Buffalo Ridge Resort and Business Center was once the first South Dakota, School for the Blind which was a collection of nine buildings on 37 acres in Gary, SD. For more than 60 years it served as the state’s educational facility for blind children. In 1895, the citizens of Gary, SD lost their status as county seat and offered the Deuel County Courthouse Building to the state to be used as a school for the blind. Because the original building was unsuitable for a school, the citizens of Gary raised to money to build a two-story brick structure (1899-1900). The school opened in 1900 making it the 42nd school for the blind in the nation. Average enrollment at the school was 55 to 60 students per year. From the beginning, the course of instruction offered at the school followed closely what was taught in the common schools of the state. In addition to the regular curriculum, braille was taught, as was gymnasium, industrial work, piano tuning, broom making, chair caning and upholstery, as well as domestic science. The school was self-supporting with its own dairy, hogs, beef, chickens, and gardens. The garden produce was stored in the root cellar, which is now the wine cellar for the Rock Room Bar and Grill. The students were a big part of the community as people in town would often give the students rides to church, or other places, if they needed one. In 1957-58, the idea of relocating the school was surfaced. The major contentions were the need for additional facilities at Gary, the lack of travel experiences for the students, and proximity to a college. In 1961, the school was moved to Aberdeen and the main buildings were then used as a supervised living home for the elderly. Since the early 1980s, the buildings had been vacant. Although vandals, weather, and vermin had taken a toll on the structures, none of the buildings have been altered and most are considered structurally sound and in good condition. The beautiful neoclassical – and classical-revival designed complex includes classrooms, administration offices, dormitories, barns, boiler building, playground, unique water fountain in an old flower garden, and a gym/auditorium with a stage. In December of 2008, Joe Kolbach, a local entrepreneur, purchased the campus from an estate. On December 12, 2008, the residents of Gary, SD and the surrounding areas gathered in the south dormitory auditorium for a community meeting to ask for their input into future activates that could tie into the facility. Restoration of the buildings and the reestablishment of Lake Elsie began in December of 2008 with a completion goal of Gary’s annual 4th of July celebration in 2009. The project started in phases which began with the first two dormitory buildings which were built in 1910 and 1924. The boiler and administration buildings were able to be renovated at a later date. On July 3, 2009, the Herrick Hotel, Woodbury Hall, and the Talking Waters Campground were opened. In July of 2010, the Rock Room Bar and Grill was established on the bottom floor of the Administration Building.
The field stone pillars, termed, “the Judges” that light up the campus, were the boundaries for the students. Passing beyond “the Judges” required notification and/or accompaniment of a chaperone.
The lower level was an auditorium with a stage located at the north end. This stage was removed during restoration. The upstairs floor served as the dormitory for the girls. The Kitchen once served as the Band Room for the students. While the Men’s Restroom once served as the Choir Room, and the Women’s Restroom served at the Instrument Room. Woodbury Hall has all of the original woodwork with the exception of the ballroom floor and windows. The ground level is currently used for banquets, receptions, business meetings, and conferences. The top floor has six business offices and a conference room.