Eye on KELOLAND: Preserving the McGillicuddy house


A Rapid City classroom is building education to the next level. Students are learning how to preserve a 140 year old building while receiving academic credit.

History and geometry are very different subject, but not to these Rapid City High School students. They’re learning both at the McGillicuddy house.

“They didn’t have the technology we do now so we have to figure out a way around it to see which walls we need to replace a little bit or add one on top of pretty much. And which walls we keep here because they’re actually straight enough,” Landy Drake, sophomore at Rapid City High School, said.

Dr. Valentine McGillicuddy, former mayor of Rapid City built this house in 1887. Today students are preserving a piece of Rapid City’s history.

“I think getting young people involved with historic preservation which is what this is, is really important and they learn a little bit of history, a little bit of Rapid City’s history and I think it’s absolutely amazing,” Jean Kessloff, President of Historic Rapid City, said.

Kessloff, says the house was designed to be an important part of the communities history. It’s painted green on the upper level because of the Black Hills, the trim is red trim for the old race track and cream for the Badlands.

“I think people that work on old houses is something that is very lacking everywhere and I just see this explode into something great for the students, great for history no matter what town,” Kessloff said.

Teacher Jeff Nelson says this hands on work is much different than learning in a classroom.

“The problem solving we are looking at, how to build these partitions on floors that aren’t level. Walls that may or may not be square. The students behind me are figuring out where exactly to put that wall and how do we attach it. It gives them an exposure that you can’t get in the classroom,” Jeff Nelson, Geometry and Construction teacher at Rapid City High School, said.

Rapid City High School is only a few blocks from the McGillicuddy house. Students walk over after lunch two times a week. The class period is about two to three hours long.

“So the students select the offerings they need for that day. On these afternoons where these students are here, they are not taking one of their other classes. But by the same token, Tuesday mornings they are not in construction class, they are in their math or English or history,” Nelson said.

In addition to getting hands on experience in geometry and history, students are also preparing for life after high school.

“It’s a life skill in case later on in our future we want to build a shed or build a porch, we know how to do it now, it helps out a lot,” Jaden Kaufman, junior at Rapid City High School, said.

Students Jaden Kaufman and Landy Drake are grateful to have this experience.

“It shows you what we did before, things you can’t see now that you would see back then all the time,” Drake said.

“In many communities they build a new house, which can provide great value to that community also but the opportunity to go into a project like this where we’re not just doing construction but we are preserving, that which came before us. That has great value too,” Jeff Nelsen, said.

These students are taking a trip back in time to learn important job skills for the future.

The students receive a total of two credits for this course. This is the first year Rapid City High School offers Geometry and Construction class and the first year of the McGillicuddy house project.

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