More Road Trippin’

Posted: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm
By: Doug Lund
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“How would you guys like to go on a little road trip?” our friend, Joanie, said when she called. “Sure, where to?”  “Well, we thought it might be fun to check out the old South Dakota School for the Blind campus in Gary.”   “The what..where?” I said.  “Yeah, the place has been restored and turned into a hotel resort with a lake and everything, I hear it’s really neat.”

So that’s how we came to be headed North a couple weeks ago; taking the back roads through Pipestone and Canby, Minnesota through canyons of wind turbines before turning west to the tiny town of Gary just across the South Dakota border. More about that in a minute. First, a refresher course on how the four of us travel. It takes us forever to get to a destination because we’ll stop to check out just about anything from a quaint small town watering hole to an abandoned farm house along side the road. This time we stumbled upon a real doozy.

We spotted this spooky looking house just off highway 75 somewhere between Lake Benton and Canby

We spotted this spooky looking house just off highway 75 somewhere between Lake Benton and Canby

Had it been dark I'd never have left the car but since it was a sunny warm day, the place wasn't quite so frightening

Had it been dark I'd never have left the car but since it was a sunny warm day, the place wasn't quite so frightening

All we could talk about is who might have once lived here and how long ago. Its sad to think about families that had once gathered inside for birthday, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. You could almost hear the voices.

All we could talk about is who might have lived here and how long ago. Its sad to think about the families that had once gathered inside for birthday, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. You could almost hear the voices.

Closer inspection revealed why there was a noticible stench coming from the place. Someone had decided that the structure, once somebody's home, would make an acceptable place to store grain. It wasn't.

Closer inspection revealed why there was a noticible stench coming from the place. Someone had decided that the structure would make a suitable spot to store grain. It wasn't.

After a half hour or so we left with more questions than answers about the old place which is slowly being devoured by a tree that wasnt there when the people left long ago.

After a half hour or so we left with more questions than answers about the old place which is slowly being devoured by a tree that wasnt there when the last owners left long ago.

 The School for the blind at Gary was established in 1900 and grew to a sizeable self sustaining live-on campus over the next several decades before folding up and moving to Aberdeen in the early 60’s.

buffalo ridge history use

 The old school buildings and dormitories have been sitting vacant and vulnerable to the elements and vandals ever since.  Some folks would swear that the buildings and underground tunnels that connected them were haunted and most people wouldn’t go near the place except on a dare.

Well, that didn’t scare local entrepreneur, Joe Kolbach..who made a tidy sum in the wind turbine business and decided to invest a sizeable chunk of it in renovating the whole area to its former glory.  Less than a year after purchasing the campus and to nearly everyone’s amazement, Kolbach has completed phase one and transformed a decaying eyesore into the magnificent Buffalo Ridge Resort and Business Center.

South Dakota Magazine photos

South Dakota Magazine photos

 Two buildings that once served as dormitories have become an upscale hotel..with a lounge, ballrooms and meeting facilities. He has also brought back Lake Elsie, a scenic little pond that was filled with dirt and plowed over years ago. It’s located next to a crossing bridge, a lovely little waterfall, and beautiful oak trees that shelter several camp sites. People we talked to absolutely love it and just can believe how quickly Kolbach was able to get it done. To check it out for yourself, click here.

Who knows where we’ll be heading next time. I hear there’s a place called Danton, Minnesota that’s home to the world’s biggest ball of twine. It’s either that or the outhouse museum in Gregory. We’re easily entertained.

10 Comments

  1. Deb says:

    If you think that house is eerie looking, next time take a drive to Letcher, SD. They have the most amazing old house (steeples and all) tucked in about a block behind the old school. Now that house is something to talk about. Never seen anything like it and its HUGE!!

  2. dakotagirl says:

    Darwin, Minnesota, biggest ball of twine. Been there, done that. Need to go to the Buffalo Ridge Resort though.

  3. JoJo says:

    I believe that you mean Darwin, MN. And it is home to the worlds largest ball of twine……by one man!

  4. Jan Woolworth says:

    A group of gals from Volga are planning a road trip to Gary to Buffalo Ridge for lunch. It sounds like it will be a fun place to check out. I dont think we will be disappointed. Isnt it fun to check out different places in out own area.

  5. PV says:

    I have been to Buffalo Ridge twice and have some great pictures from there. Did you explore the tunnels ? A friends daughter is getting married there next summer…..can’t wait ! When I was there in Sept. they even had teepee’s you could sleep in !

  6. Tim says:

    Doug, Glad to see you folks having so much fun. That house you looked at is just outside of Ivanhoe, MN. Home of Polska Kielbasa days the second weekend in August every year good time for sure. You and the gang will have to check it out (hope you like Polish Dogs and beer) and the little town has a very respectable waterin hole as well. Ask Hemmi about Polska Keilbasa Days I convinced him to attend a few years ago I think he had a good time. Keep havin fun. Tim

  7. Lori says:

    We live in the Gary Area, and visit the Rock Room Bar and Grill often. Its Awesome! The Gary Community is very Thankful for what Joe has done with the Ole Blind School!!

  8. Katy says:

    Doug, I love reading about your excursions but I do have to comment on part of this one. You did not say that you had permission to enter the premises on which you were snooping. As a land owner, I am not excited about everyone site seeing on my property without permission – I think it is called tresspassing. Please be careful about trodding on other peoples land. I know it seems inviting but you shouldn’t. Take pictures from the road but don’t cross the fenceline. Not everyone feels this way but you don’t know who does and who does not.

  9. clara says:

    That old american four square house was a beautiful farm place at one time; with nice woodwork, lilac bushes, apple trees, and evergreens – house heated by a coal furnace – belonged to the Parulski family with six girls and two boys who were raised there. All passed away now. Farm was sold to present owner who used the house for grain. Sad to see such a nice farm site go like that.

  10. daniel Johnson says:

    That farm house is a poster for what has happened touch of rural America and it happened in less than a generation. And we did not get to vote on it.

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