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Rapid City, South Dakota – Main Street Square

What’s now Main Street Square was a city-center parking lot in late 2009, when the leaders of a downtown economic-development initiative decided this was the place to create a new central plaza for this city by the Black Hills. Just months before, a consultant had urged the city to develop just such a space — and this idea was not going to sit on a shelf.

Main Street Square opened in October 2011, and it has become the jewel of Rapid City. It’s “a center plaza with a waterfall and dancing water fountain, a continually changing visual landscape through public art sculptures, and a downtown gathering area for our local community and its visitors,” says Downtown Rapid City’s website.

Visitors who’ve posted on tripadvisor.com agree. “The place gives that hometown feel to Rapid City,” wrote one. “Good all year round. Ice skating in the winter and concerts and community events all summer long. Public restrooms too.”

Known as the Gateway to Mount Rushmore and the City of Presidents, Rapid City has an array of rich cultural resources often found only in larger cities — playhouses, galleries, a performing arts center, an arts center and a museum. Public sculpture is on display around the city, most notably the life-sized bronze statues of the U.S. presidents that stand on various streets and sidewalks.

Main Street Square is extending this creative tradition with a massive undertaking called The Sculpture Project. Renowned public-art sculptor Masayuki Nagase is using traditional Japanese tools to carve 21 large pieces of ancient granite into an abstract design whose themes are wind, water and the energies of nature and change. The sculptor opens his worksite to visitors on Thursdays from June to October.

The Sculpture Project has inspired other community projects and events at the square — a two-story Badlands mural, an annual Native American art market, an artists-in-schools program and more. Main Street Square is also home to a Thursday night summer concert series and to a rich variety of public events, from a springtime beer tasting and Easter egg hunt through a pumpkin fest and Halloween festival, then a December holiday celebration and winter market.

But you don’t have to wait for a special event. All year long there are shops, a cafe, a pub and eateries to discover and explore, all set around this highly successful new city landmark.

Photo taken by Flickr user jpellgen under CC 2.0 license.

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Deadwood, South Dakota – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: South Dakota

Many cities are rightly proud of their history and culture, but few can boast that their entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Deadwood, South Dakota, can.

This small city’s Main Street is steeped in history that dates back to the Black Hills Gold Rush, which drew droves of hopefuls here after General George Armstrong Custer declared, in 1874, that his expedition had found gold nearby. Today’s revitalized business district vividly remembers those turbulent times of Deadwood’s early heyday.

Much of Main Street’s history is the stuff of American folklore. This is where the legendary gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead, playing poker in a Main Street saloon in 1876. He’s buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, which is also the final resting place of Calamity Jane, the also-famed scout and frontierswoman.

Deadwood is also closely tied to its heritage with the Lakota. The city was founded on land that had been promised to the Native American tribe — but in the rush that followed Custer’s announcement, the lure of gold outweighed all treaties. These and other stories are told in Deadwood’s four history museums: Adams Museum, Days of ’76 Museum, Historic Adams House, and Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center.

Even after the city’s first lawless days had passed, gold mining and railroads remained the lifeblood of Deadwood through the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Today, the roistering gold panners and brothels are long gone, but Deadwood celebrates its colorful past by preserving the Wild West architecture and storefronts up and down Main Street. That history has helped spur a revival from the economic struggles Deadwood began to suffer with a devastating fire in 1959.

It was after another fire in 1987 that the turnaround known as the “Deadwood Experiment” began. City leaders decided to put their weight behind a bid to return gambling to Main Street, and in 1989 Deadwood became America’s first small city to legalize gambling as a way of maintaining its historic assets.

And it’s not just gambling that draws visitors today — the city offers dozens of history-themed attractions, many restaurants, a local winery, and annual events such as Deadweird, Days of ’76 and Kool Deadwood Nights. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a close drive from town in the surrounding Black Hills, where the Old West can seem as close and real as it often does right in downtown Deadwood.

Street and Shoot-out photos courtesy of South Dakota Department of Tourism
All other photos courtesy of Deadwood.com

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