It was September of 2013 and we were on our way to the Black Hills area for the first time. It was a 6 1/2 hour drive but I wanted to make some stops along the way. The first was the 1880 Town along I-90 between Okaton and Belvidere, SD.
We pulled into the parking lot. Erin, my wife, didn’t want to go. (She has no interest in history) I eventually convinced her to come in, since it would be better than sitting in the car by herself.
We entered in the round ’14-Sided Barn’ that is the entrance to the grounds. We paid our admission and went to the upper level of the barn, where they house the Dances With Wolves memorabilia. At the time I had seen parts of the movie, but wasn’t the fan I am now, so it didn’t mean much to me then, but I would find it more interesting now.
Out on the grounds they have more than 30 buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While a lot of the town is pretty standard; houses, cabins, churches, post, stores, blacksmith, etc, this is by far one of the biggest recreated towns I have been too, rivaled only by the now defunct Buckskin Joe.
One thing that really stood out to me was the Longhorn Saloon, a grand saloon with a bar, stage and balcony. They had a fella there playing piano who used to play for the Beach Boys. I’ve seen period saloons at other towns and they are much smaller, so this was quite a sight. Since the actual building originally served as a bank, post office, and doctor’s office (never an actual saloon, to my knowledge) I can see why this one stands out. And while not technically historically accurate, it is still a great spectacle.
There are plenty of other things you won’t find elsewhere as well. A water tower, sand tower, observation tower (they like towers, apparently), a fire house, lumber yard, a metal dinosaur and a camel.
1880s Town is one of the most genuine and complete recreated Old West towns you will find. A lot of time, care and collecting have gone into making it one of the best. If you have the chance, definitely make the stop.