Road Journals Blog—When the Sheridan Inn was finished in 1893, it was the fanciest building between Chicago and San Francisco—and the only building in Sheridan with electric lights. (Coincidentally, just as Sheridan was experiencing electric lights for the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court legally declared the tomato a vegetable. Obviously 1893 was a big year.)
The Inn has hosted everyone from Ernest Hemingway to President Herbert Hoover, Will Rogers, Thomas Dewey, Wendell Wilkie, Bob Hope and a premiere ballerina from the Russian Ballet Company.
Hemingway actually started writing A Farewell to Arms while staying here, but quickly left as he found the place too boisterous for him to concentrate on his craft. Kind of a crazy idea considering the man did much of his writing in Pamplona, Spain, famous for its running of the bulls. It’s no wonder Papa found the place disruptive, though; Buffalo Bill, who owned the hotel for many years, used to take target practice from the rocking chairs on the front porch.
He also held auditions for performers in his Wild West show out front of the building (though not necessarily while he was taking target practice). Local cowboys held semi-regular horse races starting at and finishing inside the Inn: The winner would ride his horse right into the Inn’s bar and buy a round for everyone.
The rowdiness didn’t scare everyone away. One woman loved the place so much that her dying wish was to have her ashes interred there. Miss Kate Arnold first came to the Sheridan Inn in 1901 as a fresh-faced 22-year-old looking for a job. She got one, as a seamstress, then, over the next 64 years, did everything from desk clerking to housekeeping, hostessing, and babysitting. Miss Kate finally moved out of the Inn in 1965, when a new owner made plans tear it down (despite it recently being showcased in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for its many gables).
A local advocacy group kept the demolition at bay, however and, upon Miss Kate’s death in 1968, she was moved back into the Inn. Her ashes were buried in the wall of her favorite third-floor room.
People who have worked in the Inn—even though it’s been closed to overnight guests since 1965, the main floor has been kept open for tours, events, and eating and drinking—have reported seeing and hearing Miss Kate ever since. She’s reportedly been a friendly ghost, occupying herself at a sewing machine and wandering the abandoned halls.
The recent remodel of the Inn to accommodate guests for the first time since 1965 has turned Miss Kate’s favorite room into part of the third floor hallway. Despite tearing walls down, Miss Kate’s ashes remained unharmed and unmoved during the renovation.
The Inn re-opened to overnight guests again in mid-summer 2012. In the meantime, the bar is open and has a restaurant, the 1893 Grille & Spirits, inside. Tours are offered of the main floor of the Inn, too: 856 Broadway; (307) 674-5440.
On a side note: the Sheridan Inn’s unique architecture—all those gables—was pretty alien back in the 1890s. The town came up with many theories for why the place looked the way it did. My favorite? If a monumental flood were ever to strike the town, it was supposed the Inn would flip over and float merrily along, generally unharmed, until floodwaters receded. I’m not sure Sheridanites considered how the Inn would ever be righted post-flood.
Stepping away from hearsay and to the historic record shows that architect Thomas Kimball based his designed for the three-story, 69-gabled Inn based on a Scottish castle he once saw.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to see it rolling over and sailing away.
This blog post was first published in November 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.