Ardmore, South Dakota..The Town Where Time Stood Still

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Ghost Towns

My family roots are tied to the Black Hills region of South Dakota and Wyoming.  I still have quite a bit of family in the area, and a couple weeks ago I decided to take my first trip as an adult (and I use the term “adult” loosely) and see what there was to see.  I’ve been there several times, but mostly as a bored kid, strapped in the backseat of whatever Chevy sedan or wagon the parents owned at the time. Back then, the trips to South Dakota to visit the family seemed like long, endless, journeys to a far away land filled with dust and hot wind.  I didn’t have much interest in those childhood trips.

This time, I left Colorado with an open mind and a tank full of gas, and set off for the dusty roads of the Black Hills to see what there was to see…

Ardmore was one of the stops I made.  Just north of the Nebraska state line in Fall River county, Ardmore was the quintessential “town where time stood still.”  Most of the “ghost towns”  today have at least some small resident population- hermits and recluses hiding from the rest of the world, or the elderly still clinging on to what once was.  Ardmore had neither.  This was perhaps the most ghostly of ghost towns I’ve visited recently.

Ardmore was clearly a decent sized town at one time, and had a small main street and several side streets that housed businesses and residences. The railroad still passes through, but it doesn’t look like they stop.  As far as I could tell, no one lives in Ardmore. From the appearance of the town and the cars in the yards, it looks like time simply stopped in Ardmore in the mid-1970’s.

The hot South Dakota wind I remembered from my childhood visits whipped through the tall oak trees that lined the streets. Antelope stared at me curiously from the surrounding fields. A few black birds crowed at me from high above as they roosted on dilapidated buildings or towering oaks. I stopped in the middle of “Main Street” which, evidently at some point in time, was two-lane  blacktop, but today was a series of asphalt chunks with tall, bright green prairie grasses growing through the cracks.

As I snapped my first few photos I realized I was being watched, I looked across the road and in an abandoned storefront two men cautiously leered at me from far in the back. They seemed as apprehensive and leery of me as I was of them. They stared for a few minutes, and realizing I was just taking photos went about whatever they were doing. I kept a safe distance and didn’t approach or pay them any attention. Sometimes the less you know, the better.

I hopped back in my car and drove down some of Ardmore’s forgotten streets.  A short time passed and the rumble of an engine approached and a beat up white Chevy pickup truck chugged by, loaded down with electrical wiring, pipes, and myriad of other this-and-that. The two men in the front seat waved as they drove past, they were Sioux Indians, and they were the shadowy figures watching me from the abandoned shop earlier. It was clear they were salvaging anything of value to trade in for a few dollars. Their old Chevy chugged down the dirt road and disappeared over a rise to the east, heading back to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

As the Sioux left with their piece of Ardmore, I too, disappeared down the road with my piece of Ardmore- These photos from that hot, windy June day. Forgotten people in a forgotten land.

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  1. Great photos and a great story, I love travelling to the ghost towns here in Montana and across the west!

  2. Janna gray says:

    The 2nd and 5th photos show the building my mother grew up in. The tall section was a general store with living above it. The short side was the post office.

    • John says:

      I read your comments about Ardmore. I have an aunt who was born and raised in Ardmore. I know her and her brother died in Colorado, but they were buried in the Ardmore cemetary, I’ve been told. Perhaps you knew their family? I have many black and white photos from the area during the early 1900s. I live in Colorado Springs. Thanks for any information you might have.

      • Marge Mathers says:

        Would love to see an visit this ole town.. will be a trip yet this fall as I live in South Dakota. I have a relative that lived here years ago.. Did not know a cemetery was here. Hope I can locate it..
        The last name was Randall of distant relative..

    • Marge Mathers says:

      Beautiful memories… I am looking for information on a distant relative that lived here at one time.. Do you have knowledge of people that were residence way back..

  3. Norma Hutchison says:

    I lived in the house next to the spillway. The bus pick up was at the fire house, where we caught the bus to go to school at Igloo, S.D. I have fond memories of those years back in the late 50’s and early 60’s.jeanie

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