The Black Hills are home to several historic buildings, each with their own unique story to share with visitors and residents. Badger Hole in Custer State Park is one of these buildings that is still around today, despite the hail, snow, and passing time.
Badger Hole was home to South Dakota’s first poet laureate, Charles “Badger” Clark, Jr. Badger Clark, who live from 1883 to 1957, resided in Custer State Park for the last 30 years of his life.1 The cabin he left behind, Badger Hole, is still there in Custer State Park and is now just shy of a century old. 100 years is pretty old for a building, but in comparison to the Santa Maria del Fiore, the Pantheon, and the Pyramids at Giza (all of which also are still standing), Badger Hole is quite young. The reason these historic works of architecture are still standing can possibly be attributed to their ability to satisfy functional need and preservative maintenance.
1 Lochridge, “Favorite Places.” Paragraph 2.
An article by Zaria Gorvett talks about the reasons that older architectural structures are still around: she uses pyramids as an example of historic architecture and as a comparison to buildings constructed in recent years. In summary, some historic architecture, such as pyramids, was meant to last a long time, and therefore built to do so; In fact, early pyramids were over-engineered to ensure they would not fall down.2 It is because of this structural integrity that pyramids were able to serve their intended function: ensuring the tombs would last forever.3 Significant architectural works, such as the Great Pyramid, did not survive solely on their ability to fulfill their function – it seems that even the grandest structures at the time were in danger of being torn down and reused. A work known as the Labyrinth, despite being “even more extraordinary,” was taken apart and used for building elsewhere.4 For some reason, the Labyrinth was not worth maintaining or preserving for future generations. Even today, buildings do not last long for this reason – they are no longer useful or historically significant, and therefore torn down.
2 Gorvett, “Will the skyscrapers outlast the pyramids?” Paragraph 13.
3 Gorvett, paragraph 11.
4 Gorvett, paragraph 41.
In the case of Badger Hole, the building is under the care of the Badger Clark Memorial Society, a society “formed in 1984 to make sure the cabin and Clark’s memory endure.”5 Because the building is historically significant to South Dakota’s history, there is a reason to preserve it for future generations. In this case, the building has already been under the care of the Badger Clark Memorial Society for 35 years – this preservation is possibly a large factor in why the building is still around.
Another thought is that, maybe the reason the cabin is still around partly could be because functionally, it needed to last. The cabin needed to withstand hail, rain, winds, and snow in order survive in the Black Hills. Seeing as it took Clark from 1924-1937 (13 years)6 to build Badger Hole, it was a smarter move to build a cabin that would last a long time rather than plan to replace it in 10 years, only to spend another 10 years building a new home.
5 Lochridge, paragraph 4.
6 Lee, “The Original Badger Hole.” Paragraph 3.
As it stands right now, in order for a building to live to beyond 50 years, it needs to be necessary (historically significant, useful for inhabitants) and needs to be well-maintained. The question now is, should these criteria continue to be used as means of deciding whether or not to keep a building, even if the building is under 50 years old?
Lochridge, Eric. “Favorite Places: Poet laureate dug deep in the Badger Hole.” Rapid City Journal. June 29, 2012. https://rapidcityjournal.com/blackhillstogo/explore/favorite-places/favorite-places-poet-laureate-dug-deep-in-the-badger-hole/article_7ec57956-ac0a-5140-9838-a8339263e970.html
Gorvett, Zaria. “Will the skyscrapers outlast the pyramids?” BBC. August 9, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160808-will-the-skyscrapers-outlast-the-pyramids
Lee, Shebby. “The Original Badger Hole.” South Dakota Magazine. Accessed July 23, 2019. https://www.southdakotamagazine.com/original-badger-hole
Cassie Pospishil is an Architectural Associate at CO-OP Architecture in Rapid City, SD.