History

Legendary. Historic. History.

Alex Carlton Johnson, Vice President of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, was a great admirer of the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Lakota Sioux Tribes that called the area home. He dreamed of a “Showplace of the West,” a tribute to the Native Americans and the Black Hills that surrounded him.

And so, on October 3, 1927, just one day before construction began on Mount Rushmore, Johnson began work on the hotel that would bear his name.

What emerged was a structural design that was a successful blend of two spirits: the heritage of the Plains Indians that had so captivated Johnson and the Germanic Tudor architecture, representing the heavy German immigration to the Dakotas.

 

 

On July 1, 1928, less than a year after construction began, the hotel opened its doors to the first guests. The first guest was named Paddy O'Neill's and that's where the bar off the lobby got its name. Thus began a long line of visitors, dignitaries, presidents and celebrities that would stay at the hotel over the decades.Today, as you walk into the lobby, look down and you’ll notice the bricks you step on are all original. Look even closer and you will notice that some have Native American symbols imbedded in them. Although one of the symbols look suspiciously similar to a Swastika, it’s actually an ancient symbol that means the “four sacred corners of the earth,” that was adopted by the Native Americans several centuries ago.

That same symbol is found in many places throughout The Hotel Alex Johnson and is reflected in the one of a kind chandelier, made of war spears, that has hung from the decorative rafters for over 80 years.

As you learn more of the hotel’s rich past, you will begin to understand why it is one of the most historic hotels in America. Hotel Alex Johnson is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been a member of the National Tour Association since 1981. The hotel is also a member of the Association of Historic Hotels of the Rockies and has been a recipient of the First Governor’s Great Service Award and Governor’s Service Star.