CODY — While many people seek out and sit on the creations of legendary artist and furniture designer Thomas Molesworth, not many can say they’ve lived inside one. That’s because there's only one structure that has the distinct Molesworth Western style built into every floor, wall and doorway.
The Molesworth House in Cody is more than a charming throwback to Western heritage. It’s the only building designed and built by the man who defined early 20th century Western interior design.
A Cabin In Cody
When arriving at the Molesworth House, visitors will see something that many Cody residents don’t: the Molesworth House itself.
Despite sitting only two blocks from the traffic of Sheridan Avenue, Cody’s main street, the Molesworth House is as inconspicuous as any cabin in the woods. Nestled behind two tall pine trees, the house’s wooden structure is almost invisible from the street.
“There’s something about that log cabin home right in the heart of downtown with two giant trees,” Cindy Thomas, the current owner of the Molesworth House, told Cowboy State Daily. “You had all this privacy to it, and yet it’s right there downtown. It’s a fascinating little house, that’s not little.”
Thomas isn’t joking. The Molesworth House is deceptively large, with the three floors covering 4,000 square feet. That square footage accommodates four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, two kitchens (with a third outside,) a dining room and three living room spaces.
The tongue and groove wood walls and floors inside are made of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. And all of it is the original wood used to build the unique structure.
“My favorite part was the wood interior. I was living in a log cabin in town,” said Peggy Potter, the previous owner who sold the property to Cindy and her husband, Steve.
And on every surface, there’s the Molesworth touch.
What Is A Molesworth? A Lot
Thomas Molesworth defined his distinct “cowboy furniture” style from his studio at the Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody. After starting his career in Billings, Montana, he moved his family to Cody and built furniture there from 1931 to 1961.
His first big commission was designing over 240 pieces of furniture for Ranch A in Beulah in Crook County in 1933. Furnishing Ranch A put Molesworth on the radar of anyone who wanted a Western touch in their homes.
In his career, he built furniture for several ranches and hotels across the United States, including the Wort Hotel and Rockefeller Ranch in Jackson. He also made furniture for the home of President Dwight Eisenhower in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the Wyoming Governor's Mansion in Cheyenne.
Many museums, including Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Wyoming State Museum, curate collections of Molesworth’s creations. Molesworth originals are highly sought-after by collectors and often go for exorbitant prices at auction.
On a 2012 episode of Antiques Roadshow, five pieces built by Molesworth in 1933 (a couch, chair, bench, end table, and lamp) were valued between $130,000 and $180,000, even with some later reupholstery.
Molesworth couches, chairs, tables, and other furnishings still sit and are sat on in homes in Wyoming and across the United States. But Molesworth's largest and most unique creation is still in his hometown and available to anyone who wants to experience it.
This Old House
Despite the name, the Molesworth House was never the home of the Molesworth Family. Molesworth, along with his master craftsman and right-hand man, Paul Hindman, designed and built the cabin in 1937, “the height of the Molesworth Arts and Crafts period.”
“The Molesworth Family never lived there, but it was built and furnished in the Molesworth style,” Potter said.
In its glory days, the house was fully furnished with Molesworth furniture. Even the one-of-a-kind Molesworth fireplace was covered with a Molesworth fire screen.
The house is simultaneously spacious and cozy. None of the rooms are enormous, but there are dozens of doorways, so anyone can freely move throughout the interior.
“There is nothing like it,” Potter said. “It’s so unusual.”
Preserving What’s Irreplaceable
The Molesworth House had changed hands several times before Potter acquired it in August 2000. Most of the original furnishings had been purchased and taken elsewhere by then, but everything was still distinctively Molesworth.
Potter did not know its significance until she researched the house and Molesworth. With that knowledge, she felt the historic home had lost much of its grandeur from years of inattention.
“It looked and felt unloved,” she said. “History is important to me, especially Western and Cody history. I didn’t want to see that house fall and be lost. It’s unique and unreplaceable.”
So, Potter put in the “sweat equity” to restore the Molesworth House and get it as close to its original state as possible. She filled the home with furniture built in the Molesworth style to replace the original furnishings and did everything she could to preserve the integrity of the interior and exterior wood surfaces.
A savvy collector could have acquired the Molesworth House and reveled in being the only person to enjoy it. Potter thought otherwise and operated the home as a bed and breakfast and wedding venue after she spent the time and resources restoring it.
Cindy and Steve Thomas were of the same mind as Potter. They continue to operate the Molesworth House as a popular overnight accommodation for families and large groups. The property is managed by the Cody Lodging Company.
“When we saw how she decorated it, it brought the house back to the 1930s,” Cindy said. “It has so much personality behind it and so many novelty items from the period.”
Improving On History
Today, the cabin feels much like it did in 1937. Molesworth himself might walk in at any moment to put the finishing touches on his fireplace.
Cindy and Steve Thomas are planning some improvements to the Molesworth House. They recently refinished the exterior and plan to restore the interior to ensure its longevity.
“We’re rehabbing the floors this winter,” Cindy said. “One of the quirks of the house is the lean in the kitchen area. We did not want to damage the house in any way, but it’s probably been like that for 60 years. We’re not trying to restructure that house. We’re preserving it, making sure it's solid and that it has years ahead of it.”
Potter is pleased that the historicity of the Molesworth House is a priority for the new owners.
“I’m happy they’re preserving what’s unreplaceable,” Potter said.
Even Hindman, Molesworth’s right-hand man, recognized the structure’s significant legacy. Hindman and the City of Cody Historic Preservation Committee attempted to get the Molesworth House added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, although it has yet to be added.
Daren Singer, Chairperson of the Historic Preservation Committee, said the Molesworth House was built “with an unmistakable Western style” and that it “reflects (the) Western heritage and architecture that have become cherished by many.”
Cindy Thomas harbors the same enthusiasm, which is now shared by the hundreds of people who have explored Cody and northwest Wyoming while staying in the Molesworth House. It’s everything someone savoring an authentic experience with all the comforts of home and history could want.
“You’re in the Wild West, and you’re in the heart of downtown,” she said. “It’s amazing.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.