Wesch-Oak building in Hot Springs to be demolished

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 5:21 PM MST
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HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (KEVN) - The City of Hot Springs is planning to demolish a historic sandstone building along State Highway 385. This comes as construction projects in the area begin to take off, with fears that the building may not be stable enough for those projects.

For the past 127 years, the Wesch-Oak Building has stood on Hot Spring’s River Street, one of the town’s historic sandstone buildings. Now, the city is saying the building must come down.

City administrator John Gregory said that the now-abandoned building has become a public safety concern.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Gregory said. “We had a lot of conversations with a lot of different people, with stakeholders in town, and with the South Dakota historic preservation people, and this was the only option that remained for us to get this done and to get the public safe again.”

With other construction projects in Hot Springs, the building poses a different threat. The state Department of Transportation says the building might not survive as nearby Highway 385 gets worked on.

Rich Zacher is the DOT’s Custer area engineer. He said that the project, which is slated to begin in the fall, wouldn’t be able to go forward because of the condition of the Wesch-Oak building.

“The DOT isn’t willing to take the risk of construction vibration next to a condemned building,” Zacher said. “We’ve asked that the building become insurable. Whether that means restored or taken down is entirely up to the city.”

No matter what happens with the building, Hot Springs doesn’t want to lose the history. Gregory says the city hopes to either save the west facade, or preserve some of the sandstone from the building to use elsewhere.

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