Historic District

Significant Historic Structures in the Park Navigation

 
Bunkhouse
CCC Officer's Quarters built in 1934 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Achtenburg

Bunkhouse - 1934

This building was originally associated with the Civilian Conservation Corps camp established in 1934. This building is an example of the vernacular style of architecture found in CCC camps developed during the Depression Era. Originally there were at least 18 structures built to house the CCC workers, staff, and served various functions. This structure is the only remaining building from the Wind Cave CCC camp and one of only a few such structures remaining in South Dakota.

 
Elevator Building built in 1938 in the style of simple vernacular
Elevator Building built in 1938 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

Elevator Building - 1938

Located 225 yards (206m) south of the visitor center accessible on a footpath. The elevator building was completed in 1938. Like the visitor center, it is built of sandstone blocks taken from the nearby quarry, yellow-tan stucco, and adzed timbers. The elevator shaft itself was completed in June, 1934, and the first elevator installed a year later. The original building housing the elevator was made of galvanized iron.

A second elevator was installed in 1959 and the original elevator was modernized at the same time. In 1998-1999, these two elevators were completely replaced with new equipment. However, the overall appearance of the building, both inside and out, has been changed very little since the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

 
Ranger cabin built in 1932 in the style of simple vernacular
Ranger cabin built in 1932 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS Photo

Employee Residence - 1932

This building is 60 yards (54m) directly opposite the visitor center. Built in 1932 of 2" by 4" wood framing and covered with yellow-tan stucco, this residence is similar in outward appearance to other Wind Cave buildings. The foundation is made of sandstone blocks from the nearby quarry.

Although interior modifications compromise the historic integrity of that part of the house, the historical image of the exterior is virtually unchanged.

 
Ranger cabin built in 1934 in the style of simple vernacular
Ranger cabin built in 1934 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

Employee Residence 1934

This building is 100 yards (91m) W of the visitor center and across the parking lot. Built in 1934 of 2" by 4" wood framing and covered with yellow-tan stucco, this residence is similar in outward appearance to other Wind Cave buildings. The foundation is made of sandstone blocks from the nearby quarry.

Although interior modifications compromise the historic integrity of that part of the house, the historical image of the exterior is virtually unchanged.

 
Ranger cabin built in 1935 in the style of simple vernacular
Ranger cabin built in 1935 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

Ranger Cabin - 1935

This building is located 110 yards (101 m) NW of visitor center and across the parking lot; the northernmost of three small houses. The house was built originally in 1924. The entire house was moved and remodeled in 1935. The original exterior was covered with wood shingles.

 
Superintendent's cottage built in 1905 in the style of simple vernacular
Superintendent's cottage built in 1905 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

Superintendent's Cottage - 1905

Northernmost residence, 300 yards (274m) north of visitor center, across parking lot, overlooking the area of the original cave entrance. This structure was built in 1905, originally as a cottage for the Superintendent. Three additions to the original structure have been made. The core of the original house and the pre-1924 addition are built of stone. The 1918 and 1939 additions are wood frame. All outer walls are covered with yellow-tan stucco, but some of the cut stone foundation is still visible.

The 1939 addition, on the northwest corner of the original house, was built as a dormitory facility for ranger staff. Today, that wing of the building is used for storage.

The interior of the house has been extensively modified.

Although neither the interior nor exterior resembles the original 1905 construction, the remodeling is in the 1930's style of the other buildings and blends in well.

 
VIP Center built in 1935 in the style of simple vernacular
VIP Center built in 1935 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

VIP Center - 1935

This building was originally designed and used to house a generating plant. This power house was developed as a result of the installation of the elevator and additional buildings at Wind Cave which necessitated a larger power plant.

It has also been named the Recreation Hall, Shop, Conference Hall, and Storehouse.

 
Ranger Dormitory and Mess House built in 1931 in the style of simple vernacular
Ranger Dormitory and Mess House built in 1931 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

Ranger Dormitory and Mess House - 1931

This building is located 150 yards (137m) SW of visitor center, across the parking lot, and atop a hill. Built in 1931, this structure was originally planned as a ranger dormitory. It was subsequently considered too small for that purpose, and remodeled into a residence. Like the other residences near the visitor center, 2" by 4" wood frame construction was used for the main house, the foundation made of native sandstone, and the exterior walls covered with yellow-tan stucco. The house's interior was modernized but even with some modifications, the exterior of the residence maintains its historic integrity.

 
Superintendent's Residence built in 1934 in the style of simple vernacular
Superintendent's Residence built in 1934 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS / Pisarowicz

Superintendent's Residence - 1934

Across parking lot and furthest from visitor center, uphill, and slightly to the north. This residence, which bears "elements of English cottage and Tudor design" was built in 1934. The house is a wood framed structure covered with yellow-tan stucco. The foundation is made of concrete and locally cut sandstone blocks.

Both the interior and exterior have been slightly modified. The overall historic flavor of the building remains when viewed from a short distance.

 
Visitor center originally built in 1939 in the style of simple vernacular
Visitor center originally built in 1939 in the style of simple vernacular

NPS Photo

Visitor Center - 1936

The visitor center building was built in 1936. It was designed to blend in with a temporary stream valley to its rear and provide the feeling of natural approaches to the cave entrance. It is a wood framed building covered with yellow-tan stucco. Exterior walls on the back side of the original building are made of sandstone blocks cut from a quarry outside the park, near Hot Springs. Interior rafters are made of rough-hewn timbers. Some of the original features have been modified or covered as a result of a large-scale remodeling project completed in 1980. However, the front of the building bears a strong likeness to the 1935 original.

 

Norbeck Dam

The Norbeck Dam is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of the visitor center on S.D. 87. The story of the Norbeck Dam is marked with irony. Named for U.S. Senator from South Dakota Peter Norbeck who was instrumental in the development of Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, and the scenic highways in the Black Hills, the dam literally never held water. The dam was constructed in 1930 with the purpose of providing a water supply for the game animals in the Wind Cave Game Preserve. The Game Preserve, established in 1912 by the Bureau of Biological Survey, adjoined Wind Cave National Park on the north. The preserve became part of the park in 1935.

The dam is an earthen structure, approximately 300 feet (91 m) long, 34 feet (10.4 m) high and 200 feet (61m) wide at the base. The dam was built across Cold Spring Creek, that flows from the west. Material to build the dam was taken from areas just upstream from the dam site. The earth was tamped to make a more impervious structure.

The dam never held water. Several reasons were offered, including poor design, poor construction, and permeable rock layers beneath the base of the dam. In the years that followed, plans for repairing or abandoning the dam were discussed. In 1988, a concrete box culvert was installed in the base of the dam allowing continuous drainage. This breach negates the integrity of the dam and the dam is no longer of any historical significance. However, the crest of the dam still serves as the base for S.D. 87.

The reservoir behind the dam was to be called Lake Ti-Tan-Ka. Since the dam could not hold water, it was derisively referred to as "Peter's Puddle", after Peter Norbeck. Some people considered the dam critical for providing wildlife with needed water and a place for visitors to view wildlife when the animals congregated there. Others argued against the keeping the dam because it was artificial and the likelihood a reservoir would attract non-native animals. The latter is a much stronger argument and in keeping with the mission and philosophies of the National Park System, such a structure would never be built in a National Park area today.

 

Beaver Creek Bridge

The Beaver Creek Bridge is located 2 miles (3.2k) north of Wind Cave visitor center on S.D. Highway 87. It is also visible from a pullout on S.D. 87 near Centennial Trailhead 1.6 miles (2.6k) north of the visitor center. The Beaver Creek Bridge spans one of two perennial streams that flow into Wind Cave National Park. It is a deck arch bridge built of concrete and steel. It is 225 feet (69m) long and sits 115 feet (35m) above the canyon floor. The purpose of constructing the bridge in 1929 was to provide travelers a more suitable access to the newly developing Custer State Park to the north of Wind Cave National Park.

One of the significant accomplishments of the builders of the bridge was to create the illusion that the concrete arches rise naturally from the rock walls on opposite sides of the canyon. The nature of this bridge makes it historically significant. It is the only bridge of its particular arch type in the State of South Dakota. It is also only one of three "most significant bridges" in the Rocky Mountain region of the National Park System. Construction of this bridge was made possible through the efforts of Peter Norbeck, U.S. Senator from South Dakota. Senator Norbeck was also involved with the development of Custer State Park and scenic highways within the Black Hills.

 

Rankin Ridge Fire Tower

The Rankin Ridge Fire Tower is located in the northwestern portion of Wind Cave National Park. Situated at an elevation of 5,013 feet, the highest point in the national park, the tower provides a panoramic view of southeastern Black Hills and the surrounding Great Plains. It was constructed in 1956 and remained in regular use during fire seasons until 1998. Currently, the tower is only used sporadically to look for fires or to monitor severe weather conditions and, for safety reasons, is not open to the public.

The Rankin Ridge area became part of the national park on August 1946 when more than 16,000 acres of the former Custer Recreation Demonstration Area (RDA) were added to Wind Cave National Park. It was named after Wind Cave's first superintendent: William A. Rankin.

Last updated: March 1, 2019

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Mailing Address:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747

Phone:

(605) 745-4600

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