Strolling Through History in Downtown Cody
CODY, Wyo., May 24, 2021 – If buildings in Cody could talk, they’d tell stories of unsuccessful bank robberies, once-thriving mercantile businesses, enterprising hoteliers, unrelenting ghosts, frontier justice, time capsules and undying friendship.
It’s been 125 years since serial entrepreneur Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody founded this one-time rough-and-tumble frontier town. In the process of becoming a classic vacation destination and preferred Yellowstone gateway that it is today, the town attracted more colorful characters than you might expect for a teeny metropolis with just 10,000 full-time residents.
Many of the town’s famous buildings are located on Sheridan Avenue, the town’s main street, and visitors often spend hours strolling the street and exploring the galleries, shops, museums and restaurants that those buildings now house.
“Cody has been called the ‘most historic and charming town in Wyoming’ and an ‘American town that still feels like the Wild West,’ and visitors strolling along Sheridan Avenue quickly understand why,” said Claudia Wade, executive director executive director of Cody Yellowstone, the marketing arm for the region that includes the towns of Cody, Meeteetse and Powell and the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. “With the stunning mountain backdrop beneath that great big Wyoming sky of ours, it is easy see why Buffalo Bill Cody was inspired to place his namesake town here.”
Visitors can learn quite a lot about Cody’s history by listening to a free TravelStorys walking tour that was created in partnership with Park County Travel Council and Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The insightful 45-minute tour features brief, entertaining stories that highlight the independence, enthusiasm and visionary thinking of the town’s early settlers.
Here are a few of the places featured:
Cody Country Visitor Center – The lodgepole pine building that anchors the end of Sheridan Ave. was the first home of the Buffalo Bill Museum. The sprawling, one-level building was built in 1927, 10 years after Buffalo Bill’s death, and it was modeled after Buffalo Bill’s home at the south fork of the Shoshone River, the TE Ranch. Museum collections were there until 1969, when they were relocated to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Today, the building houses the Cody Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, Cody Country Art League and Park County Travel Council.
Park County Courthouse – Built in 1912, the Park County Courthouse features a clock tower reminiscent of the one featured in “Back to the Future.” Manufactured by Seth Thomas, the clock was donated to the county by William Robertson Coe, a prominent resident. The clock originally featured a weight-driven mechanism but was later wired for electricity. Through multiple renovations to the building, the clock has been faithfully preserved, to the delight of historians and clock-watchers everywhere.
Chamberlin Inn – Newly arrived from Kansas in 1904, Agnes Chamberlin opened a boarding house on the site of what is now a lovely boutique inn. Her husband helped boost the family income by opening an onsite dentist office without the bother of obtaining a license to practice or acquiring useful dental skills. With its prime downtown location and luxurious rooms, the Chamberlin Hotel was a popular home away from home for many visitors, including celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway, whose signature can still be seen on an ancient guest register. Chamberlin Inn today is an upscale boutique inn that features a popular conservatory where guests enjoy live music, spirits and food.
Carnegie Library – The building that is now home to Millstone Pizza stands as evidence of the powerful role frontier women played in development and growth of the town. In 1906, a group of female leaders, all members of the energetic Women’s Club of Cody built the town’s first small library. They later secured a significant contribution from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and expanded the original building. The original building suffered from termite damage and had to be destroyed, but an annex continued to serve as the book-lending hub of the town. The building was sold in 2008 when the library moved to a larger location. When renovations for the pizza restaurant were undertaken, workers discovered a time capsule containing photos of the original library, old coins and historical documents.
J.H. Vogel Building – Sometimes the town’s entrepreneurs wore multiple hats, as was the case for John Vogel, whose brick building – current home of The Cowboy Palace – served as both furniture store and mortuary. Frontier shoppers would peruse tables and chairs in the front of the building while undertakers were working their embalming magic in the basement below. Mourners would visit their loved ones in a back room that was separated from the furniture store by just a curtain.
Don’t love to walk?
Another good way to learn about Cody history is to take a one-hour Cody Trolley Tour, where riders are provided with a thorough overview of the town and its highlights by energetic narrators.
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations