The Old Madison Hotel

Known as the Old Madison Hotel, the building was built in 1878. It was located on the southwest shore of Lake Madison, which was the setting of the original town site for Old Madison.

Old Madison was platted on the 13th of July. William Van Eps of Sioux Falls named the town Madison because of the resemblance to Madison, Wisconsin. William Lee is noted as one of the businessman, being the proprietor of the Old Madison Hotel. Mr. Lee made every effort to maintain his reputation of good service even during the rough times of blizzards when any food could be found as a delicacy.

Food was really scarce during the awful winter of 1880 and 1881. One of the great stories told of Mr. Lee and his good service is during Thanksgiving of 1880. Mr. Lee had somehow produced a turkey, how he had done that was a mystery. But 25 borders couldn’t be fed with a single bird. So he organized a rabbit hunt. It was successful and a number of jackrabbits and cotton tails were shot.

Dinner was announced on Thanksgiving Day. The hungry men had a choice, turkey or rabbit…. One after another they ordered turkey. Well the turkey was running short. An annoyed Mr. Lee appeared at the door with a club and shouted: “Looky here! Some of you fellows have just got to eat rabbit!” The remaining boarders who had not yet been served graciously agreed to eat rabbit.
Later during the 1930’s the building served as the “County Poor House” or so it was called, which was like a county nursing home. It was used for that purpose until its closing and movement to Prairie Village.

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