PIERRE, S.D. – Cecil C. Gideon is honored as one of South Dakota’s Great Faces because of the major landmarks he left in South Dakota. Gideon designed and built many local structures in the Black Hills. The most notable include the Custer State Park Game Lodge and the famous pigtail bridges on Iron Mountain Road.
An architect from Minnesota recommended Gideon to the South Dakota State Game and Fish, which was looking for someone to design a lodge primarily for the use of members in the Black Hills. In 1918, Gideon took a train from Minnesota to Rapid City to meet Peter Norbeck. The two quickly developed a life-long friendship.
Building the State Game Lodge was Gideon’s first major accomplishment in the Black Hills. The location of the State Game Lodge was also the site of a sawmill. All of the wood was specially cut and prepared for the lodge. The lodge opened for business in 1921.
In 1927, Gideon’s abilities were tested when he was given a two-week notice of President Coolidge’s summer visit to the Black Hills. In just two weeks, Gideon built the Coolidge Inn to feed and house the entourage of newsmen and Secret Service that followed Coolidge.
Together, Norbeck and Gideon mapped out Iron Mountain Road. Gideon’s pigtail bridge design was critical to the construction of the road. These bridges were unique in design because they could safely accommodate sudden elevation changes while complimenting the natural beauty of the Black Hills. The pigtail bridges also forced travelers to drive slowly and take in the scenery of the Black Hills. This was precisely Norbeck and Gideon’s vision for the highway.
South Dakota’s Great Faces weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism, designed to highlight people who have had significant impacts on South Dakota, particularly in the visitor industry. Click on the special “South Dakota’s Great Faces” link at www.MediaSD.com
to access the complete list of articles.
Information for this release was obtained from the South Dakota Hall of Fame website.
Photo: Pigtail bridges on Iron Mountain Road and photo of the State Game Lodge, Custer, South Dakota, courtesy of the South Dakota Office of Tourism.