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Rescuing a Colonial

An original hitching post inspired the equestrian theme on Pierre's newest bed and breakfast.

Ron Lutz tends to the bridges of South Dakota and the nation by day; by night he has long been the king of hospitality in Pierre, operating hotspots like the Whale Inn, The Flame, the St. Charles and The Falcon.    

An engineer with Aaron Swan and Associates, Lutz is also an accomplished vocalist who sometimes sings with Jim Szana, a popular jazz pianist in the Capital City.

He borrowed on all those skills and more when he bought the old house at 635 North Euclid in Pierre’s historic district. The foundation of the 1907 Colonial seemed unstable, but the interior charm won his heart.

“When I got ready to sell the St. Charles, I thought I’d like to have a smaller bed and breakfast,” says Lutz. “I came and looked at it, and it was a wreck but I started to design how it might work and it seemed possible. I wanted it to run more like an inn with separate bathrooms in every room.” So Lutz enlisted the help of Jeremy Phelps, the new business manager at Aaron Swan and Associates. Phelps wrote his master’s thesis on turning a midcentury castle in Germany into a bed and breakfast.     

Lutz and Phelps nervously exposed the foundation, cutting away volunteer trees that had grown around the foundation, trapping moisture and causing the settling and cracking. Workers trenched around the exterior basement walls and re-enforced them with concrete.

Then they opted to replace all the electrical and plumbing. “We pulled 7,200 feet of wire for the contractor,” Lutz laughs, “and it didn’t do my shoulders any good.”

They labored to save the old house’s charm. “We wanted to leave it as untouched as possible,” Lutz says, so they painstakingly polished and preserved the “egg and dart” trim molding, sanded and stained the hardwood floors and repaired the original metal lock and key for the big front door.

Ron Lutz used his engineering and hospitality skills to renovate the Hitching Horse.

With the design skills you might expect from an engineer, they were able to convert the five-bedroom home into four bedrooms with four baths — and make every room look as if it was always there.      

They decided to call it the Hitching Horse B&B, recognizing an original iron hitching post still standing on the front lawn. They opened to wonderful reviews from travelers in 2009. Guests appreciate the establishment’s architecture and décor, and they rave about the complimentary breakfasts. They’ll cook whatever you wish, but they specialize in gourmet omelets with toast and accompanied by a salsa recipe handed down from Lutz’s mother.

Phelps also partnered with Lutz to open The Equestrian, a 3-stool bar (with more seating in the living room and on the porches.) Lutz, Szana and other Pierre musicians have entertained there many times. The lounge is open six evenings a week, except when the state legislature is in session. 

When Lutz bought the house, he was unsure of its history. Since then, he and Phelps have learned that it was built by Lester Clow, a local lumberyard operator. Supreme Court Judge Samuel Cleland Polley lived there in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by the Morrissey and Hansen families.

Members of the Dean Hansen family, who are active in South Dakota horse breeding and racing circles, gather nostalgically at the Hitching Horse on the first Saturday in May for a Kentucky Derby Party. New traditions are growing in one of Pierre’s oldest homes.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the May/June 2018 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


05:52 pm - Fri, August 9 2019
John Cacavas said:
Great story! Hopefully we can stay sometime.

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