Stepping back in time at 1880 Town in South Dakota USA
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed visiting this reconstructed town. It is an authentic open air venue where visitors can wander both outside and inside the buildings. Rather than constructing replicas of buildings to attract tourists, there are over 30 old buildings that have been moved from the plains of South Dakota and rebuilt on site.
The weathered buildings are genuine, and jam packed full of artifacts from over 100 years ago. The emphasis is on properties from 1880 to 1920. 1880 Town has been planned and perfected over the years since it was started in the 1970s by Clarence Hullinger and his son Richard.
Taken apart beam by beam and reconstructed on site takes time, some buildings took over a year to painstakingly photograph and deconstruct, then reconstruct on site so that each piece and nail hole lined up perfectly.
My favorite building would have to be the two storey Longhorn Saloon. As the piano player performed old time songs, I could imagine the dancing, drinking, gambling and carousing that would have gone on within the place back in the day.
In the saloon today you can get a drink, listen to the piano player on the stage, wander upstairs to see the bedrooms, or dress up in 1880s outfits for great photos. Costume rental is around $10 for adults and $7 for children.
There is no shortage of places around the town where great backdrops for your photos can be found.
Preserved under glass in the saloon is a piece of tin with bullet holes in it. Wording on the glass states “Original bullet holes from this building shot from inside.” The old expression - if these walls could talk, I really wish they could! Just imagine the story behind these bullet holes.
Movie props from the Academy Award winning Dances with Wolves were purchased and on display in the historic 14-sided round barn. The barn was originally built in 1919. The town also acquired other items used in the movie from individuals, as well as some of the animals. Cisco, the horse Kevin Costner rode in the movie, lived at 1880 Town until he died.
Casey Tibbs was a world champion rodeo cowboy and movie star, originally from Fort Pierre South Dakota. A lot of his items are on display in one of the houses on site, including one of his saddles, jackets, hats, event advertisements, photographs, and sculptures.
There is a display of Native American memorabilia including toys children played with, clothing, tools and photos.
The 1915 St Stephen’s church has been the site of many weddings and is glorious with its original stained glass windows and bell.
The 1886 Gettysburg Railway depot is a favorite of train fans, as is the old train carriage outside.
The barn is home to antique buggies, toys and horse stalls, as well as an antique automated hay and manure handling system. The barn was moved from its home 45 miles away in Draper SD. Looking at the old buggies, without suspension, I can only imagine how rough the journey in this vehicles would have been.
The one room school house reminded me of one of my favorite TV show growing up - Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls would have sat at a desk very similar to these, with the same view of the fields out the windows. With school books still on the desks, I felt as if I had stepped into the school house while the children were outside enjoying recess. Visitors can ring the bell at the school, as well as the bells at the fire station and the church.
There is so much to see and do here. Walking through the buildings and seeing how people lived and worked in the “good old days” gives you a true appreciation for our modern appliances, and things such as indoor toilets, and sanitary hospitals and operating theatres.
There are literally thousands of antiques and memorabilia to look at. In the Vanishing Prairie Museum valuable items from the General Custer period and an amazing array of old photographs are on display.
The 1950s train diner once ran the tracks between Chicago and California before its final stop in 1982 at 1880 Town. Visitors can walk through and check out the 1950s memorabilia, or sit at one of the nostalgic railway dining car and enjoy a meal of homemade chili, soup, hotdogs, hamburgers, topped off with a slice of pie and ice-cream and a root beer float.
Visitors can also check out the Longhorn Ranch next to the town. 1,200 acres of prairie where herds of Texas Longhorns graze. 1880 Town is open May to October. Depending on the time of year there are often live shows and wagon rides throughout the town.
Located on I-90, west of the town of Murdo, 1880 Town South Dakota USA