Hot Springs hospital an endangered historic place
By Dirk Lammers
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The National Trust for Historic Preservation on Tuesday named a century-old hospital for war veterans in Hot Springs as one of America's 11 most endangered historic places.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization has used the list since 1988 to raise awareness about threats facing historically significant landscapes, buildings and neighborhoods.
The Battle Mountain Sanitarium, built with pink sandstone in a Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style, is one of only 2,500 national historic landmarks in the country, said David J. Brown, the trust's executive vice president and chief preservation officer.
"If you look at the building today, it's beautiful. It's been well kept, well maintained," Brown said. "But it's the plan that the VA has put forward to abandon the facility that really is the threat."
Battle Mountain Sanitarium opened in 1907 to treat Civil War veterans with lung or respiratory problems. The National Park Service says the Black Hills site was the first sanitarium to provide short-term treatment to veterans. Battle Mountain reportedly used water from the fabled springs nearby to treat residents.
The sanitarium is currently in use as part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System's Hot Springs campus. The VA is planning to abandon the building, open an outpatient clinic and move some services to Rapid City.
"It really is the VA's first medical center in their history, and we just think it has a bright future," Brown said.
The VA has selected Labat Environmental of Bellevue, Nebraska, to study the potential environmental, cultural, historic, social and economic effects of the proposed changes. It could take up to 1½ years to complete the analysis.
U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem recently proposed legislation that would pause the federal agency's proposed changes and the study.
Noem has said that the Hot Springs hospital has long provided critical care to South Dakota veterans, and the VA is doing a disservice to veterans by neglecting such properties.
The trust says that it has been able to help save 97 percent of the places making the list since its inception.
"We've only lost a handful throughout the years," Brown said.