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The Padley Hotel

In much of our early exploring of abandoned places we traveled mostly rural roads and sticking to the country side. When we did that we started coming across small communities in South Dakota, many that I had never heard of and I have lived in S.D. my whole life. So, we started mapping out these little communities to revisit them. We found that there were many that held hidden gems and a great deal of lost history, in these once thriving towns. Some of these communities were booming once upon a time because of the railroad, but as passenger traffic was lost and major road arteries were built by-passing many of these towns they started to decline in population with some being on the verge of becoming ghost towns.

Geddes, S.D. is one of these locations. On main street sits a three story, brick building, it’s magnitude in size is astonishing. I contacted an old friend that I knew had grown up in Geddes to learn more about this building. The Padley Hotel was built in 1907 as part of the railroad expanding its’ territory, the thought that Geddes was destined to become a regional city. The manager of the Padley Hotel was quite the shady character, who had contacted women out of state to be maids and cooks and once they arrived found they were to be prostitutes for the traveling salesmen that were staying there. He was eventually arrested and convicted and did time in federal prison. The hotel later became a hospital when a Dr. Fyle purchased it in 1917. He was very well respected and loved by the community. He went missing in the winter of 1923 and was found a year later, still inside his vehicle in a small river or creek near Yankton, S.D., apparently having missed the curve of the road. The Geddes Hospital became a hotel once again and when it closed in 1964 it was known as the Castle Hotel.

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When we entered through the front door the first thing you see is French doors and arched entry way and windows, the lobby is bare but off to the side through another doorway would’ve been the grand dining room with its original metal tiled ceiling still trying to hang on. A World Herald newspaper dated 1947 lay chewed up on the floor. We make our way up the stairwell to the first floor. So much of the character and beauty of this once grand hotel has been lost with time, abandonment and Mother Nature, and we think maybe there had even been a fire at one time in here. We maneuver quite cautiously up the second and then to the third floor, with each level the floors and walls seem to just disappear where there is only skeletal remains. A room number clings to a door on the third floor, room #29. There are a few mattresses and springs remaining, but much destruction, including the elevator shaft that looks like a death trap. As we make our way down rotten hallways to the back stairwell we find it is blocked and have to gingerly back track down dicey stairwells to the main floor. There are collections of books in boxes, purses, old chairs, a type writer, and even a child’s doll in the back rooms. We find the stairs leading to the basement are no better than the others we had encountered, but we decide to continue on. In our early years of exploring we did not have head lamps or carry flashlights to guide us (we learned as we went that this is to be a necessity). The basement was black as night and creepy to navigate through; we relied on our camera flashes to see. Narrow cement and dirt passageways held the remains of old items from the hotel, porcelain toilets, the counter top to a liquor bar, wooden mail cubby, many items we had no idea what they were or would’ve been used for. After reaching the boiler room and walking into too many cobwebs to count, we reached the front stairs to exit back out the front of the Padley Hotel, back into present day.

Most of us have seen the movie “Titanic”. We watch the robotic underwater camera’s capture what remains of the Titanic as she lay on the ocean’s floor and they proceed to travel inside the hull of the boat, giving us a tour of the dining rooms, and the staying quarters, showing us the state that it exists today. Then Hollywood magic happens and what we are seeing is the magnificent Titanic as she would’ve been in her glory days. Well in my mind that was what I had experienced while I explored the Padley Hotel from floor to floor, down every hallway and from room to room. I envisioned this once magnificent hotel in its glory day, and if you look really close at some of our photos, you can see it to!