Joe and Kayleen Caruso are on a mission. They are trying to restore the Kennedy House to it’s original state.
The Kennedy House is located on Old Hill City Road on the land they purchased. It can be seen while on the 1880 train.
The Caruso’s have found that at one point the house was a brothel and a saloon. A large piece of the land was once a part of Addie Camp. The name comes from the miners who worked at nearby Addie Mine and settled there.
A railroad line also ran from Addie Camp to a tin mill east of Addie Camp. According to “Black Hills Ghost Towns” the Addie Mine never became successful, despite shaft and drift mining down to 800 feet.
Another house that sits on the Caruso’s land might have been one of the offices for the Harney Peak Tin Company.
About two years ago the Caruso’s were looking in the area for a piece of land to build a retirement home.
They fell in love with the place they ended up buying and the big skies.
“We spent some time looking in Custer. But I’ve always loved Hill City,” Kayleen Caruso said.
Joe said they looked at about a dozen other properties before finding the one they wanted.
When they came across the Harney Wilderness Estates they knew it was what they were looking for.
They discovered the house had historical significance from a 1880 Train pamphlet. From there they did some other research and kept piecing a few things together.
“Once we talked to a lot of people about all of these rumored things it really generated interest to find out more about the property,” Kayleen said.
They would like to restore the buildings and turn the site into a type of museum.
“We’re antique collectors so we already have tons of antiques at home,” Joe said.
They live in Connecticut and plan to move to the area full-time in about six years.
Joe said what they are going to get done depends on funding.
“We have to do it a little at a time because it needs virtually everything,” Joe said.
They can do a lot of the work themselves with the exception of roofing.
“We’re extremely excited and the response from everyone here that we have told the plans to has been phenomenal,” Joe Caruso said.
He said the locals care a lot about preserving history.
Construction on the house has been slow as they are only able to get away once or twice a year. The house is pretty much the barest it could be currently.
Joe said there will hopefully be electricity there before the year is out. Everything that has been done on the house so far has been done by the Caruso’s.
Moving forward, they would like to be as accurate as possible in their restoration efforts.
Kayleen said it would be great to get more feedback from the public. They are primarily looking for old photographs so everything can be as authentic as possible.
“Anything prior to 1962. That’s the oldest photograph we can find on the Internet,” Caruso.
There is also a GoFundMe page that has raised $700 for the project.
It was just updated recently and is called “Save the Kennedy House Hill City SD”.
Being in the area last week was a breath of fresh air for the couple.
“There’s no need to rush around here. There’s no traffic,” Joe said.
Traffic is getting worse and worse in Conneticut, Kayleen said it doesn’t matter what time of day, every hour of the day there are hundreds of cars on the streets.
“We’re looking forward to an actual relaxed retirement,” Kayleen said.
There is still a lot of work for them back home and with the Kennedy House. But Joe said it will be all worth it for the old-timers in the community to drive by and say ‘that’s just what it looked like 80 years ago’, once they are done.