By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
A Wyoming institution turned Wyoming cesspool may finally be getting another chance at life.
The Hitching Post Inn, once the after-hours center of the universe for the Wyoming State Legislature for decades before becoming a crime-ridden dumping ground in the last 15 years, will finally be torn down.
Cheyenne City Councilman Jeff White on Thursday announced the property has been purchased by an outside ownership group and new construction is expected to follow soon after demolition.
“We hope to see demolition of the remaining properties begin in the next couple of weeks,” White said.
The councilman said he was optimistic that new construction could start in 2022.
“The new owner wants to build another hotel, some retail space, and some housing,” White told KGWN-TV. “For longtime residents like me, that land has a lot of sentimental value. There will never be another Hitching Post but I’m glad that this land is going to be restored and improved.”
White said today’s news was a culmination of much work by all the members of the Cheyenne City Council, who unanimously agreed, back in January, that taking care of the blighted property was its top priority.
To that end, the council worked with the City of Cheyenne to create an Urban Renewal Authority which made the property more attractive for outside investment.
Katye Brown, President of the Urban Renewal Authority Board in Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily she was optimistic about the property’s future because the developer is “committed to revitalizing this iconic Cheyenne property” and about other like projects.
“We are so excited to help developers get over the final hump in reviving vacant properties in the community,” Brown said. “The Hitching Post is the perfect project to kick things off, and is the first of many projects the URA will take on.”
Wyoming’s Second Capitol
The property, dubbed “Wyoming’s Second Capitol” by author and historian Sue Castaneda, fell into disrepair shortly after longtime owner Paul Smith, whose family built the original establishment in 1927, sold the hotel.
Then many setbacks occurred — including an arson-caused fire in September, 2010 — and it never bounced back. Instead, it continued to deteriorate until the City of Cheyenne finally condemned it earlier this year.
Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming Liquor Association and one of the state’s best known lobbyists, welcomed the news.
“The Hitching Post was the center of the legislative universe,” Moser said. “That’s where much of Wyoming’s history was made. Sure, lawmakers voted in the Capitol. But you got a lot of votes at the Hitch.”
“It’s beyond time that this property was resurrected,” he said. “I’m very pleased with today’s announcement. As soon as the new hotel is built, I’ll be happy to buy the first round.”
Jonathan Downing, another longtime government relations consultant, had his office at “The Hitch” — one of the most coveted locations for setting up shop in the lobbying world.
“When I worked for the Wyoming Contactors Association, our offices were just off the lobby and a great location to ‘conveniently’ bump into legislators as they checked into the hotel,” he said.
Downing said having one primary location for all of the legislators to go after hours created an atmosphere of camaraderie.
“It was very much like family, and as a family if you were fighting with your sibling over a bill, you still had to sit at the ‘table’ together whether it be breakfast, happy hour or receptions,” he said.
“It is that atmosphere which I hope we can get back to as a Wyoming community, that Hitching Post atmosphere instilled the Wyoming civility for which we are known and a civility I trust we will see in the future,” he said.
Jonah Energy Executive Vice President Paul Ulrich, like Moser and Downing, was pleased with the announcement.
“For decades, you went to the Hitching Post to get things done,” Ulrich said. “I spent many a night at The Hitch during legislative sessions and those were great memories.”
“I’m looking forward to the new hotel and to Mike Moser, for the first time in his life, buying a round,” he said.