Getting a peek into Pierre's past, 10 feet below the sidewalk - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Getting a peek into Pierre's past, 10 feet below the sidewalk

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The capital city of Pierre, South Dakota is known for its rich history, drawing thousands every year just to experience it.

What you may not know, that history extends more than 10 feet below the sidewalks.

Back in the day, people would access the nearly century-old buildings underground through areas known as vaults. About a dozen of them still sit under the sidewalks giving a view into Pierre's past.

"They're a link to Pierre's former history. Most of [the vaults] are at least 100 years old. They were the access to the lower levels to stores at those times," Pierre City Administrator Leon Schochenmaier said.

Very few people know they exist. But thanks to construction underway of downtown streets and sidewalks, many are discovering them for the first time.

"When we reconstruct them we put in new city utilities under the street and then we connect the utilities to the stores, the water and sewer connections. When we replace those service connections, it's not uncommon we run into a vault. We have to figure out how do we get through. Does it stay there?" Schochenmaier said.

Most building owners want the vaults underneath filled, saving them the expense to maintain them and the liability. But, before they made that decision, they had to discover they were actually down there in the first place.

"I grew up in Fort Pierre and don't think many people know there are vaults under the sidewalk. When I bought the building, I opened the doors and realized three big huge rooms and that's where the sidewalk goes up above," Salon owner Angel Kolb said.

All along Pierre Street, the vaults are considered a hidden treasure.

"It's really cool. They're old, it's history, something you won't see again. It's cool," Capitol Sports Manager Ronda Sweetman said.

The vault underneath Capitol Sports is in the worst shape, according to Schochenmaier.

"It's in such serious condition, that we're very cautious about putting snow removal equipment above it this winter," he said.

In the next few months, the city will pour a new sidewalk to fill in the vault so nobody will know it was here.

The total number of vaults over the years remains a mystery. Only about 10 remain today. While they won't physically be around forever, the memories of them will.

Filling the vaults adds several thousand dollars to the construction already planned. City leaders have been giving tours upon request, with the approval of building owners, as they spread the word about the vaults before some are filled.

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