Reptile Gardens...or United Nations?
Many people do not know that the Black Hills was one of the top finalists in the search for a location for the United Nations.
The beginnings of what was to become the United Nations were set in motion back in 1941. By 1942 the term United Nations, coined by Franklin Roosevelt, was first used. Over the next few years the UN Charter was created and ratified and a search was begun for a place to house this new international organization.
Many locales vied for the UN complex. In the end, the final 5 contenders were:a location in Queens, New York, two locations in New York City, Navy Island in Ontario, Canada, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. The South Dakota location that had been selected for the UN was a pretty little valley just a few miles south of Rapid City along Spring Creek. It was ultimately decided that putting this huge complex in the center of the US in a rural area with minimal infrastructure did not make much sense. So, the current site in New York was selected and ground was broken in 1949. Less than 20 years after the Black Hills location was rejected, that same valley would become the new home of Reptile Gardens! We were forced to relocate when Highway 16 had to be moved in order to make it a 4-lane highway.
Recently, Reptile Gardens' board member, Marshall Young found this 1945 design plan for the Black Hills United Nations complex in his grandfather's papers. It isn't hard to imagine how different not only Reptile Gardens valley would be but Rapid City and the entire Black Hills if this site had been selected. The area would be home to millions of people from all over the world, Rapid City would be a major metropolitan area, and many Black Hills towns would likely be absorbed into the Rapid City metro area. You can see on the plan it was also suggested each member country build a small town in its own style in various valleys around the Hills.
Next time you come down the hill into Reptile Gardens valley, picture it filled with that huge United Nations complex and what that would mean for your vacation or for our little corner of the world.