I'm a sucker for parks. I love swings and slides and flowers and games and creeks and dogs and picnics and kids … pretty much everything that you can find in parks. They are the perfect atmosphere for some many different things: A sunny afternoon of reading, or playing bocce ball, or eating ice cream, or riding bikes or simply getting some fresh air and exploring.
There is usually something interesting to be found, whether natural or manmade. From a pretty new wildflower I've never seen to a brightly-colored kite that catches my eye, the sights and sounds at a park give me plenty of fuel for daydreaming and wondering about my surroundings.
One interesting structure that always gives me pause in the Spearfish City Park is the Kroll Meat Market and Slaughterhouse. A stone two-room building between Canyon Street and Spearfish Creek at the north end of the park, the Kroll Meat Market and Slaughterhouse is on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the area. It is one of the early businesses and one of the oldest commercial buildings in Spearfish.
I usually circle the building, wondering what it might have looked like at its busiest. With the sounds of children playing so close by, it's hard to imagine a line of cattle or bustling customers shopping locally for meat to take home for dinner.
The building used to house a butcher shop. Rudolf Kroll, an immigrant from Denmark, arrived in the United States in 1876. He worked in a meatpacking plant in Chicago before heading toward Dakota Territory, arriving to the newly formed city of Spearfish in 1877. Upon arrival, he homesteaded a cattle ranch in Centennial Valley and began buying property in Spearfish. By 1880, he owned several lots in the vicinity of the current city park, and he is thought to have opened his butcher shop and slaughterhouse around that time.
The single-story building is made with sandstone block walls, a gable roof with wood shingles, a central brick chimney and a board and batten addition. The open rooms have earthen floors, and Kroll used these rooms when he operated a business at the location.
After Spearfish was founded in 1876, one of the community's main functions was serving the area mining communities, camps and ranches that were booming during the Black Hills Gold Rush. Customers from around the hills might have traveled into Spearfish and perhaps stopped at the Kroll Meat Market and Slaughterhouse.
Difficult economic times throughout the late 1880s caused Kroll to sell and buy back the butcher shop several times over the years. He finally abandoned it for good in 1891.
The city of Spearfish obtained the building and parcel of land in 1923, for use as a public park, which we now recognize as the Spearfish City Park. It was known as Tourist Park in the 1920s.
The building is now vacant and appears in much the same condition as when Kroll operated his business. I imagine its surroundings look a little different, though, now that the city park has grown to its present state and reputation. I'm glad the building remains though - it's given me plenty on which to wonder during my years growing up in Spearfish. There's always something new to discover at the park, no matter your age.