Treasures set in stone

My first summer in France I was an exchange student, living with a family 50 miles west of Paris in Cormeilles-en-Vexin, a small village. In the town was an old stone church — 800 years old. That’s common in Europe. In our area of the country, we are thrilled with a building that has lasted over 100 years. Every old stone edifice requires proper care to be kept in shape for continued use. When buildings aren’t tended to, whether wood-constructed houses or any other material, they decay. There are sandstone buildings in Hot Springs, S.D., which have been allowed to sit unused and “unloved” for years. It’s called demolition by neglect. Once the powers to be deem the building is be too far gone, they spend thousands to raze it, instead of putting those same thousands to work in refurbishing. It’s sad.

Yet within the town there are many more sandstone buildings that are viable and have activity. It’s time to pay tribute to one in particular, the Hot Springs High School. What a history it has. We also praise the workers who have kept this building solid and well-attended over its 96 years of students. The first classes in the high school building were held on Sept. 3, 1925; there have been some modifications to sections of the building but the original, as seen from the street, remains pretty much the same. New windows, which aren’t obvious and don’t detract, are one of the changes.

We have to go back a bit to start the history story. On the same piece of land where the high school now stands, the Methodist Church constructed Black Hills College, also out of locally quarried sandstone, and it was under construction in 1899. By Sept. 11, 1890, it opened with seven instructors. After 10 years, the college closed due to financial reasons; it merged with Dakota Wesleyan in Mitchell, S.D. This is why the upper level of Hot Springs is called College Hill.

When a school board election was held on Dec. 13, 1892, women over age 21 who were qualified residents and are caring for school age children, were allowed to vote. After 11 years in negotiations and votes, the Hot Springs School Board purchased the former college building and classes for the high school commenced on Sept. 4, 1911. All went well until fire consumed the building on Jan. 24, 1924. By Sept. 3, 1925, a new, two-story sandstone high school building had been built. These days a contractor could not even get the proper permits inside of that time frame.

Over all the years, the maintenance has been superior and it is still a high school after 96 years. (My dad and Queen Elizabeth of England are the same age as this high school.)

Please see the Facebook page Hot Springs and Fall River County History for photos to accompany this piece. It’s a members only page, just ask to join, answer the simple questions, and you will be accepted as a member. Comments can be directed to

Peggy Sanders


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