In 1892, the railroad had been built as far as Sheridan, Wyoming. With westward expansion in its height of popularity, the railroad line served to bring adventurous souls out West in search for a new life, and sending agricultural goods, coal and cattle back East. Recognizing the significance of the railroad in establishing the new frontier, the Sheridan Land Company, with the blessing of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, undertook the ambitious task of building the Sheridan Inn. Construction of the Inn began in December of 1892 and was completed only six months later.
The Inn originally sat on one and a half acres of land and was 130 feet long and 50 feet wide, surrounded by a porch that was 150 feet long and 30 feet wide. It is reported to have cost $25,000 to construct.
Shortly after the Inn was built, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, an entrepreneur and world-renowned showman, purchased the business of the Inn as the first establishment in his W.F. Cody Hotel Company. Buffalo Bill, a frequent visitor at the Inn, often held auditions for his Wild West Show on the Inn’s front lawn, offering train passengers an up-close glimpse of the “Wild West.”
The Inn also served as a stop for Buffalo Bill’s W.F. Cody Transportation Company, which ran a stage line between the Inn and Deadwood, South Dakota.
In the following years, the Sheridan Inn remained one of the central attractions of the area, offering weary travelers many of the amenities and luxuries only seen back East. The Inn was the first building in Sheridan to have electric lights, for example.
With the rise of other means of transportation, the Inn’s popularity began to wane. Through much of the 20th Century, the Inn found itself under numerous owners, all struggling to keep the Inn maintained.
The tolls of the Inn’s hasty construction in the winter of 1892-1893 were becoming more apparent with each passing decade. From the late 1930s through the 1960s, the Inn found itself in a constant state of changing ownership, as the proprietors struggled to maintain the building and operate the business. Despite earning a designation as a National Historic Landmark only a year earlier, the Inn closed its doors in 1965 after the owners found themselves in financial and legal troubles. Community members and advocates of the Inn feared the worst, as rumors of bankruptcy and the Inn’s demolition spread through Sheridan.
Recognizing the historical significance of the Inn, the Sheridan County Historical Society came forward in an attempt to save the landmark. As a last ditch effort to save the structure itself, the Historical Society held an auction, during which the interior furnishings were sold. Despite bold attempts to raise the necessary funds, auction proceeds feel short and the Inn’s future remained in doubt.
In 1967, Neltje—a New York heiress who had relocated to Wyoming only a year earlier, purchased the Inn. She immediately became known as the “woman who saved the Inn” and undertook the ambitious task of renovating and updating the building. In 1968, Neltje re-opened the Inn’s saloon, which was followed a year later by the re-opening of the dining room, the Ladies Parlor and the Wyoming Room, an all new addition to the Inn that was able to host large social gatherings and events.
During Neltje’s nearly two-decade run as the Inn’s owner, the Sheridan Inn’s role in the community was revitalized. The Inn hosted many public events and elegant dinners, in addition to a popular art gallery. In 1985, Neltje gifted the Inn to the Denver Children’s Hospital Foundation, in hopes that the Inn’s revenue would be able to support the hospital. A year later, struggling to make money, the Inn’s doors were once again closed, with a for sale sign propped up in the front yard. The Foundation’s successor’s brief ownership of the Inn, from 1988 to 1990, found the Inn in the midst of bankruptcy and an uncertain future.
With the support and dedication of the newly revived Sheridan Heritage Center, the Inn was purchased out of a bankruptcy sale in 1990 by a Joint Powers Board. Shortly thereafter, the Inn re-opened to the public and ownership was soon turned over to the Sheridan Heritage Center, Inc., the non-profit corporation that has owned the Inn ever since.
The Sheridan Heritage Center undertook a decade’s long fundraising effort to complete the renovation of the Inn’s second and third floors, which would have featured a fully operational 22-room boutique hotel and restaurant and banquet facilities on the first floor when complete. In 2008, the Inn's first floor opened to the public, offering a restaurant and banquet facilities. After economic setbacks, stalled fundraising, and low revenues, the Inn closed on October 1st, 2012.
In September 2013, it was announced that the Inn was under contract to sell to Bob Townsend, a former Sheridan resident with ties to the Inn. With closing on the sale set for late October 2013, Mr. Townsend hopes to re-open the first floor of the Inn as soon as he can, and plans to undertake the completion of the upper floors in the coming years. Mr. Townsend has stated he intends to complete the Inn consistent with the vision of the Sheridan Heritage Center. While the sale is not yet official, the Townsend family is hard at work preparing for the re-opening of the Inn and looking for volunteers to help with the project. Those interested in the Inn's re-opening and in finding out how they might help should sent an e-mail to email@example.com.