Life-size bronze statues of U.S. Presidents stand on nearly every street corner in Rapid City, South Dakota’s historic downtown. In front of furniture stores, hotels and banks the likenesses represent a specific time in our history.
The City of Presidents also was designed to bring art to residents and visitors as they shop, dine and patronize other businesses.
The project began in 2000 to honor the legacy of the American presidency. Every year, four presidential sculptures were added — two presidents from the early years of the presidency and two from more recent administrations. The first four presidents to debut were George Washington, John Adams, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
Don Perdue, a local businessman, first came up with the idea for The City of Presidents. Considering Rapid City’s close proximity to Mount Rushmore, the idea was a good fit for the city often hosting tourists visiting the famous monument and the Black Hills.
Each sculpture is privately funded.
With the exception of George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, every president is now represented.
Each sculpture in complete with a plaque naming the president, his year of birth and, if appropriate, death, the business or individual who donated the sculpture and the South Dakota artist who created it — Edward E. Hlavka, Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby, John Lopez, James Michael Maher or James Van Nuys.
This is one of the largest publicly-owned displays of art providing visitors a walking tour of history.
If you go:
The City of President’s Information Center is located at 361 Main Street and is open Monday through Friday from noon to 9 p.m., June 1 through October 1. For more information check the website at www.visitrapidcity.com.
An excellent hotel only a few blocks from downtown and close to all the Black Hills attractions is Howard Johnson — named 2010 Property of the Year by Howard Johnson International. For more information check the website at www.hojorapidcity.com.