If you love history, architecture, or antiques, the Fall River County Pioneer Museum in Hot Springs is a great way to spend an afternoon. Located in a former school, this four-story sandstone building has loads of history to explore:
Each room (the former classrooms) has a different theme, such as general store, medicine, glassware, toys, and more. It has a great deal of local history, but also is a good overall picture of life in the early 1900s, so even if you’re not interested in South Dakota or Fall River County history specifically, it’s a good stop.
The best way I have thought to described the museum is “an antique store where you can’t buy anything”, which is maybe a good thing for some of us!
One of the things we loved is that it’s not a “precious” museum where you can’t touch anything. Obviously, most of the items are not to be touched and it’s not a place to let a toddler run free, but there was an old sewing machine and piano that they encouraged you to try out for yourself. (A sign on the piano says “Pianos are meant to be played”, which is a refreshing change of pace from a lot of museums.). They also have a small dress-up area for the kids.
I love exploring old buildings and admiring their craftsmanship both inside and out. It does make me sad to compare this beautiful building with the sterile, uninspiring schools of today (which I guess is one of the many reasons our family homeschools).
The fourth floor was recently opened to the public and features an art exhibit… But what I’m really interested in is the awesome attic space!
If you’re staying with us at The Evanston Suites, the museum is about a ten-minute walk – use this staircase on River Street (just south of the salon and north of Black Hills Books and Gifts) for a shortcut to the top of the hill and you’ll come up on the rear of the museum.
The Fall River County Pioneer Museum is open from mid-May to early September. (There’s no heat in the building, so they can’t be open in the winter even if they wanted to.) As of 2022, admission was $6 for adults with children under 12 free.
You can find more information on the museum on the Fall River Pioneer Museum website.