Mary Ellen Casey’s home is hard to miss. The pink house (accented with purple and white), built about 126 years ago, is perched directly above Main Street on Deadwood’s Forest Hill. The home itself is beautifully restored, inside and out, and its distinctive switchback stairs and terraced retaining walls are scheduled for replacement this spring. But, Casey says, none of it would have been possible without the grant and loan programs available to Deadwood residents from the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission.
“This house would not have made it without that,” she told the Rapid City Journal recently.
According to Rose Speirs, a DHPC board member, Casey is part of a growing number of Deadwood residents availing themselves of Deadwood’s grants and low- or zero-interest loans to restore their aging residential properties.
“When gaming first began in 1989, our first priority was to restore the central commercial district,” Speirs said. “And while there’s a great deal yet to be done in downtown Deadwood, we’re beginning to focus more on residential properties. Many of the houses here are more than a century old, and if they don’t receive some attention soon, they’re going to deteriorate.”
Speirs explained that restoring the city’s retaining walls is a priority because the foundations of Deadwood’s houses – built on the steep hillsides of the gulch – are dependent on the support they provide.
“Without the retaining walls, the foundations of a lot of these houses would crack and crumble,” Speirs said. “And when that happens, any other restoration you’ve done above ground becomes a moot point.”
For Casey, restoration of the walls and preservation of the house was especially important, since the property has been in her family since the 1930s. Thanks to Deadwood’s matching grant program, the most she’ll have to pay for the retaining wall work is $3,500 – which she can finance with city-sponsored low-interest loans. She’s already taken advantage of other restoration programs, including the Deadwood Paint Grant.
“There are a number of great restoration incentive programs in Deadwood,” Speirs said. “And the more residents know about them and utilize those funds, the more Deadwood’s historic character will be preserved.”