Camp Rapid – Rapid City SD


"One of the most significant WPA projects in Rapid City was Camp Rapid. Construction of permanent buildings began on June 25, 1934 and one year later, Executive Order 7034 allowed the WPA to begin hiring men to take part in the construction of the headquarters building. James C. Ewing, an architect from Rapid City, designed the brick and reinforced concrete Administration Building and Project 956 began in 1936 and was completed by the end of the year. The original buildings main floor consisted of a reception area with a vault and was surrounded by four offices, one of which was the Adjutant Generals headquarters. The structure had a full, unfinished basement that would not be utilized until 1947. Thirty-two years would pass before renovations were made to the Administration Building when a 42-foot by 92-foot long basement was added to the south side of the structure and set up as the Emergency Operations Center. A main floor addition was erected over the basement addition in 1989, and designed to accommodate a conference room and offices. Today, this WPA building stands as a sentinel of our states defense, a towering tribute to the workers of the WPA who built it more than seventy years ago.

As the Administration Building neared completion in 1936, WPA workers began construction on several kitchen-mess halls and commenced building the first of twenty-five bathhouse-latrines on the east and west sides of the parade grounds. Some of these structures were built using logs and were designed to accommodate seventy guard members. Eighteen of the mess hall-kitchens remain in Camp Rapid today and twenty of the bathhouse-latrines still stand. A number of these structures have been converted to other uses, and all of the log buildings were replaced by brick units. In 1940, the Dispensary and six more kitchens were added to the guard camp under Project 4008. A WPA plaque for these units still survives in the camp along with several others that visitors discover as they wander through the mix of historic and contemporary buildings. WPA workers replaced approximately 272 wooden tent floors with concrete floors by 1941, placing hooks into the concrete to secure the pyramidal tents.

One of the most striking WPA projects was the Officers Mess Hall completed in 1939. Project 3720 consisted of a one-story, 36-foot by 90-foot building that incorporated native stone in the walls, entryway, and retaining walls. The workers used similar stone to construct a floor to ceiling fireplace that was located on the interior south wall. Exposed wood rafters under the gable roof were supported by large, upright logs and a kitchen and bar were located on the east side of the building. In 1953, the National Guard chose to discontinue use of the building for the Officers Hall and it was used for a number of purposes, including the Post Exchange, Social Center, and Group Headquarters. The interior was remodeled in 1963 in an effort to create offices for the Selective Service, and unfortunately, the stone hearth was chipped out and the fireplace was covered with sheetrock. In the mid 1990s, renovation to restore the interior to its original state began and the building was completely gutted. The original wood beams and rafters were exposed and the fireplace was restored. Reformation of the edifice is now complete and visitors to Camp Rapid are able to appreciate the skilled labor that went into the rustic structure, especially since the original exterior remains the same as it was the day construction was complete in 1939.

In 1940, a one story structure was built in a central location that provided a panoramic view of the parade grounds, as well as the entire camp. Adjutant General Edward A. Beckwith moved into this house, followed by another general in 1947, Theodore A. Arndt. These two generals were the only ones to live in the house, relegating it to visiting offices after that. The WPA built one more house on the grounds, similar to the generals house that currently houses the night security guard and his family. Other WPA projects include the prominent native stone entrance gates on the north, east, and southeast sides of the camp. Approximately one mile of native stone walls surrounds Camp Rapid and these walls, as well as the historic buildings that occupy the camp, remain as a tribute to Roosevelts New Deal programs that gave the skilled and unskilled workers in South Dakota a job."

Source notes

Bunkowske, Kathy. "Works Progress Administration Projects in Rapid City, South Dakota: Surviving into the 21st Century."

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Camp Rapid
Rapid City, SD 57702

Location notes:

Coordinates: 44.073597, -103.271294

Leave a Reply

Before leaving a comment, please note:

  • Comments allow viewers to share information with others or alert us to errors or changes in a New Deal site.
  • We are not involved in the management of New Deal sites and have no information about visits, hours or rentals.
  • This page shows all the information we have for this site; if you have new information or photos to share, click below.


We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.