First Building Built In Cody 128 Years Ago Is Still Open For Business

The first building built in Cody 128 years ago has been a post office, a poker club, a church, radiator shop and a medical office. It's moved three times but it's still standing and open for business.

AR
Andrew Rossi

May 12, 20248 min read

The Green Front Building was first built in 1896 on Sheridan Avenue in Cody. It's seen here housing the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co. and next to the Cody Hotel.
The Green Front Building was first built in 1896 on Sheridan Avenue in Cody. It's seen here housing the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co. and next to the Cody Hotel. (Park County Archives)

CODY — The first building ever built in William F. Cody’s namesake Western Wyoming town went up in 1896. Nearly 130 years later, it’s still standing and open for business.

The Green Front Building has been the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co., a municipal office, a poker club, a radiator shop, a church and a medical practice. If you know where to look, the structure is a time capsule of its 128-year history.

“The Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co., the Cody Canal, the first post office, the Director’s Club,” said Robyn Cutter with the Park County Archives, ticking off the various uses the building has had over the decades. “A lot of Cody started in this building, and it’s all up in the attic.”

First Front

Cody was founded in 1896, and the Green Front Building was built and opened the same year along what would become Cody’s main street, Sheridan Avenue.

“It started as Forbes Trading Post, an iconic store here,” Cutter said. “The first post office in Cody started in that building.”

Using every resource available, Cutter meticulously traced the history of the Green Front from 1896 to present day, creating a timeline chronicling every owner, business and movement of the town’s oldest building built in Cody.

Although the childhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody predates it by decades having been built in 1841 — it was built by Buffalo Bill’s father Isaac in LeClaire, Iowa, and later moved to Cody — the Green Front was the first built there.

The Green Front was one of several buildings built at the direction of George Beck, one of Cody’s founding fathers who is largely credited with the town's early development and future growth. Thanks to his organizational skills and considerable financial investment, he was affectionately called “The Governor” by Cody’s first residents.

“George Russell did the log work, and Jerry Ryan the stonework, for logs and native stone were our only available materials,” Beck wrote in his memoirs. “Using one or the other, we put up a combination hotel-boarding house for the workmen called the Cody Hotel, a schoolhouse, (and) a two-room frame office now known as the Green Front.”

The Green Front was built next to the town’s first hotel, The Cody Hotel. Both buildings predate Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel, which opened in 1902.

The original Cody Hotel was torn down many years ago. The original site of the hotel and the Green Front is the present-day location of another iconic Cody business, the Silver Dollar Bar.

  • The Green Front Building then and now. Nobody's sure when it lost its flat front facade.
    The Green Front Building then and now. Nobody's sure when it lost its flat front facade. (Park County Archives)
  • In 1944, the Green Front Building was bought by Harley Smith, who turned it into his radiator repair shop. In 1949, Smith moved the building to 1408 17th St.
    In 1944, the Green Front Building was bought by Harley Smith, who turned it into his radiator repair shop. In 1949, Smith moved the building to 1408 17th St. (Park County Archives)
  • George Beck, one of Cody's founding fathers, directed the building of the Green Front Building, then bought it in 1904 and worked out of it into the 1940s. He's seen at left standing in the doorway and at right playing cards in it (the building housed a famous card game).
    George Beck, one of Cody's founding fathers, directed the building of the Green Front Building, then bought it in 1904 and worked out of it into the 1940s. He's seen at left standing in the doorway and at right playing cards in it (the building housed a famous card game). (Park County Archives)
  • The Green Front Building was first built in 1896 on Sheridan Avenue in Cody. It's seen here housing the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co. and next to the Cody Hotel.
    The Green Front Building was first built in 1896 on Sheridan Avenue in Cody. It's seen here housing the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co. and next to the Cody Hotel. (Park County Archives)
  • The Green Front Building when it was Harley Smith's radiator shop.
    The Green Front Building when it was Harley Smith's radiator shop. (Park County Archives)

The Room Where It Happened

In 1904, Beck bought the Green Front Building and moved it across the street and around the corner from its original spot to make way for new construction. He set up an office for his company, the Shoshone Light and Power Plant, in the front room and worked there until the 1940s.

With the new effort to irrigate northwest Wyoming, the Green Front Building served as an office and commissary for the Cody Canal Co. Beck reviewed and approved projects like the Cody Canal and Buffalo Bill Dam that would transform the desolate region into thriving communities.

“It’s still my office even if it has degenerated into a pretty fair gentleman’s bridge club,” Beck wrote.

The second room inside the Green Front was where the Green Front Poker Club met, also known as the Director’s Club. Cody’s founders would meet to play cards and discuss the future of their growing community.

“They did a lot of business throughout their poker matches within that building,” Cutter said.

On The Move

In 1944, the Green Front was sold to Harley Smith, who had been repairing car radiators in Cody since 1912. He converted the Green Front into the Cody Radiator Shop and worked there literally until his dying day.

In 1949, the corner of 13th Street and Rumsey Avenue became the location of a new lodge for the Cody Eagle’s Club. Before construction began, Smith decided to move the Green Front further down the street and up a hill.

Smith loaded the structure onto a truck and hauled it halfway up a hill to 1408 17th St., its new address. Cutter believes the Green Front lost its iconic but structurally useless flat front facade during or shortly after the move.

The Green Front changed hands again when the business owner next door, William McCarter, bought it. He ran Mac’s Refrigeration inside the Green Front Building until 1954.

When the refrigeration business was put on ice, the Cody Church of Christ acquired the Green Front and remodeled it. The congregation held services there until 1956.

The Green Front transitioned from a divine space to a hunting and fishing supply shop called The Outpost until 1966. That’s when Dave Smiley purchased the building to use as the Cody office for State Farm Insurance.

Smiley remodeled the building in 1980 and kept working out of it until 1999. The Green Front is now home to the Kalkowski Chiropractic Center, owned by Dr. Vincent Kalkowski.

That might explains why Cody’s oldest building is still standing well over a century later.

All In The Attic

Cutter wasn’t planning to follow the Green Front's convoluted history. She was researching the history of the Director’s Club when she found a clue in, of all things, an obituary.

“I just figured that the Green Front was moved and torn down,” she said. “The newspaper never said where it was moved to, but Harley Smith's obituary said he died in his building at 1408 17th St.”

Cutter rushed to the address and found the building she had been driving past for years was the Green Front. Even without its long-lost facade, she was confident it was the Green Front.

There was one more piece of evidence Cutter needed to confirm it, and she knew exactly where to find it.

“I wanted to look around the attic,” she said. “Once I told Dr. Kalkowski, he was thrilled. He told me he had been wondering about the building's history for a while. I told him I’d love to go into the attic and look around. So, he gave me the keys, and my husband and I crawled up into the attic space.”

Cutter wanted to find something to confirm one piece of the Green Front’s storied history. In the attic, she found items from its entire history: a neon Frigidaire sign from Mac’s Refrigeration, paperwork from Dave Smiley’s insurance office, and targets that once stocked the shelves of The Outpost.

But the most exciting discovery, from Cutter’s perspective, was in the structure itself.

“I started looking at the ends to see if there was any original wood and nails,” she said. “They had a huge wood panel nailed to the rafters, and some of the rafters were painted green — from the Green Front days.”

There's not much today that identifies this building after more than a century of remodeling and moving as the first built in Cody in 1896, but it is. And it's still in use, housing an active chiropractic practice.
There's not much today that identifies this building after more than a century of remodeling and moving as the first built in Cody in 1896, but it is. And it's still in use, housing an active chiropractic practice. (Park County Archives)

First Fun Fact

The first building in Cody isn’t any more or less glorious in 2024 than it was in 1896. For Cutter, that’s precisely what makes it so fascinating.

Cutter admits that, given extensive changes and renovations in its 128-year history, there isn't much of the original Green Front left in the current Green Front. The intrigue is how such an unassuming structure from Cody's earliest days managed to survive so long.

“The historical value of the Green Front comes from the stories of what it was and how it changed through time,” she said. “A lot of it has been remodeled and replaced, but it was all there in the attic. A lot of business and poker matches got done in that building.”

Now it’s another fun factoid for Cutter to point out to history enthusiasts. The Green Front may have lost its front, but it remains historically intact 128 years later.

“It’s fun just to drive by it and say, ‘You know, that's the oldest building in Cody, and that was built in 1896.’” Cutter said. “Really? It doesn't look like it. But I think people should know that. It’s a fun little tidbit of information.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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