“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.
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.
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.
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.