DEADWOOD — Monday, the Deadwood City Commission approved allowing Mayor David Ruth, Jr. to sign a contract with Jack Anfinson for the purchase of the Deadwood Diorama for $45,000.
“This was discussed last year in June. We hired an appraiser to do an appraisal, and it came in at $85,000 to $115,000. We verbally agreed to a price of $45,000, and then we began to design around it with Split Rock Studios for the History and Information Center,” said Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker.
Commissioner Gary Todd asked what the city gets for $45,000.
“It’s a scale model diorama of Deadwood in about 1876, and it’s a one-of-a-kind piece,” Kuchenbecker said. “He’s a model railroader and model maker. It’s kind of our big wow factor for that location, similar to the tent down at the Welcome Center. So the visitors get an idea of what Deadwood was like in 1876.”
“It’s like looking at Main Street in 1876 from the south side,” said Commissioner Michael Johnson. “It’s just excellent.”
In June 2018, Jack Anfinson approached the Historic Preservation Commission with a proposal to purchase a diorama he created based off the June 15, 1876, photograph of Deadwood.
The preservation commission discussed where the diorama could be placed.
“It was decided the diorama could be part of the new displays at the History and Information Center,” Kuchenbecker said.
An appraisal was conducted in July, which gave an assessed value of $85,000 to $115,000.
“Mr. Anfinson proposed a price of $45,000, and the commission agreed,” Kuchenbecker said.
The purchase came to the city commission with preservation commission and staff recommendation as part of the design strategy in the revamping of the interpretation of Deadwood’s history in the new displays at the History and Information Center.
The Deadwood Diorama is currently housed in Anfinson’s basement.
“I have around 2,000 hours of modeling into it, and then I’ve got a few hundred hours just in research,” said Anfinson, who began modeling as a hobby in 2009. “Everything is scratch built. To try and figure out how to construct the buildings, for example, the logs are fit one at a time and no log is the same, just as it would have been back in the day. It’s a lot of intense work.”
Anfinson began the Deadwood Diorama in February 2016 and finished it up about nine months ago.
“I just needed something to do to occupy my time and this was a good one, always a positive one,” Anfinson said. “I got an extremely high score from the appraiser for historical accuracy.”
The diorama also comes complete with a sound component.
“A motion sensor sets off the sound system, which includes an introduction to the piece and bar room scenes; for example, a girl screaming and a guy shooting. I did all the dubbing and the voice is mine on the sound overlay,” Alfinson said.
All-in-all, Anfinson is happy the piece will eventually be brought out of his basement and into the center for others to enjoy.
“I wanted it to be somewhere,” he said. “I was hoping to get it on display somewhere. It kind of gives a taste of what it looked like back and it’s pretty close. Pictures can only go so far.”
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