LEAD, S.D. — Federal officials are offering a reward to help catch vandals who did an estimated $25,000 in damage to two historic brick buildings originally used to house explosives for a former Black Hills gold mine.

A Bureau of Land Management employee doing a monthly check at the property last summer discovered remnants of a backwoods party at one of the powder houses nestled among the pines and aspens southwest of Lead.

The intruders had installed their own padlocks, fashioned a crude bar from spare timber and corrugated tin — complete with a wooden bench seat — and brought in tables and black upholstered restaurant booth seats for the squatters’ speakeasy.

“They did a pretty good job constructing the bar. I’ll give them that,” said Brenda Striers, a bureau archaeologist.

Unable to enter after bureau officials re-secured the buildings, vandals knocked gaping holes in the brick exteriors of two of them. Bureau officials have offered a reward up to $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of those responsible after the second break-in was recently discovered, the Rapid City Journal reported .

Officials fear the roof of one building could collapse under the weight of winter snow because a hole extends to the wooden rafters. Timbers have been added to temporarily reinforce the roof. Repairs will require research to find identical brick work, roof tin and other materials to maintain the powder houses’ authenticity.

Estimated to be a century old, the buildings had been constructed in a remote area as a reserve storage facility for 50-pound boxes of dynamite and fuses used for mining gold ore at the Homestake Mine. The bureau took over management of the buildings, which were restored in 2008, after mining activity ended in 2002.

“It hurts my heart to see these buildings damaged,” said Chip Kimball, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s South Dakota field office in Belle Fourche. “They’re beautiful old buildings that are absolutely neat to see.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com