6 Reasons Why Hotel Alex Johnson is One of the Most Unique Hotels in Rapid City, SD

Posted: June 11, 2018

Located in downtown Rapid City stands the 11 story, magnificent Hotel Alex Johnson. Well-known to many Black Hills residents and visitors, this hotel has enough charm to leave a life-long impression the moment you step into the hotel lobby.  From the subtle glowing red rooftop sign to the intriguing stories left behind in a book of hauntings, Hotel Alex Johnson is arguably one of the most distinctive hotels in Rapid City, SD. Here’s six of its most unique features:

1. A man’s name that can be seen for miles

Vice President of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, Alex Carlton Johnson, thoroughly enjoyed the Black Hills of South Dakota and the culture and history of the Lakota Sioux Tribes. Johnson dreamt of a “Showplace of the West,” which would be utilized as a tribute to the Native Americans and Black Hills history. On October 3, 1927, just one day before construction began on Mount Rushmore, Johnson began to build his dream hotel that would bear his name.

On July 1, 1928, the hotel opened its doors. The first official guest to stay at Alex Johnson’s hotel was Paddy O’Neill, whose name now adorns the bar just off the lobby. Then began a long list of high-profile visitors, which included presidents and celebrities, who have stayed at the hotel over the decades.

2. Famous Guests

Hotel Alex Johnson has hosted six U.S. Presidents in the Presidential Suite. These presidents include Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. In fact, you can even stay in the exact same room that theses presidents stayed in by booking our Presidential Suite!

There are many celebrities that have stayed at Hotel Alex Johnson since it was opened in 1928. One of the more noted guests was one of cinema’s most influential filmmakers in history, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock along with actor, Cary Grant, and actress, Eva Marie Saint, used the hotel as lodging during the filming of North by Northwest. The famous filmmaker even incorporated the name of the hotel into the movie mentioning the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel in multiple scenes. A fitting lodging choice for “The Master of Suspense” given the hotel’s supposed supernatural past, don’t you think?

3. A Haunted Hotel?

Known as one of the most haunted hotels in South Dakota, Hotel Alex Johnson has been the host for both welcomed guests and a few not so welcomed guests. Some people do not believe there are ghosts at the Hotel Alex Johnson, but some have interpreted the stories as an invitation to investigate. Among those curious few are the TAPS crew from SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters. You can view the episode’s recap here.

When it comes to claims of ghosts at Hotel Alex Johnson, people have supposedly experienced a few different “characters” over the years. The most popularly reported story is that of the Lady in White. In the 1970s, it is said that a young bride who was in line to inherit a large sum of money committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window of room 821. Those who knew the bride insisted that there was foul play involved as she is much too happy and friendly to commit such an act. Her ghostly figure, still dressed in a white gown, is said to wander the eighth floor searching for those responsible for her death. Reports say that room 812’s window is often found open and the dresser drawers have been dumped out and put back into place. If that doesn’t give you enough of the heebie-jeebies, maybe you’re brave enough to stay in room 812 to find out yourself? You can book our Ghost Adventure Package which includes accommodation in a paranormal room, a ghost detector and more. For more reported ghost stories at Hotel Alex Johnson, check out the book of hauntings located on the front desk or read a few of the most common tales here.

4. Beautifully authentic

Towering 11 stories high over Rapid City’s downtown streets, Hotel Alex Johnson is certainly not your average, modern looking hotel. The exterior design of the building reflects German Tudor architecture which was chosen to represent the heavy German immigration in the Dakotas. Inside the hotel, you will find the perfect blend of two spirits: the Native American heritage that inspired the hotel as well as a high chimney, an overhanging first floor and massive support consoles influenced by German heritage. The hotel lobby’s floor is made up of the original brick flooring featuring a symbol adopted by Native Americans representing the “four sacred corners of the earth.” Although the symbol looks very similar to a Swastika, it was embraced by the Lakota Sioux Tribe far before it was used as an emblem by the German Nazi Party. The same symbol can be found throughout the hotel including in the molding of the massive chandelier, made up of war spears to reflect a teepee, that hangs from decorative rafters in the center of the hotel lobby. 

One of the most distinctive features in Rapid City’s downtown skyline, Hotel Alex Johnson’s iconic rooftop sign can be seen from miles away. Simple yet distinguishing, the hotel’s glowing red name is staple piece for all tourists that pass by. In fact, you may have even seen a few “selfies” up close with the rooftop sign. That’s because the hotel has a rooftop bar and restaurant, Vertex Sky Bar! 

5. Vertex Sky Bar

Located on the top two levels of Hotel Alex Johnson, Vertex Sky Bar is an upscale, members-only bar and restaurant that takes expectations to a new level (quite literally). Your senses will be delighted by the stunning view of the beautiful Black Hills along with a delectable menu of craft cocktails, fine wines, appetizers, salads, savory entreés and exquisite desserts. All guests staying at the hotel receive complimentary access to the bar and day passes are offered to the public for a small fee. Whether you’re at Vertex Sky Bar for happy hour, a private party, or dinner with an unparalleled view, this bar certainly adds to Hotel Alex Johnson’s reputation as one of the most unique hotels in Rapid City, SD.

6. A Legacy of Luxury

The hotel’s rich history, notable guests and extravagant, modern amenities creates the perfect combination for a Legacy of Luxury. 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.

Whether your honeymooning, traveling corporately, exploring the history and nature of the Black Hills or traveling as part of a large group, you’ll revel in the mysterious allure of Hotel Alex Johnson, one of the most unique hotels in Rapid City.