The Buell Building sits on the northeast corner of St. Joseph and Seventh streets in downtown Rapid City, one block from Main Street. Rapid City was founded in 1876 and quickly grew as a “jumping off” spot for miners headed to the Black Hills to participate in the gold rush. By the 1880s, when it was clear that the town would become a permanent settlement, efforts commenced to construct lasting commercial, educational, religious, governmental, and industrial buildings and structures. The Buell Building was among those erected in this period.
The building was originally home to the Lakota Banking and Investment Company, with a banking hall on the first floor and offices upstairs. Its design draws on a number of architectural styles: a Romanesque arcade defines the first floor, Italianate details grace the second, and a Moorish onion dome highlights the main entrance on the corner. The dome is covered with sheet copper and iron, crafted by metal worker Bill Nicholas.
In 1901 Judge Charles J. Buell purchased the building to house his law office. This was a period of growth in Rapid City and as business activity expanded in town, so did the Buell Building. Additions in 1901, 1915, and 1925 extended the building along Seventh Street, allowing for a variety of commercial enterprises on the first floor and additional second-floor offices. Among the offices located in the building was the U.S. Weather Station, which flew forecast flags from a flagpole atop the dome. The basement, which housed a pool hall for many years, was originally accessed by an exterior stairway from the sidewalk on the south side of the building.
Part of the Rapid City Historic Commercial District since its designation in 1974, the Buell Building was restored in the 1980s. It housed a succession of tenants in the subsequent decades and by 2012, had deteriorated to the point of being included in the Rapid City Historic Preservation Commission’s 2012 list of “buildings in peril.”
Erpestad, David, and David Wood. Building South Dakota. Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 1997.
Strain, David F. Black Hills Hay Camp. Rapid City, SD: Dakota West Books and Fenske Printing, Inc., 1989.