know what I was expecting – a rotty old bed and stove covered with cobwebs? – but Parks & Rec garden tools wasn’t it.

Fortunately, efforts are being made to have the cabin added to the National Historic Register and then relocate it to the grounds of the Journey Museum, where it will be much more accessible. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

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is a native of the Black Hills.
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