History of Wall, SD

Wall today is a town that flourishes with agriculture and tourism, but it was not always this way. Wall got its start like many other towns on the Great Plains, thanks to the railroad. In the summer of 1907, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad opened a station in the city that would become Wall. That same summer, the Hendrickson Land Company began selling town lots on the homesteads of Gene and Bill Mackrill. Following this settlement, the first businesses in Wall included a restaurant, a bar, a hotel, a blacksmith, a lumber company, a post office and a pharmacy. In 1909, the first postal routes and the first telephone lines were established. The following year, the city’s first grain elevator was built. Thus, Wall was born.

Large farms and ranches surround Wall. Many of these operations are owned and managed by families who have worked and raised livestock on the land for generations. 

It is impossible to discuss the history of Wall as it is today without discussing the famed tourist attraction Wall Drug. Ted and Dorothy Hustead established the Wall Drug Pharmacy in 1931, during the Great Depression. The Husteads struggled to make the pharmacy successful. Then, in 1936, a great idea emerged. As Dorothy watched people drive by on the nearby highway, she came up with the idea to advertise free ice cold water to hot, thirsty travelers. The Husteads placed signs along the highway and cars began to stop almost immediately. 

The Badlands National Park, located to the south of Wall, opened in 1939, offering still another destination for tourists and even more customers for Wall Drug. In 1941, Mount Rushmore National Memorial was finished and as the long line of tourists headed to the Black Hills increased, so did the visitors who dropped in for “Free Ice Water.” Today, Wall Drug fills a city block and sells everything from food and trinkets to books, artwork, western style boots and clothing. 

Wall has continued to grow throughout the years. However, though new businesses have started and the town has grown, Wall will always remember the entrepreneurial, hard working spirit that established the town. Wall is a town full of rich history and is ready to write the next chapter.  

Centennial book, published by the Wall-Badlands Area Chamber of Commerce

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