These days, Keystone is bustling with activity on any given summer afternoon. Visitors streaming across Winter Street, checking out the shops on Swanzey, waiting for the 1880 Train to arrive from Hill City. But in 1940, Keystone was still a sleepy little mining town with gravel streets, modest houses and a couple of stores.
We were reminded of this recently while looking through the Library of Congress online photo collection. The site has a handful of pictures of downtown — we’re using that term somewhat loosely — Keystone in 1940. The pictures were taken by John Vachon, according to the captions, which unfortunately offer little else in the way of detail. By the looks of the photos, firewood was a big concern for Keystone residents.
In 1940, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial carving was still underway. Gutzon Borglum died in March of 1941, and the carving ceased in October of that year. The nation was still struggling to shake off the Great Depression. And on Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was at war for the better part of the decade.
By the 1950s, the postwar baby boom, new prosperity and the advent of the family road trip turned Keystone into a much different town — a bit more like the bustling burg that it is today.