The first building on the site of the current Roosevelt Inn was a miner's shack that was built in the 1890’s by an old-time gold prospector named Dave Swanzey, who staked out a placer claim along Grizzly Creek. Dave wasn't too lucky in finding gold; the big strike was two miles downstream at the Keystone Mine. But he did gain some fame in his own right as the man who gave Mount Rushmore its name. There was, and still is, some gold in the hills above the hotel, though the ore is not rich enough to mine. Dave dug a few holes before giving up on the gold. But since the area still appealed to him, he built a small cabin nearby and lived in it for the rest of his life.
Later, Dave married Carrie Ingalls, the sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of "Little House on the Prairie." According to local legend, Carrie sat on the porch of the cabin and watched workers drive back and forth on the old gravel road to Mount Rushmore during its carving. Later, after the faces were completed, she liked to watch the comings and goings of the tourists who visited the monument. There's a plaque in Keystone near where Dave and Carrie’s cabin used to be.
The first business on this site was Sweet's Candy and Pie Shop which opened along the old road to Mount Rushmore many years ago. It was a dusty, gravel, two-lane road at the time. They started a hotel near Mount Rushmore that began as a couple of tourist cabins behind the pie shop. The shop, operated by the Sweet family, became well known for some of the best homemade pies in the area. Later, as the business grew, the tiny roadside stand was replaced by a larger store with indoor seating.
The Roosevelt Inn was recently renovated in the Spring of 2017. See the image gallery for the newest updates!
Picture of the old Sylvan Lake Lodge, which was a favorite destination of honeymooners in the early 1900s. The Roosevelt Inn design was inspired by this famous old Black Hills hotel which was destroyed in the 1930s.
The first rooms in the present building were built in 1992 when the property was renamed as the Roosevelt Inn. The new building was inspired by the Adirondack style of the old Sylvan Lake Lodge, shown above. It's said the old-timers used to tell stories about the Sunday afternoon teas and cool evening dances at the lodge's lakeside gazebo.
By 1996, the Roosevelt Inn had grown to 19 guest rooms, but there was no way to add on more rooms to meet the growing demand from guests who returned seeking a hotel near Mount Rushmore year after year. That's when the owners decided that a new inn was needed. Construction on the project began in October 1996 and continued throughout 1997. The new Roosevelt Inn opened in the spring of 1998.