Written by Jenn Johnson
On the morning of Thursday, July 15, the 10th Anniversary of the AIA South Dakota Design in the Hills event was welcomed by Deadwood Mayor David Ruth Jr. at their recently completed Outlaw Square project. This year’s event had record attendance, celebrating the theme ‘Reconnection’ after a year apart.
Kevin Kuchenbecker, Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer, gave the first presentation on multiple projects in Deadwood which have undergone significant improvements to retain the historic integrity. Side-by-side photos displaying the before and after of projects provided intriguing visual aids of how much time has been invested to prioritize preservation. Several interesting facts were shared throughout the presentation outlining the significance of preservation to Deadwood’s history along with measures they have taken to prevent demolition by neglect. Demolition by neglect is a term used for projects which have historic significance and are at risk of demolition due to delayed maintenance. Kevin outlined that 26 projects had been identified and over the past ten years over half have been improved and removed from the list. Each year the city of Deadwood has been able to provide funds for local projects through their grant program to preserve the local history.
Gaming in Deadwood directly correlates to the available funds that go back into the local community. With casinos occupying the first floor of most buildings, the upper stories have remained unoccupied above the street level for many buildings. Currently, several spaces are being converted to vacation rentals or housing properties.
The city of Deadwood teamed with the South Dakota State University architecture students for a unique project to LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scan the second floor of a building, which was historically used as a brothel until it was closed in 1980. The students participated in a design charette and studio project to brainstorm ideas for creating a museum which would capture the history of the brothel and tell its story. Kevin shared that there were many great ideas presented by the group. The project was recently completed and has been renamed ‘The Brothel Deadwood’ and is open for public tours.
Following Kevin’s presentation, the group split up into two walking tours led by Kevin Kuchenbecker and Bonny Anfinson, Program Coordinator for the City of Deadwood Historic Preservation and Planning and Zoning Office. As part of the walking tour, the group was able to tour the Brothel Deadwood project along with two spaces that have been converted to vacation rentals. As we walked down Deadwood’s Main Street, many architectural facts about the historical structures were shared and the group enjoyed Deadwood’s rich architectural history.
The Design in the Hills committee was formed in 2011 by architects, Kris Bjerke and Tanya Davis and interior designer Maggie Job. Over the years, many new faces have trickled through the committee as leadership in the AIA South Dakota organization has evolved, however Kris has been the anchor to an event which has become a much-anticipated gathering of designers in the Black Hills each summer. The current committee includes Ms. Bjerke, architect and AIA SD board members, Jenn Johnson & Brian Johnson and landscape architect, Tanya Olson. AIA South Dakota executive director, Angela Lammers has been a tremendous supporter and advocate to the event success as well.