Perhaps one of the most impressive examples of architecture in Highmore is the McLaughlin building. George W. McLaughlin founded the first store in 1891 (first photo on the left). No more than a year later, the wooden structure was destroyed by fire. The arsonist, aka “fire bug,” was responsible for several fires at that time. McLaughlin immediately rebuilt in the same location (second photo). His business flourished, and he continued to expand through the early 1900s. Disaster struck again in 1912 when the second building also was taken by fire. However, third time was the charm for McLaughlin’s business endeavors. His third building was a two story brick structure that was huge compared to the standards of the day (third photo).
This 75ft x 115ft building had two floors and a basement. Originally built to accommodate a third level, the thick floors sagged at least fourteen inches when the forms were removed. The only places where the intended height was maintained were the points at which the huge support columns did their job (photo above). All of the shelving had to be “shimmed” to accommodate the issues with the floors and ceilings. It was also a well known fact that you had to “keep one hand on your cart” to prevent it from finding its way to the low point on the floor.
Customers entered the building through two vestibules. These vestibules had doors leading to the various departments. The first floor housed the hardware, grocery, dry good, men’s clothing, and men’s shoes departments. There was also an accounting office where Welcome McLaughlin had his safe and kept records. There was a “trolley-like” system for sending messages back and forth between the office and other departments. A staircase (pictured above) led customers to the second floor. Here they could find the furniture and funeral departments. Welcome McLaughlin was licensed as an embalmer in 1899. He did the businesses’ embalming. Coffins were also built in-house. The McLaughlin store was truly a one stop shop!
The basement housed the freight for each department, the cold storage, and an especially rare treat, a public restroom. Goods were moved up and down to various floors by way of a freight elevator (basement entrance to elevator shown above). When I rode the elevator (elevator shaft pictured above) I noted various examples of graffiti and signatures from years past. In later years when war touched our nation, the building had a fully stocked fallout shelter in the basement as well.
Store by store, the McLaughlins sold out each department until only the furniture department remained. When that last store sold out, the once largest mercantile in central South Dakota closed its doors for good. Currently, the building has been turned into a honey processing plant. The elevator is still in operation, but few of the original furnishings remain. One other remaining feature of the building is the Osh Kosh advertisement on the north side of the building (pictured above, next to the modern photo of the building).(Historical facts and photos courtesy of the Hyde County Historical Society. Modern photos taken by myself, Nikki Gregg.)