The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Unusual Real Estate Listing #2764

710The tourist ghost town of Rockerville, South Dakota. CLUI photo

THE BLACK HILLS TOWN OF Rockerville is listed for sale. It is a ghost town ghost town tourist attraction, abandoned after its last owners finally gave up on the business several years ago. It has fallen into disrepair, and is awaiting its third incarnation.

Like nearby Deadwood, Rockerville was a boomtown in the 1870’s. Gold was discovered in 1876, and by 1880 it had 100 buildings and around 1,000 people. Scandals, bad infrastructure schemes, and a general lack of gold led to the town's demise. By 1930, the town was in ruins.

In the 1950s, Rockerville was born again with the new Black Hills economy of tourism. Highway 16, which goes from Rapid City, on the Interstate, to Mount Rushmore, passes right through town. The historic mining town was resurrected as a version of itself for tourists, with shootouts, gift shops, and old time relics. Two rows of western town façade were built next to the ruins of the original mining town, which by then were just a few buildings, a shack, the jail, and the old school house. A wooden sidewalk out front connected the dozens of buildings, labeled and decorated as things like Saloon, Bank, Casino, and Company Store.

The Black Hills filled up to the brim with attractions, and Rockerville failed to keep up with the times. To deal with the increased flow of visitors going up the hill, Highway 16 was enlarged and rerouted, and the new alignment passed around Rockerville, leaving it off the main drag. The tourists stopped coming and kept on going.

Today, Rockerville is abandoned again. The property includes 26 acres of the old town, all the buildings, the remaining relics, and camping grounds in the woods. It includes a few hundred yards of frontage with false fronts on either side of the road, but it is still the road less traveled.Each store is platted and can be separately leased, though the roofs may or may not make it through the next winter. And the new owners will have to deal with the ghosts of Rockerville, who are are now tourists, as well as miners.