Landmark barn near Piedmont razed for highway project
PIEMONT (AP) -- Jody Iseminger took his Indian motorcycle for a spin on Interstate 90 last week and noticed something was missing -- he wasn't quite sure what -- in the landscape just west of Piedmont. "I thought, 'Holy cow, what's different?'" h...
PIEMONT (AP) - Jody Iseminger took his Indian motorcycle for a spin on Interstate 90 last week and noticed something was missing - he wasn't quite sure what - in the landscape just west of Piedmont.
"I thought, 'Holy cow, what's different?'" he said.
The difference was the absence of an old mansard-roofed barn which stood for more than 50 years along the I-90 service road, also called Sturgis Road, just up the hill from the eastbound I-90 rest area.
The site now teems with earth movers and other equipment churning up red-tinged soil for construction of a new service road.
Mention of that old barn, now toppled with nary a sign that it ever stood, triggered many memories for Iseminger, 80, a longtime musician with many local bands, notably Buddy Meredith and the KOTA Cowboys.
"We used to play in that barn," he told the Rapid City Journal.
Another musician whose story would become intertwined with the old barn was Glenn Yarbrough, who came to Piedmont in the mid-1950s to help his father, Bruce, run a dance hall known as Bruce's Barn.
Glenn would later gain stardom with a trademark tenor singing voice that could put silk to shame for its smoothness.
He first honed his talent as a radio operator and as a singer in the Army before coming to the Black Hills, according to an online biography. His first paid entertainment job was hosting a music show on Rapid City's KOTA radio.
"It was in the morning and it was just Glenn and his guitar," recalls Alfred "Stringbean" Svenson, patriarch of a family country music band that still plays nightly summer gigs at the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper and Cowboy Show south of Rapid City, along with shows at various Black Hills festivals and visits to area nursing homes.
"I knew Bruce better than I did Glenn. He taught square dancing and he used to do square dances around the different towns," Svenson said.
Glenn Yarbrough also had a recording studio in the barn, before leaving the Black Hills in 1957 for Aspen, Colorado, where he purchased a ski lodge nightclub called the Limelite, inspiration for the name of the trio Yarbrough founded with bass singer Lou Gottlieb and baritone Alex Hassilev.
The Limeliters soared to stardom as one of the most popular folk groups of the 1960s. As a solo artist, Yarbrough recorded his signature hit "Baby, The Rain Must Fall" in 1966.
According to a Facebook page, Glenn Yarbrough lives with a daughter, Holly, in Nashville. He celebrated his 86th birthday on Jan. 12.
Bruce Yarbrough eventually sold the dance hall and moved away. A couple who raised chinchillas later moved in, according to neighbor Tom Carter, whose family ranched on the north side of the interstate and now runs the Tilford Gulch Rally Campground just to the south.
The barn later proved to be a good fit for a family with a large number of children, Carter said.
Recently it had sat empty until it was razed last week as part of an $11.3 million state highway project to reroute the service road away from I-90.
Harry Johnston, project engineer for the South Dakota Department of Transportation, said the barn stood right in the path of the new route.
Johnston said transportation planners are looking ahead to I-90 expanding to six lanes between Rapid City and Sturgis. That expansion, likely still years away, would incorporate the right of way now used by the current service road, he said.
Johnston also cited concerns about high-speed traffic on the eastbound lane being so close to the service road, with some fatal collisions between vehicles on the separate roadways over the years.
"It's a safety issue as well," Johnston said.
The new service road, winding around hills and other existing developments along the corridor between Piedmont and I-90 Exit 40, is scheduled to be completed by July 16 of this year, Johnston said.
The barn had to go, but not before much of the wooden dance floor, interior cabinetry and a few windows were salvaged prior to demolition, Johnston said. "It was pretty much just a shell," he said.
For some, the barn came to represent a more relaxed era and a golden age of folk and local country music. For others the barn became simply a landmark designating the halfway point between Rapid City and Sturgis.
"It's too bad," Carter said of the barn's demolition. "It's been a good landmark."