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Syndicate Hotel

De Smet hotel at Second & Joliet built in 1887 and torn down in 1991. — Webster, 1882

A very pleasant surprise was given by the boarders at the Syndicate to Mr. and Mrs. Ely last Sunday. A reception was given them and Mrs. Ely was presented with a valuable set of table silver ware. Mr. Ely was made the recipient of a well trained hunting dog; one of the kind that goes on wheels and comes every time you pull the string. This dog eats nothing and requires no license and is a thing of beauty and a joy forever to one of Mr. Ely’s sporting proclivities. The waiter girls and cooks were also remembered with tokens of esteem by the boarders and it was a long-to-be-remembered day at the hotel. Long may Mr. and Mrs. Ely flourish at the Syndicate is the wish of their many friends and patrons. – December 31, 1897


Original locations, L-R: Garland house 1887-1904, Garland boarding house 1880-1887, Ingalls building 1880-1885.

They Syndicate circa 1900, with Mrs. Garland’s second house peeping out to the south.

1889 Charles Ely advertisement.

The second story of the original Garland house is visible in use as the kitchen behind hotel, 1912 McKibben panoramic. Note the former Ingalls building with car in front; the white building between the two was Mr. Tackaberry’s cigar shop.

The Syndicate in its prime. Land agents and clients shown on Second Street, early 1900s.

The former Syndicate Hotel prior to being razed, 1991.

The hotel comes down, 1991. You can clearly tell the original hotel (left) from the 1902 dining room / sleeping room addition (right).

There’s no mention of the Syndicate Hotel in the Little House books, but the building and site have connections to the Margaret Garland family in De Smet, plus Laura and Almanzo stayed there on one of their visits to the area in the 1930s.

In May 1887, a stock company was organized in De Smet for the purpose of building a third hotel in De Smet. The investors purchased Mrs. Garland’s lot at the corner of Joliet Avenue and Second Street, where she and her three children had lived during the Hard Winter of 1880-1881. The wooden structure was a large two-story house which also had served as a boarding house for bachelors, including at times, it appears, Almanzo Wilder. Her property, Lot 1, Block 4, original town of De Smet, was a double lot directly across the alley to the east from the single-width property, Lot 22, Block 4, which the Ingallses owned from 1880 until selling it to John Carroll in 1885. Mr. Carroll had the Ingalls building moved to the back portion of the lot and turned the building to face Second Street when he built his large bank block facing Calumet. The Ingalls building is shown in this location in early photographs, with Carroll’s bank building still standing today and until recent years housed Gass Law Offices, but is now privately owned. Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions the Garland’s property in The Long Winter (see Chapter 9, “Cap Garland”).

When Mrs. Garland sold both the lot and original building to the hotel syndicate, she purchased Lot 2 to the south, formerly owned by Carey J. Thomas. A small house had been moved to the lot in 1883 when Peter Holberg owned it, and it often served as a rental property according to local newspapers. Mrs. Garland lived here until 1904, when she moved into the former Fuller house across town. Lot 2 changed hands several times after she sold it; in 1912, Henry Hamilton bought the small house and moved it to his farm seven miles southwest of De Smet.

The original Syndicate Hotel building was a single 3-story square brick “block” on the corner, about 30 by 50 feet in footprint. Prior to construction, Garland’s boarding house building was moved to stand only a few feet south of the hotel façade on Second Street. It served as the kitchen for the new hotel, which opened to great fanfare in October 1887:

     New Hotel Festival. Grand Opening of the New Syndicate Hotel at De Smet. Happy Speeches. The grand opening of the Syndicate Hotel on the evening of the 28th although not favored by a very large attendance, was a success, and proved to be a very enjoyable occasion. At about 8:30 o’clock the crowd gathered at the Opera Hall, and a pleasant hour was devoted to toasts and short speeches from several of the citizens. Judge Barnes delivered the address of welcome.

     Mr. J.F. Watson followed with some pleasing reminiscences of hotel life, at an early day, in Dakota. Mr. E.H. Couse recounted some of his experiences pioneering in Kingsbury county, when nothing was to be found between Lake Badger and Spirit Lake but an interminable sea of grass; and Mr. J.A. Owen delivered a short sermon on co-operation, sticking closely to his text, and urging his hearers to stick to the practice of it.

     Then the seats were cleared from the hall, the music struck up, and all enjoyed themselves to the utmost in the pleasures of the dance. At about eleven o’clock some seventy five couples betook themselves to the pleasant dining-room of the Syndicate, where the tasteful arrangements were a feast for the eyes, and, under the inspiration of such surroundings, no wonder that they did full justice to the elegant repast, served under the management of the genial landlady, Mrs. Usher.

     After supper most of the company again repaired to the hall, and as they departed many times was the wish expressed that Mr. and Mrs. Usher might long remain in De Smet to make the Syndicate a home for all who come. – October 29, 1887, Huron D.T, Daily Huronite

Mr. and Mrs. C.L. Usher managed the Syndicate Hotel for about half a year, then Carrie and Charles Ely took over. An early lumberman and builder in De Smet, Mr. Ely was said to be a “born hotel man,” and he had previously been running a competing hotel, the Howland. This was formerly the Exchange Hotel but is known to Little House readers as Mead’s Hotel, located at the north end of Calumet only two doors from Royal Wilder’s town property. The Elys ran the Syndicate – with a few breaks – until the late 1890s. Other landlords prior to 1930 included E.A. Rowley, Peter Randklev, D.M. McQuarie, J.B. Moore, Bert Wilcoxson, and George Lynes.

In 1902, Peter Rendklev made extensive improvements to the Syndicate, including a new 2-story brick addition to the south, with ten new sleeping rooms on its second floor and a large dining room on the main floor, converting the original dining area to a large room where traveling salesman could exhibit their wares to local merchants. It made the Syndicate one of the largest hotels in South Dakota at the time. Rendklev moved the former Garland building to a location farther south on the lot behind the brick portions facing Joliet and Second. The Garland building remained the kitchen, and the areas between it and the hotel buildings to the west and north were closed in, allowing covered access to both the new dining room and what was called the Sample Room. The hotel was still in this configuration when the Wilders returned to De Smet.

Always a popular entertainment spot, check out this menu for the Syndicate’s 1907 Christmas dinner: Oyster Cocktails, Salted Wafers, Queen Olives, Clam Bouillon, Shredded Celery, Horseradish, Sugar Cured Ham, Christmas Goose, Apple Sauce, Roast Turkey with Oyster Dressing, Lemon Jelly, Cranberry Jelly, Prime Roast Beef with Mushroom Sauce, Chicken Patties, Lemon Sherbet, Fruit Salad, Italian Chestnuts with Whipped Cream, Mashed Potatoes, Boiled Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, English Plum Pudding, Apple Pie, Mince Pie, Lemon Pie, Nuts and Raisins, Coffee, Tea, Milk. Price, 50 cents!

The hotel was known as the De Smet Hotel at the time the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society was formed in the 1970s. It was considered a homey place, with some rooms combined and converted to three apartments, sleeping rooms, and a Beauty Shop in the building, although the dining room had closed. Having fallen into disrepair, the hotel was torn down in 1991. A local nursery and greenhouse, a fitness center, and other offices are located on Lot 1 today. A small house of more recent construction stands where Mrs. Garland’s second home was located on Lot 2.


Syndicate Hotel, see also Garland family, Charles Mead, Charles Ely