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.