By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
A significant piece of Wyoming’s history is up for sale — and it’s a steal at just $4.25 million.
The historic Sheridan Inn holds a unique place in the stories of the Wild West. Buffalo Bill held auditions on its porch for his “Wild West Show,” and it was once featured in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Notz” as the “House of 69 Gables.”
Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody took over as the Inn’s first proprietor in 1893 – almost 10 years before building his own Irma Hotel 150 miles to the west in the town that bears his name.
The Sheridan Inn was the first property in what would become the “W.F. Cody Hotel Company.”
“It was his home until he went to Cody,” said Edre Maier, the former head of the Sheridan Heritage Center, which operated the Inn from 1990 to 2013. “He used to sit there at the bar, that’s a really famous bar – the second seat from the left was where he sat.”
Once touted as the finest hotel between Chicago and San Francisco, the Inn’s construction was financed by the Burlington and Missouri Railroad and the newly created Sheridan Land Company. The architect, Thomas Rogers Kimball, also designed the Nebraska capitol building in Lincoln.
Modeled after Scottish hunting lodges, Kimball’s design called for 64 bedrooms located on the second and third floors under a gambrel roof, with each bedroom having its own dormer window.
“The Sheridan Inn is credited with having had the first bathtubs and electric lights in this part of Wyoming,” Carrie Edinger, with the Sheridan Community Land Trust, wrote in an article about the Inn’s history. “Running water was provided to the whole building from a well in the basement.”
For 70-plus years, the Sheridan Inn was the center of social life in north-central Wyoming, drawing guests from around the world, including celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway, President Herbert Hoover, Will Rogers and Bob Hope.
But by the mid-1960s, the building had seriously deteriorated and it was condemned in 1967, just three years after being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But it wasn’t long before someone took on the task of refurbishing the Inn.
Neltje Doubleday Kings, an abstract artist (and heiress to the Doubleday Publishing fortune) from New York City purchased the property in 1967.
She became known as “the woman who saved the Inn,” according to the website www.sheridaninn.com, and within a year Neltje re-opened the saloon, followed by the dining room, the Ladies Parlor and another social gathering room, the Wyoming Room. None of the Inn’s guest rooms were open to the public, however.
Although Neltje re-invigorated the property, making it once again the center of social life in Sheridan, less than two decades would go by before the Inn once again faced closure.
Its next chapter would see significant changes under the umbrella of the Sheridan Heritage Center, a nonprofit organization charged with once again refurbishing the Inn and making it the showplace it was intended to be.
“We refurbished it and ran it as a community center,” said Maier, who was the center’s executive director for more than 10 years. “Our goal was based on the National Trust Historic Preservation goals, which is, you use community funds to fix up a historic site, and then when it’s fixed up, you sell it.”
“It was the first building to have a historic preservation easement placed on it in the state of Wyoming,” Edinger told Cowboy State Daily, explaining that the easement was first imposed in 2008 to ensure the integrity of the design and architecture.
As such, the Buffalo Bill Bar, stone fireplaces and exposed wooden beams – as well as the iconic dormer windows that caught the attention of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” — can never be changed.
While the Heritage Center accomplished a complete renovation of the outside of the building and addressed some of its structural issues, fundraising was an ever-present concern, and in October of 2012 the Inn once again was forced to close its doors.
But the story doesn’t end there, of course – a year later, the Sheridan Inn was purchased by Bob and Dana Townsend from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who accomplished what no one had been able to do in 50 years — re-open 22 of the guest rooms.
“Most of the rooms were based on names in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” Maier explained. “So if you go there, then whatever room you stay in, you can probably trace them back to his Wild West Show and what they did.”
And now, once again, the historic property is for sale.
“ The owners have made a significant investment of time and money in the complete renovation of this special property, but they are not experienced hotel operators,” reads the description on the sale website. “They know it is time for a new owner to help the Historic Sheridan Inn realize its full potential. ”