Roosevelt Inn History
This is a picture of the old Sylvan Lake Lodge which was a favorite destination of honeymooners in the early 1900s. The Roosevelt Inn design was inspired by this famous old Black Hills lodge which was destroyed in the 1930s.
The first building on the site -- a miner's shack -- was built by an old-time gold prospector named Dave Swanzey, who staked out a placer claim along Grizzly Creek.
Dave wasn't too lucky in finding gold -- the big strike was two miles downstream at the Keystone Mine -- but he did gain some fame in his own right as the man who gave Mt. Rushmore its name. Later, Dave married Carrie Ingalls, the sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of "Little House on the Prairie." Dave and Carrie lived in a cabin downstream from where the Roosevelt Inn sits today. There's a plaque in Keystone near where their cabin used to be.
The first business on this site was Sweet's Candy and Pie Shop which opened along the old road to Mt. Rushmore many years ago. It was a dusty, gravel, two-lane road at the time. The hotel began as a couple of tourist cabins behind the pie shop.
The first rooms in the present building were built in 1992 when the property was renamed as the Roosevelt Inn. The new building was inspired by the Adirondak style of the old Sylvan Lake Lodge, shown above. It's said the old-timers used to tell stories about the Sunday afternoon teas and cool evening dances at the lodge's lakeside gazebo.
Construction on the major portion of the present building started in the fall of 1996 and continued throughout 1997. We opened our doors in the spring of 1998. For several years we were affiliated with the GuestHouse International marketing organization so if you find us listed as the The GuestHouse Inn at Mt. Rushmore or GuestHouse Mt Rushmore the publication or web site is out of date. We no longer have any affiliation with GuestHouse.
Some people might be surprised to learn that the Roosevelt Inn sits on an old mining claim. But, in fact, virtually all of Keystone, as well as Hill City and even the city of Deadwood, are composed almost entirely of old mining claims. In the 1870s, rough-and-tumble mining camps were located throughout the Black Hills. Deadwood, of course, is the most famous, but it was far from the most notorious. That honor goes to Hill City with it's "mile of hell" -- a full mile of nothing but saloons. Keystone, then, was known as the notorious "Etta Camp" and had its own problems with outlaws.
An area just South of Keystone is said to have been a hideout for a old-time rustler and robber known as Lame Johnny who often made it his business to hold up the Cheyanne stage. Johnny is said have have used Thimble Cave in a box canyon near Keystone as a holding area for rustled horses. According to legend Lame Johnny came to an end after being accused of making off with 400 pounds of Deadwood gold in the western Black Hills. The ad hoc posse lynched him when he wouldn't tell them where the gold was. He probably didn't tell them because he didn't know. Apparently he had nothing to do with that particular robbery.
Deadwood characters such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock, got a lot of the press coverage, but they were just few of many, many colorful Black Hills characters.