Archaeological dig in full swing at Tin Lizzie

An archaelogocial investigation is underway prior to the construction of a new hotel on the Tin Lizzie Gaming property, as the area is located in Deadwood’s former Chinatown district. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — Additional Chinatown artifacts have already presented themselves, as an archaeological dig required by Deadwood city ordinance prior to construction of a new Four Points by Sheraton: a Marriott hotel on the Tin Lizzie Gaming property recently ramped up.

“Immediately upon removal of the asphalt and gravel, and with the opening of the first test plot, several artifacts were beginning to be uncovered, including chinaware, glassware, metals, and a carbon feature,” said Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker. 

The dig is being conducted by Quality Services who will remove the artifacts, generate reports, and catalog the artifacts. The relics will be in the city’s possession upon completion of the study.

Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort initiated the dig in coordination with the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), the National Park Service, the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Commission, and the city of Deadwood.

The city of Deadwood recently approved a $3.1 million TIF as part of an expansion project on the Tin Lizzie gaming complex, estimated to be a $17 million project completed sometime in 2022. 

Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker said the archaeological dig is, indeed, required by Deadwood city ordinance before new construction is done, in accordance with the city’s historic landmark status.

“The story of Deadwood’s history is not only told with structures above ground, but artifacts also help tell Deadwood’s story below ground,” he said.

The cost of the archeological dig is approximately $500,000.

“That cost is borne by the ownership through the TIF,” Kuchenbecker said. “We’re excited about the possibility of learning more about Deadwood’s Chinatown. The site of the property the archaeological dig is occurring on is across the street from the 2001-2004 archaeological investigation that uncovered over 250,000 artifacts from 1876 to the 1950s that helped Deadwood and the state better understand the impacts, significance, and day-to-day life of Chinatown and that area of Main Street.”

Liv Hospitality Group Chief Executive Officer Caleb Arcenaux, who represents the developer, said, they want to do their part in curating and stitching the story of Deadwood’s Chinatown together as part of the company’s planned hotel development on Deadwood’s Main Street. 

“The care of the site is in large part required through the National Park Service, state HPC, local HPC and the city of Deadwood,” Arceneaux said. “We have signed a programmatic agreement that spells out exactly how we are to approach the entire development. The dig will take two months. The artifacts will become the property of the city of Deadwood for citation and display. Those pieces of our history truly belong with the city.”

Kuchenbecker cautioned that while the dig is expected to take between 60 and 90 days, completion is completely weather-dependent.

“If the ground becomes frozen, the investigation will be postponed until spring,” Kuchenbecker said.

This phase of the development will add a new 107 room hotel, planned for construction over the parking lot located southwest of the Tin Lizzie casino. 

The new addition will be a four-story building that will be similar in height to the existing adjacent buildings. The hotel will be constructed on a platform placed over the existing parking lot to maintain as off-street parking. The hotel will be three stories with the lobby located on the second level. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2022.

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