- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The yellow brick and ivory terracotta front of the St. Charles Hotel has long been a shining architectural jewel of South Dakota’s capital city. But that doesn’t mean the current owners aren’t trying to polish it up a little.

Leroy Foster, who bought the building in January 2013, has spent the past 21 months making renovations to the historic structure. The latest effort was the installation of 20-watt LED lights around the top story of the building to illuminate it at night, the Pierre Capital Journal (https://bit.ly/1FMbGew ) reported.

People driving down Euclid at night now cannot help but notice it and see the newly installed flag pole in front of the building, he said.

“It makes it gorgeous and draws attention to the building,” Foster said.

But the new lights are just the latest in a string of improvements to the former hotel, which was built in 1911 by prominent businessman Charles L. Hyde. During its heyday, the building was host to presidents, celebrities and entertainers while also serving as a hub of activity during legislative sessions.

The hotel was sold by Hyde’s descendants in 1948 and served as a hotel and apartment hotel until 1985. Since then it has been an apartment and business complex.

Foster said that by making the place shine once again he hopes to make it more attractive to tenants and businesses.

His son, David Foster, said restoring the hotel has been a labor of love for his father and sister, who both adore the building.

“It’s more of a project than a business - to make it grand again,” he said.

One of those grand plans is redoing the second-floor deck on the front of the building. Eventually it will have patio furniture for tenants to enjoy or hold private functions. Already there have been two requests to shoot wedding photos there.

Another goal is to have a restaurant operate on the first floor, something that has not happened in several years. Foster acquired the liquor license for the space last summer to help any eatery that wishes to move in.

While making the building new and exciting is definitely a goal, the Fosters are also doing their best to preserve and display the building’s history.

On display in the lobby is furniture from Hyde’s office, including both his roll top desk from the Hyde Building on upper Pierre Street and his secretary’s desk, which Hyde signed the inside of. These come to the hotel courtesy of Hyde’s great-grandson Don Gallimore.

Also prominently presented are various bits of Hyde or St. Charles memorabilia. These include “Pioneer Days,” Hyde’s autobiography, his glasses, postcards depicting the hotel, stamps and historic photographs. While some of these items come from Gallimore or the South Dakota State Historical Society, more than a few items in the collection have been found simply by searching eBay.

A sign on a case asks anyone who might have something connected to Hyde to contact Foster.

Each story in the hotel also has a framed copy of the building’s blueprints to show the original floor plan. Snippets hung in the lobby include some interesting features, such as the swastika that was carved on the front desk. At the time the symbol stood for good luck and prosperity.

And Hyde enthusiastically believed the town would prosper, saying it would “quickly” reach 25,000 residents. During a five-year stretch, he built numerous buildings including the St. Charles and the Hyde and Pierre blocks without borrowing a dime from the bank, David said.

“It’s taken us 100 years to reach the size he thought we’d be in 10 years,” he said.

David said the restorations he and his family are putting into the hotel are beautification efforts that Hyde, who put grand ballrooms in two of his buildings, could appreciate.

“He liked his buildings to be nice,” he said.

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Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, https://www.capjournal.com

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