Historical hotel gets new lease on life
Published: Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Custer’s historic downtown Kleemann House has changed hands and may well have been spared the fate of a wrecking ball.
Clifford and Christine Mumm of Custer purchased the building April 1 and have plans to renovate it, according to Ramona Flaig Bradeen of Coldwell Banker who handled the transaction.
The Mumms were not available for an interview, but Flaig Bradeen said they definitely plan to remodel the building sometime in the near future.
“The purpose of the purchase was to renovate the building. They don’t know when or how or what the renovation will be. They will publicly announce their plans when they are finalized,” said Flaig Bradeen.
She said the Mumms have lived in Custer for the past four years. He is an engineer and she is an architect, which is a pretty good combination when you are talking about renovation, she said.
The Kleemann House has a long, colorful and varied history.
The Kleemann House was officially opened by Aug. 15, 1883. The new "elegant building" featured five rooms of "an office of 24x15; next to the east is the parlor, with stairway between the two. On the west side of the office is a bar room 12x15 and back of this a room the same size to be used for private purposes. The balance of the lower floor, 35x15 is for a dining room which occupies the northeast portion and which can be reached from the office or parlor. The second floor is divided into numerous large and airy bedrooms, such as cannot be found in many hotels in Dakota.”
Paul Kleemann's list of spirits included "the finest Kentucky whiskies, imported and domestic wines, brandies, cordials and cigars and the best brands of bottle Lager."
The Kleemann House had a prominent balcony on which customers used "to take the air." The hotel was the station for trips to Sylvan Lake by 1890 via the tallyho coach and to Wind Cave by Evans stage route. Those attractions began the tourist business in Custer.
The Kleemanns had much success with the hotel. After Paul died, his son, Robert, and Mrs. Paul Kleemann managed the hotel until it was sold.
Coming to Custer in 1910 were Mr. and Mrs. E. B. Wixson, who, in 1922, bought The Kleemann House where he installed a barber shop. The Wixsons changed the name of the hotel to the Pine Cone Inn.
The hotel was next operated by Daryl Whitmore sometime in the 1940s. In the late 1950s, Lester and Phyllis Raad owned and managed the hotel. They put in new modern furniture throughout the hotel.
The hotel underwent another name change in the 1970s when Helen and Paul Peterson bought the hotel and renamed it The General Custer Hotel. A full-length portrait of Gen. Custer placed over the fireplace dominated the entry. Carl Sundstrom, owner of the Custer County Chronicle, loaned Mrs. Peterson a Kleemann House hotel register which was placed in a display case with special glass to keep out ultraviolet rays.
The next owners of the hotel were George "Griz" and Camille Carr. The hotel had begun to deteriorate and the next owner was Lynn Moran who intended to restore the building to its 1883 condition. Moran said she simply ran out of time with her hotel and restaurant renovation plans. She and Mike Maag and Duane Hosek purchased the building in 1997 from Jerry Cameron. Maag and Hosek later sold their interests to Moran’s brother-in-law Carney Nelson and Barb Brisbine.
Old lathe and plaster and ceilings were torn out of the building, Moran said, to lessen the fire danger. She and her group also put a new roof on the structure.
Moran said the last time the building’s apartments were occupied was 1991 when they were condemned by the city. The wooden balcony in front of the building was also deemed a hazard and ordered to be torn down by the city.
She was in possession of a register sheet that bore the name of Buffalo Bill who once visited Custer.
Over the 20th Century visitors to the hotel included mining men, speculators they brought from the East to finance their mines, county residents in Custer to attend to legal business at the courthouse, young women on outings or attending teachers institutes, scientists, astronauts, movie stars, other national dignitaries and tourists.
The hotel reigned supreme as the best in the Black Hills for a number of years.
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