A Tradition of Military Readiness
Rapid City's next-door neighbor is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base and a growing residential community for both military and civilian families.Its population was estimated at 8,753 in 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau. It's also the eighth fastest-growing city in South Dakota.
Founded in 1907 as a whistle stop on the Chicago & North Western Railroad line, Box Elder took on an important new role in 1941 as home to the Rapid City Army Air Base.
During World War II, the base was a training facility B-17 bomber crews. It later served in a variety of roles. In 1953, it was named renamed in honor of Brig. Gen. Richard Ellsworth, who died in a crash over Newfoundland.
During the Cold War, Ellsworth was a missile and bomber base, hosting a missile wing and a fleet of B-52 bombers. In 1987, the B-1B Lancer bombers came to Ellsworth. Today, Ellsworth has 28 of the sleek B-1s. In addition, the base’s Air Force Financial Services Center provides support to nearly 400,000 Air Force personnel at 82 locations in the U.S. and overseas.
The base has a population of 9,500 military members, family members and civilian employees. Ellsworth’s total impact on the South Dakota economy is estimated at $331 million. Also, Box Elder is fast becoming the go-to destination for young families seeking affordable housing. Between 2010 and 2013, the city issued more than $71 million in building permits, mostly for single-family homes.