Powerhouse Park

Powerhouse Park in Deadwood, SD will be built around another fascinating historic Black Hills site that lay hidden for years, covered with trees and vines – a landmark that many long-time Deadwood residents didn’t even know about. Nothing appeals to Tallgrass Landscape Architecture like a good ruined industrial site with obscure history! Our park design keeps well away from the exposed sections of the ruins, leaving space for interpretation, protection of standing ruins, and a pleasant park experience.

Thanks to HBO’s “Deadwood”, most of us imagine the WILD WEST when we think of this area of the Black Hills. Deadwood and its sister city, Lead, transformed relatively quickly from a wild and wooly gold camp into the modern city with proper society (though improper society still flourished well into the 1980’s) telephones, electricity and public transportation far ahead of most of South Dakota and much of the west.

In 1901, the Burlington Powerhouse was built on the banks of Whitewood Creek to power an interurban trolley between Deadwood and Lead, SD. The well-traveled grade along Gold Run Creek between Deadwood and Lead was too steep and narrow for most steam trains, but an electric car powered by a coal-fired powerhouse easily traversed the terrain. Newspaper clippings for tourist advertisement describe a modern urban trolley running every hour between the two cities. In 1910 the power plant at Pluma (halfway between Lead and Deadwood) was renovated and took over the duties of the Burlington Powerhouse. In 1911, the Burlington Powerhouse was demolished, leaving only its 130’ smokestack, which either collapsed or was demolished in the 1920’s.

Between the 1920’s and the current day, the massive foundations of the Burlington Powerhouse and the brick foundation of the smoke stack lay under the sloughing slope of McGovern Hill and a mass of vegetation. Only standing for a decade, the ruins of the Powerhouse fell out of view and memory, only yards from the terminus of the famous Mickelson Trail until the City of Deadwood resolved to resurrect it as a park.

A newly completed boardwalk connects the Mickelson Trail and the edge of the ruins. Park planning includes protection for the weathered brick ruins of the smokestack base, a floating boardwalk that reduces visitor and construction impacts on the site, access to Whitewood Creek (a popular fishing spot), historic themed park structures, and several locations for interpretive displays about the history of the site. Construction is planned for 2016.

Check out the visuals for the presentation about Powerhouse Park Tanya gave at SD AIA Design in the Hills 2015 in July.

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