cheyenne: a historic walk, frontier days, & mid mod etc.

After eating leftovers for lunch in our room at The Plains Hotel, we went on a self-guided Historic Cheyenne Walk.

The Paramount Cafe was originally the Capitol Avenue Theatre built in 1904. It has housed a hotel, two theaters, a millinery (a ladies hat store), and survived two fires. It is now a cocktail lounge.

The Nagle-Warren Mansion has a long history that involves two men, Erasmus Nagle and Francis E. Warren. Erasmus Nagle was known as the “Merchant King of Wyoming;” he sold pots and pans to rural folks and became wealthy enough to afford to build a brick house in 1874. He claimed he had the “biggest and best house in Cheyenne” so was shaken when Francis E. Warren built a sizable house next door.  Erasmus decided to build a bigger house at the far east end of the block, using inferior stones that were deemed unfit in the building of the new Capitol Building. After he died, the inferior stones were crumbling and the home was covered in concrete stucco.  At that time Senator Warren bought the house, now known as the Nagle-Warren Mansion.  It is now a bed and breakfast, listed in the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America and the National Register of Historic Places. Inside we could see the home’s cherry, maple and oak woodwork, original chandeliers and 19th century furniture. Warren’s good friend President Theodore Roosevelt and other famous people spent time here.

Francis E. Warren was one of the most influential men in Wyoming.  His sharp business savvy and easy ways made him the richest man in the territory by the early 1880s. In 1890, when Wyoming became a state, he was elected as one of the first two senators and held the office for 37 years.

First United Methodist Church (also known as First Methodist Church) at 18th and Central was built with local red sandstone in 1890 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  The meager congregation of nine, founded in 1867, paid the railroad a dollar for two lots to build their sanctuary. In 1871, the first church was dedicated and nicknamed the “Little White House.”

To make room for the new structure in 1890, the Little White House was dragged into the middle of Central Avenue using horses and ropes. For three years, weddings, funerals and services were held in the little church in the middle of the street. The current building was dedicated in 1894.  The Little White House was then dragged to the Union Pacific rail yard where, in its final days, it was used as a hay barn.

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First United Methodist Church

The Ithamar C. Whipple Mansion was built by Whipple in 1883.  He, Nagle, and banker Henry Hay developed the Union Mercantile into a wealthy enterprise. Whipple was also a sharp financier and cattleman.

Territorial Supreme Court Justice John Lacey also owned this house at one point.  He was legal counsel for Thomas Horn, Jr. during his murder trial.  For a number of years in the 1930s, it was a Greek gambling house and brothel. Also among its residents were hoards of pigeons that made themselves comfortable in the cupola to such an extreme that the tower had to be removed.

Tom Horn was an American scout, cowboy, soldier, range detective, and Pinkerton agent in the 19th-century and early 20th-century West. Horn was convicted in 1902 of the murder of 14-year-old Willie Nickell, the son of sheep rancher Kels Nickell, who had been involved in a range feud with neighbor and cattle rancher Jim Miller. On the day before his 43rd birthday, Horn was executed by hanging in Cheyenne.

We wandered a bit more through the neighborhood and found other historic homes converted into businesses or abandoned.

(Information on the Historic Walk is from the Downtown Cheyenne Historic Walking Tour pamphlet created by the Cheyenne Downtown Development Foundation.)

We found more of the cool painted “talking” boots throughout the town.

We drove to Holliday Park to see Cheyenne’s Big Boy 4004. Twenty-five Big Boys, the world’s largest steam engines, were built exclusively for Union Pacific by the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York between 1941 and 1944. Each locomotive was 132 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds.

On October 31, 1958, Cheyenne’s 4004 took its final run, traveling from Cheyenne to Laramie. It was stored for a few years in Laramie before being donated to the City of Cheyenne. Cheyenne’s 4004 is one of eight remaining Big Boys on display throughout the country.

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Mike and “Big Boy”

We went to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. The last weekend in July is Frontier Days and draws nearly 200,000 people annually.

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sculpture at Frontier Days Old West Museum

The museum showcases one of the largest Western carriage collections in the U.S. Many different carriage services operated in the early days of the Union Pacific Railroad to support the multitudes arriving by rail.

The museum also features a new narrative on the Cheyenne Frontier Days experience, which has been going on since 1897 with the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western Celebration.  It was held from July 19-28, 2019.

Theodore Roosevelt looked out over the events of Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1910. The President’s arrival in Cheyenne was so significant that many special events were scheduled. Even the Barnum and Bailey Circus was added to the roster that year.

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Theodore Roosevelt at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1910

We found that in the Wild Horse Race, a rider has 90 seconds to train and ride a wild horse.

Originally built to feed cowboys out on the range, chuckwagons, or “chucks,” were made to move quick and cook up a tasty meal.  The Chuckwagon Race, a fast-paced race of chucks fueled by horsepower, was discontinued in 1994 because of liability issues.

Saddle Bronc is one of the oldest and most difficult rodeo events.  In order to score, the cowboy must synchronize himself to the motion of the horse.  The cowboy holds on to the horse using a rope attached to a halter, his legs, and only one hand.  His feet must stay at the top of the horse’s shoulder for two jumps at the start of the ride, called “marking out,” and continue to spur the shoulders throughout the ride. The cowboy’s free hand cannot touch his body or the horse for a full 8 seconds.

Bull riders must ride the bull for 8 seconds.  The bull will try to unseat the rider off by spinning, kicking, bucking and twisting. If the cowboy stays on, he scores.

Steer roping has cowboys competing to rope steers the fastest. In competition, the cowboy ropes the steer around the horns, which are reinforced for protection.  After the rider ropes the steer, he ties off rope to saddle and as quick as he can ties three legs together to finish.

Barrel racing is when cowgirl and horse engage a cloverleaf pattern around barrels as far apart as 105 feet. The course is often run in under 20 seconds.

Steer wrestling requires the steer wrestler, or bulldogger, to lean off his horse and onto a sprinting steer.  From there the cowboy must catch the steer (often weighing between 450-650 pounds) behind the horns, stop its momentum (it can often run 30 mph), and wrestle it to the ground with all four feet pointing the same direction.

We saw movie posters, Native clothing, a Rodeo Clown uniform, posters for Cheyenne Frontier Days, western paintings, and cowboy and horse sculptures.

Information about the events at Cheyenne Frontier Days is from signs at the museum.

After leaving the Frontier Days Museum, we went into the adorable shop Mid Mod Etc. on Pioneer Avenue.  It specialized in 50s/60s furniture, accessories, and automobilia.  Sadly, it would be closing by year-end because the owner planned to retire.

We had dinner at the Met Downtown.  I had a “Contortionist and Cucumber Collins” – gin, muddled cucumber, lime, a club soda, and orange flower water. I also had the soup du jour: a very thick chicken tortilla soup with a cream base and a Metropolitan Salad: arugula, peaches, goat cheese, candied walnuts and citrus vinaigrette. Mike had a Cowboy State Golden Ale and I’m sure he ate some food, but I don’t remember what.

After dinner, we went back to the Wrangler store, where we both did some damage suiting ourselves up with plaid flannel shirts. 🙂

*Steps: 10,529, or 4.46 miles*

*Tuesday, September 24, 2019*