While the “Heart of the Hills” was once referred to as “a town with a church on each end and a mile of Hell in between,” the activities of Hill City have tamed down in the past century.
As the Black Hills gold rush continued in early 1876, a group of central Hills placer miners decided to stake their claim along Spring Creek. This scenic area came to be known as Hillyo, and later renamed to Hill City. Gold finds later that year in the Northern Hills reduced the city to a ghost town for a period, but new finds and the tin mining boom brought the settlement back to life in the mid-1880s.
The town was wild and wide open—15 saloons and their customers made for a exciting time. When tin was discovered in the area, the headquarters of the Harney Peak Tin Mining Company was established in Hill City. The company built the Harney Peak Hotel to house its executives and guests. The hotel survives today, and still serves as an anchor for Main Street business as the Alpine Inn.
Today, downtown Hill City features a variety of shopping, museums, galleries and attractions. Several noted artists have established homes and local galleries in the city. Various annual events, art exhibits, and other crafts shows complement the expanding arts community. Recent building renovations on Main Street have helped establish Hill City as the “Santa Fe” of the Black Hills.
Hill City is in the center of a prime recreation area that includes opportunities for sightseeing, fishing, boating, horseback riding, rock climbing, cycling, hiking and train riding. Hill City’s famous 1880 Train provides the opportunity to experience train travel as it was a century ago and is soon to become the site of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum. More information on Hill City can be obtained at hillcitysd.com.