Dells landmark gets makeover
January 29. 2013 3:04PM
Turning heads for decades, the former White Eagle fuel station has housed Schwebach Insurance and Real Estate since 1976. And after careful consideration, Schwebach will continue to operate out of the landmark at the corner 4th Street and Garfield Ave.
With its unique design, the longstanding building is engrained in the fabric of Dell Rapids, making the choice for Tom and Tami Schwebach to update the facility rather than rebuilding an easy one.
“We just kept coming back to the fact that everybody knows the building and knows the location,” he said. “We really like that old building.”
The exterior of the building, which served as Dell Rapids’ primary fueling station when Garfield Avenue was Highway 77, won’t change, besides a new front door. But inside, it’s completely gutted and will be remodeled with technological accommodations that Tom Schwebach said are long over due.
“It was getting haggard, and there were a lot of exposed wires,” he said.
During the remodel, which began in January, Schwebach’s business is operating out of the bottom floor of Dells Dentistry. They move back in March.
The building is believed to have been built in the early 1920s, but the first deed of sale was recorded in 1932. Then, it was a White Eagle fueling station and garage, until Mobile bought out White Eagle a few years later.
“The original building was just a lobby and the conference room, if you look at how it is now,” Tom Schwebach said. “Nothing else had been built yet.”
Eventually, the garage and addition to the south were added.
The rock garden that still sits to the north of the building today was once a massive creation that drew media attention and awe from passing travelers.
The owner of the station, Gus Langeberg, was reported to have spent about 1,000 hours forming the exhibit, which was miniature representation of the Black Hills, showing Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, Game Lodge, Bear Butte and the Needles Highway. Water also cascaded over what was supposed to represent Twin Falls, pumped with an electric motor.
“Mr. Langeberg estimated that more than 1,000 persons stop each week to see his work art,” the Dell Rapids Tribune reported in August 1933.
Years later, when Highway 77 was rerouted to the west side of Dell Rapids, the fueling station closed and sat empty until 1964 when Fritz and Mary Schwebach purchased it.
“They used it to get their son off the street,” Tom Schwebach joked. “He was getting rowdy. There was an old Model A in there and Fritz gave him his tool and said, ‘Here you go. Spend your time here.”
After running Schwebach Insurance and Real Estate out of their home for 16 years, Tom Schwebach’s parents needed more room and purchased the unique building from his aunt and uncle in January 1976.
The upgrades being made now, 37 years since the family business moved in, are an investment, Tom Schwebach said, and a pretty good indicator the old White Eagle fueling station won’t soon be forgotten.
“It would just be too difficult to move,” he said.