Rockerville: Saying Goodbye to a Piece of History

By | Dec 29th, 2016 | Category: Photography
Rockerville: Saying Goodbye to a Piece of History

Founded in 1876 after the discovery of gold, Rockerville was once one of the most well-known mining towns in the Black Hills. It earned its name for the “rockers” which were used to separate placer gold from stream gravel. Despite being thrust into the spotlight during the gold rush, the fame and fortune of the town was short lived. Soon enough, the gold seekers had moved on and left behind nothing more than a ghost town.

It was an unprecedented turnaround when Rockerville was resurrected in the 1950s after the completion of Mount Rushmore National Memorial began to draw more and more tourists to the area. Highway 16, the direct route from Rapid City to the Memorial, passed right through the center of town. This led to the establishment of new gift shops, tourist attractions, a series of melodramas, the renovation of buildings left behind from the original mining efforts, and new buildings with old-fashioned false fronts and wooden sidewalks.

Unfortunately, the increase in traffic demanded an expansion of Highway 16, which was ultimately rerouted around Rockerville. The new location of the highway deterred tourists from stopping in Rockerville and eventually led to its second demise.

Today, the unincorporated community remains a ghost town with the exception of The Gaslight Restaurant & Saloon. Favorited by tourists and locals alike, the restaurant is surrounded by abandoned remnants of Rockerville’s history—but not for much longer…

Upon request of the landowner, the Rockerville Volunteer Fire Department has announced its plans to hold a fire training exercise that will burn down the remaining facades and structures in the area. Firefighters will have the chance to practice pump operations, tender operations, water supply, and overall fire suppression. The burn is scheduled to take place on the morning of Saturday, December 31, 2016.

With a short window of time remaining before the burn, we ventured out to Rockerville today for one last look at the historic structures.

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About the Author

is a South Dakota native, with family roots in Beresford. She attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, a year of which she spent studying in Norway and traveling extensively through Scandinavia and most of Europe. She acquired her degree in Sociology and International Studies, as well as a stronger appreciation of her Nordic heritage. Despite her love of travel, she and her husband have thoroughly enjoyed making Rapid City their home. She satisfies her wanderlust by soaking up all the beautiful scenery and historic treasures the Hills have to offer. (Though you'll still catch her stashing loose change in a jar labeled "next trip to Europe.") She is the Communications Director for Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association.

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