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The raucous mining town gained a national reputation for lawlessness, a badge of dishonor that hung around after it had morphed into a prosperous Victorian town. The rugged topography allowed for little new growth and as other towns developed into ranching centers or mining towns Deadwood became an urban oasis wrapped in a service economy. Some of those services smacked of the town’s upbringing - the last of Deadwood’s brothels did not shut down until 1980.


Deadwood has been plagued by floods and fires through its history. The worst conflagration broke out in a bakery on Sherman Street in the early morning hours of September 26, 1879. The fire spread quickly to Jensen and Bliss’s Hardware where it ignited eight kegs of gunpowder. The subsequent explosion caused the fire to sweep quickly through the town, destroying three hundred buildings and leaving two thousand homeless. All of the town’s founding buildings were obliterated. The streetscape of Deadwood today is studded with Victorian-style buildings raised in the ashes of that historic blaze, constructed with stone and brick and not vulnerable wood.


In 1961 the entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark and indeed it seemed as if Deadwood was slipping into an era of somnambulism. Interstate 90 bypassed it and there were more fires. In 1989 gambling was legalized in Deadwood, the first small community to turn to gaming revenues to maintain local historic qualities and the town became rejuvenated as a tourist destination. Our walking tour will work back and forth through the narrow gulch and we will begin not 100 yards from the spot where some miner filled that first prospecting pan with gold...



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