For sale – An entire South Dakota town

Photo: Eric Ginnard, Rapid City Journal

How much does it cost to have your own town? Only $399k, according to the Rapid City Journal , which visited the tiny community of Swett, South Dakota, now for sale.

The unincorporated hamlet, located in Bennett County, is currently owned by Lance Benson. Once a bustling rural town, Swett suffered from the traditional migration of residents to nearby urban centres, leaving its population to dwindle dramatically. The same fate has befallen many other places, not just in America, but around the world, from a North Carolina mill town, used as a filming location for The Hunger Games, to a French village in Limousin . Both were put up for sale in recent years by their respective owners. While The Hunger Games’ town carried a price tag of $1.4 million, though, Swett is priced at barely one-third of that.

Benson bought the little town on the prairie in 1998 after he became the only homeowner. It passed to his wife in a divorce, only for him to reclaim it in 2012. Today, he still lives there with his wife, watching cars on Highway 18 drive by. Swett’s official population? Three – including his dog.

The Swett Tavern, though, remains a popular place for locals, even if they do not live there. The inn is a gathering place for local cowboys and workers, less a sign of the town’s appeal and more the fact that it is the only watering hole within two miles.

“This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins,” jokes one regular in the tavern, which sits next to Benson’s house. Indeed, “cowboy hats are de rigueur”, notes the Rapid City Journal, while “rusted wagon wheels adorn the front facade”.

The pub is not the only thing you get for your money. You also get Benson’s three-bedroom house, three trailers, a workshop and 6.16 acres of land. (The post office and grocery store have since closed down.) All that for $400k? Compared to the French village in Limousin in 2012, which had some tourist potential, the price is pretty steep. In a time when many struggle to even get on the housing ladder, though, the chance to be the owner of an entire community is a rare opportunity.

Lance certainly feels it is an (ahem) Swett deal.

“I hate to get rid of it,” he says. “If I don’t sell it, if I don’t sell it this first year, I would probably keep it.”