If you’ve traveled across the state, you’re likely familiar with Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. But if you’re looking for another attraction to add to your South Dakota vacation this summer, look no further than 1880 Town, just 22 miles west of Murdo and near Badlands National Park.
1880 Town started as a gas station in 1972 by owner Richard Hullinger. His father, Clarence Hullinger, was an avid collector of Western and Native American antiques and memorabilia. This inspired the vision for what the 14 acres of land–later expanded to 94–could become.
Around the time the gas station opened, a movie company was hoping to make a film set in the 1880 era. They built a movie set near the gas station and included some of Clarence’s Western antiques. The film company returned home and chose to gift the film set to Clarence, which led to the creation and expansion of what we know today as 1880 Town.
Today, 30 original South Dakota buildings have been arranged in 1880 Town to give visitors an idea of what the typical South Dakota town would have looked like between the years 1880-1920. There are over 50 buildings and sites to see. As visitors walk through the “town,” they will see a schoolhouse, hotel, church, bank, jail, saloon, and a 14-sided barn. While it isn’t a functioning town, visitors can go into every building and view antiques and other relics.
Visitors can also rent costumes to wear during their time there, allowing them to get the full experience. There are also mules, horses, long-horn cattle, and even a camel. Manager Karen Smith has worked in 1880 Town since 1991. People can visit between May and October, with peak season from June to August.
“Everybody likes it,” said Smith. “If you’re interested in Western history, it’s a good place to come.”
Throughout the week, there are a couple entertainment options during the peak season. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Jeff Kline takes the stage to play the piano. If you visit between Thursdays and Mondays, you can check out Wild Bill’s Rope Tricks, Wagon Rides, and the Music & Comedy Show. There are also activities to keep the kids entertained.
BUILDINGS CHECK LIST IN 1880 TOWN
> BARBER SHOP > BLACKSMITH
> DOCTOR’S OFFICE > JEWELRY STORE
> JOURNAL & PRINT SHOP > POST OFFICE
> TOWN HALL > WATER TOWER
The Casey Tibbs Museum is a must-see while in 1880 Town. Casey Tibbs was a famous, world-champion bronc-rider, and you can view many of his belongings and other memorabilia at the museum. Props from Dances with Wolves, such as a teepee and a few freight wagons, are also on display at the attraction.
Hungry? Check out the 1950s Train Diner. Now set up as a restaurant, it was originally a Santa Fe Train that ran a route from Chicago to California. Guests can enjoy a meal and view an array of items from the 1950s era. Whether you’re hoping to get some more time outdoors or need a break from sitting in the car, 1880 Town is an experience you don’t want to miss.
“It’s quite spectacular when you open the back door and you see the whole panorama of the town before you,” said Smith.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT 1880TOWN.COM.