Touring the Sheridan Inn is a unique experience you’ll only find here in Wyoming. If you’re like us, you’ve long since known about the Sheridan Inn and may be vaguely aware of its history with the likes of Buffalo Bill, but never knew much else beyond that.
Buffalo Bill and his world-famous Wild West Show is intrinsically tied to its history, so it’s easy to leave it at that and think that’s all there is to the ol’ Sheridan Inn. However, when you walk through its historic hallways, see the well-seasoned bar area, its classically adorned rooms, the iconic series of windows, and stone laid fireplaces, you can gather its much more entrenched in our rich history than its quiet appearance will have you believe.
Most of the interior’s structure and decor, plus many other small details have remained unchanged since the Inn was first built in 1893. The history runs deep into the Western culture here, things such as the rumor about the floor plugs that can be found in the centuries-old dance floor were necessary because back in the day, a cowboy would get a little rowdy and fire a round into the floor.
As for its design — its chief architect, Thomas R. Kimball, was inspired by Norwegian hunting lodges. This influence gives the Inn its trademark, unique look. Much of the wood, leather, and glass has been preserved through the years, allowing the inn to serve as living history.
In its remodel, the Inn also added modern amenities that the average traveler today would most likely find it impossible to live without, such as WiFi and personal facilities in each room. We recently sat down with Bob Townsend, an Oklahoma native who has his own personal connection to the Inn and its history to ask about what drew him to it.
How did you come to own the Sheridan Inn?
You know, we’ve had a house there up in the Bighorns, for about 14, 15 years now. So, we were there on vacation, and we noticed that the place was up for sale and that immediately piqued our interest. So we made some inquiries, came up with some numbers, that actually took about three, four months, and eventually we made an offer and they accepted.
What about its history interests you the most?
Well, there’s the obvious about Buffalo Bill and Ernest Hemingway, I believe he wrote most of “A Farewell to Arms” there, and you know there has been a whole host of celebrities and dignitaries who have stayed here. For me, however, there’s a personal connection. My mother worked at the Sheridan Inn for many years, and I have very good, clear memories of my sibling and I playing on the front porch. So, while the other bits are certainly interesting, it was really my own history that really drove me to purchase it.
Where would you like to take the establishment in the future?
Now, that’s an interesting question. During the process of our buying the Sheridan Inn, we didn’t really consider “the future,” such as it was. Our main focus was to preserve its history while making a better experience for guests than it ever had been before.
What changes have you made? What have you kept the same? Why?
The nonprofit that had owned it before us had spent about $4 million on renovations, so by the time we took ownership quite a bit had been done. However, this was mostly in regards to the layout of the rooms. There’s some leather furnishing upstairs that is more or less original, and it was made from about 400 head of cattle, and we’ve kept that in tact.
People are probably expecting a question about the ghost, what do you have to say about/to her?
* laughs * You know, I’ve heard all the same stories you have. I can tell you I’ve personally spent hours upon hours and days upon days in that building, in every nook and cranny, and I’ve never seen any flying plates or rolling chairs or anything like that. So, I think there were generations that grew up with these stories, and maybe they were true, but they’ve passed it down.
So, if there was a ghost, maybe she’s left now?
Well, first of all, let’s put a name to that “ghost.” Her name was Miss Kate, and she was an absolutely wonderful woman. I understand that people like to have fun with the idea of a haunted building, and I certainly find no fault in that, but she was a real woman. Miss Kate Arnold was a woman who worked at the Inn for over 60 years and stayed there in a very small room purely for the love she had for that building. My mother and I both knew her, and she was truly a wonderful woman. There are people alive today in Sheridan who knew her as well. Her ashes are actually entombed at the Inn, per one of her last requests. That’s how much she loved this place. I don’t blame people for having fun with the notion of a ghost, but I think it’s important to remember that she was a very real, very caring woman, who interacted with and positively affected many people.