Family Of Cheyenne’s Historic Hitching Post Inn Wants Affordable Housing Near It

Hitching Post Inn family member Stephanie Smith still owns half the land where the famous Cheyenne hotel was located. She hopes to attract an affordable housing project on part of it.

Renée Jean

May 20, 20247 min read

This parcel behind the site of the former Hitching Post Inn, left, could become an affordable housing development in Cheyenne.
This parcel behind the site of the former Hitching Post Inn, left, could become an affordable housing development in Cheyenne. (Courtesy Photo)

CHEYENNE — Not long after historic Hitching Post Inn owner Paul Smith died in 2006, some of his land was sold to developers.

But it turns out that Stephanie Smith, who is Paul Smith’s niece, still owns about 20 acres of what was once a 40-acre tract.

One of her 10-acre tracts, located behind the former Hitching Post site near 19th and Grant streets, is a field of dreams for Smith, who hopes to do something with it that she believes worthy of her uncle’s legacy.

“It took a lot to sell the Hitching Post,” Smith told Cowboy State Daily. “It broke my heart, actually. My uncle asked me to do that, though, because he knew the debts that we were in.”

After selling portions of the Hitching Post in 2006 and 2016, Smith said she had to demolish and clean up the Lincoln Court, a small motor hotel of 25 rooms that predated the Hitching Post, so that the estate could be settled. She did that in 2007.

“We were millions of dollars in debt,” Smith said. “But we got through that, and we didn’t declare bankruptcy.”

Smith’s initial plan was to just sell all of the land, but when the city asked her to donate a 5-acre tract in 2016, Smith did that. The plot is being used for a new and larger gymnastics center.

More recently, to help redevelop the land, Cheyenne also created an Urban Renewal Area (URA) for the Hitching Post Inn properties, including the land Smith still owns.

Smith hopes that the URA will help her build a road and some infrastructure to the tract, that will in turn attract a developer who wants to build affordable housing in Cheyenne.

“This has been a learning process for me,” Smith said. “We are working with the city, and we’re on our fourth review with them. And I’m just kind of learning as I go, because I’m not a developer.”

The iconic Hitching Post Inn sign on Lincolnway in Cheyenne is dismantled Thursday, May 9, 2024, perhaps comign down for good.
The iconic Hitching Post Inn sign on Lincolnway in Cheyenne is dismantled Thursday, May 9, 2024, perhaps comign down for good. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Process Is Slow And Complicated

Once Smith has a green light from the city, she’s planning to put her project out for bids to see if she can get qualified for a loan to build about $3.5 million in infrastructure for the plot of land, which she has had re-platted into six parcels to comply with city zoning codes.

She has so far spent about $93,000 in city fees and engineering work on the property, getting things to this point.

If she’s unable to get financing outright from a bank for her infrastructure project, that is when she understands from talking to city officials that she might then be able to turn to the Tax Increment Financing District, which Cheyenne created as a vehicle to finance developments on the vacant property in its Urban Renewal Area.

TIF Districts are a chicken-egg concept for problem properties, where some type of issue exists that is too costly for a developer to take on the project. The way they work is by borrowing from future tax revenue that will be created once the problem is fixed.

The “increment” is the amount of new tax revenue created in the area once economic development can move forward. It’s used to pay back a developer over a 20-year period or so for making those changes, to get tax revenues moving again.

In the case of the Hitching Post property, for example, the presence of a hotel that needed to be demolished before any work could be done meant a project there wouldn’t “pencil out,” Cowboy State Daily has been told previously by Mayor Patrick Collins.

The cost of tearing down the Hitching Post itself was in the neighborhood of $1.6 million. Smith said she spent upward of $800,000 to tear down and clean up the Lincoln Court.

City officials and various nonprofit housing groups have told Smith the property would be good for affordable housing.

“I think everybody’s just waiting to see if we can get the road in,” Smith said. “We are just kind of at a crossroads to see if we can do that. After that, we’re just hoping that somebody will want to partner with us to buy the land and build affordable housing.”

Smith said if she’s ultimately unable to work out some way to build the road, then she will likely have to just sell the land, not being a developer herself.

“If we’re not able to put the road in, then I just took it as far as I could,” she said. “And that will make me feel good. Then we’ll just hopefully sell to the right person, and they’ll do the best they can with the land, but that’s where we’re at right now.”

Homeless Problem

Smith told Cowboy State Daily she is aware that the vacant property has attracted some homeless people, although she didn’t know anyone was living in the concrete base of the Hitching Post Inn sign.

“We do have a lot of people who come onto our land and camp and build bonfires,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “And we’ve hired a man to keep an eye on our land.”

The man visits the property daily, Smith said, and when he sees someone living there, he points them to different resources in Cheyenne to help people who are homeless.

“There have been some times where he’s been kind of nervous about approaching some of the people, so then we do call the police in,” she said. “But we always try to get them over to Comea and ask them to please not sleep on our land, because we don’t want a fire started.”

Comea House and Resource Center is Cheyenne’s homeless center, which provides shelter as well as programs to help people overcome obstacles to being self-sufficient.

Smith said she’s gone over to the sign a few times in the past, but had no idea there was anyone living in its base.

“But if you drive up the backside of the land up on the north part where 19th Street is, you can kid of see some evidence of where people were going and then leaving during the day,” Smith said. “It’s just a tough time.”

That is part of the reason Smith is hopeful she can find a way to build infrastructure for the property, and then attract a developer or other nonprofit agency that would want to build some affordable housing.

“I could have sold it and walked away,” she said. “But that’s not really the Smith way. And that’s the reason I’m hoping we can get the word out there that we would love to work with an established developer or an agency to try and do some affordable housing, because this is just a horrible situation, and it’s not just Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

Renée Jean can be reached at

Share this article



Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter