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Resident working to redevelop Delmont after 2015 tornado sent some fleeing

Delmont's historic Onion House is pictured following a May 2015 tornado blew through town. The Delmont Historical Society recently received a $20,000 grant to help fund restorations to the building. (Republic File photo)1 / 2
Delmont's historic Onion House is pictured following a May 2015 tornado blew through town. The Delmont Historical Society recently received a $20,000 grant to help fund restorations to the building. (Republic File photo)2 / 2

DELMONT — One man has made it his mission to save Delmont.

Leo Holzbauer is leading the charge to redevelop the Douglas County town ravaged by a 2015 tornado that sent dozens searching for new places to call home. And he's starting with two of the town's longstanding staples, the Onion House and the Delmont Steakhouse and Lounge.

Earlier this week, the South Dakota State Historical Society announced the Delmont Historical Society received a $20,000 matching grant for structural and roof repair on the house's massive dome tower. The $20,000 must be matched by the Historical Society, for a total of $40,000, about $8,000 shy of the total cost to renovate the Onion House.

The $28,000 the Historical Society must generate will be done through fundraisers and community donations, Holzbauer said, and he is confident the project will be completed.

"When the weather's good, we'll start on it," Holzbauer said. "The city of Delmont needed that to keep some of its identity and we're really working at that."

The 2015 Mother's Day tornado left the landmark Onion House severely damaged and its former owners did not want to invest in its repairs. So Holzbauer purchased it, and in August donated the building that has served as a home, hospital, beauty shop and clothing store to the Delmont Historical Society. The house, which gets its name from a tower that juts from the upper level with an onion-shaped dome, was formerly listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since January, Delmont Historical Society President Earla Strid said the organization has raised approximately $1,500 to put toward the project, showing the community's commitment to its restoration.

"There were historical homes that were destroyed in the tornado, but because of the unique design of this building, it has a special meaning for the town," Strid said. "People in the area do have a special place in their hearts for restoring the dome and restoring the house."

And six months after his first major donation to the city, Holzbauer is looking to do it again.

In September 2015, Holzbauer purchased the Delmont Steakhouse and Lounge and the business has been closed for about a year, he said.

But Holzbauer has had enough.

"(Delmont) will bounce back if you work at it," he said. "If you don't do anything, nothing's going to happen because it'll get left."

Holzbauer, who had only lived in Delmont for two months prior to the tornado, is offering up the Steakhouse and Lounge to anybody who can run the business with a clean environment, pleasant atmosphere and good food for five years.

At the end of the five-year partnership, Holzbauer said he will gift the business to its next owners for free.

The 50- by 145-foot building sits on three city lots and is fully equipped with dishes, silverware, cookware, kitchen equipment and furniture. And Holzbauer said he's already received a handful of applications from as far away as Iowa and Texas.

But there can only be one.

So, Holzbauer said he will rifle through resumes and conduct interviews through this week and then will dive into the "nitty-gritty" of making a decision, with the hopes of reopening the steakhouse by spring.

"It's true they'll have to make it work — this is Delmont, it's not Sioux Falls or Mitchell or Yankton," Holzbauer said. "But Delmont deserves to be here and I'm not going to give up on it."

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