Buffalo Bill's Hotel in Cody, Wyoming
So, I've made it past 100 on my lists of Ninety Notable Nights.
Since Buffalo Bill Cody was pretty proud of this hotel he built in 1902, I'm sure he would be glad I didn't stop listing Notable Nights when I reached 90.
My First Stay
I've been curious about this hotel since Don returned from a business trip 20+ years ago. "You wouldn't believe this place!" He said, describing the creaky old hotel on a cold windy night.
There had been a door in his room leading out to the terrace. He woke in the night when the door flew open. I loved the image of the deserted town and nearly empty hotel. But when we arrived last September it was not so quiet. The porch area was crowded with eager tourists.
Back in the Day
The Irma, named for Bill Cody's daughter, was built not long after Buffalo Bill Cody co-founded the town.
He'd made a lot of money from his Wild West Shows that took him all over the world. There were no cars in this photo from 1908 ... just horses, wagons and carriages.
No Cars on This Day
Cars weren't present on the afternoon when we arrived, either. That's because, the streets were blocked off, as they are every evening from June through September.
Tourists can rent a chair for $2.00 and enjoy a little shoot-out with Buffalo Bill and some outlaws. I don't want to sound like a "been there, done that snob", but on a 4-week road trip out west, you actually see a lot of these mock shoot-outs. We enjoyed a brief view and photo, as we crossed the street to head away from the crowded hotel for a while.
All Lit Up
When we returned, the neon Irma Grill sign was all lit and the streets were open again. Time to settle in and enjoy our fun little hotel.
We passed by numerous mounted friends on the wall, before heading up the stairs to find our room. There were a lot of celebrity friends of The Irma that I would like to have met, but they are long gone.
Wild West guests like Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane would have kept things lively. I imagine the artist, Frederick Remington was a very different kind of guest. But what do I know? His paintings and sculptures depict some of the wildest scenes of the west, so maybe he whooped it up like the rest of 'em!
The Irma Suite
We wandered the flowery halls searching for our room. Floral wallpaper, floral carpets... and wonderful door-sized windows.
We didn't just stay in one of the historic rooms, we were guests in the very room that Irma once called her own. Irma's mother owned the hotel until her death in 1925, and I'm not quite sure what became of Irma. But, she was looking down on us from her portrait above the bed. And she looked pretty pleased, as if she had just finished decorating the suite with its mighty fine mix of patterned wallpapers, fabrics and carpet!
Our corner room was comfy and clean, with radiators and a chain-pull toilet, to keep things feeling old. There were nice updates with retro tile and a nice flat screen TV mounted to the exposed brick wall. There was lots of space to spread out and if we'd come for a week, we could have put the very large closet to use. It was an interesting storage space, with no pole or hangers. But I did count 14 hooks.
I always try my best to appreciate any room view. Our front windows had a nice little view of Sheridan Avenue and the Art Deco theatre across the street.
Best of all we had the fine, Irma Restaurant and Grill sign! I guess Mr. Cody never had the fun of seeing his hotel with neon. Luckily we also had sturdy blinds, for when we didn't want to enjoy the neon glow.
The Grill and Saloon
The hotel has a Grill and a Saloon, but it's confusing.
If you walk past the sporty blue car and go in the door by the neon sign, you'll think you're at the bar.
Looks Like a Saloon
There was a tin ceiling and a moose looking down at a few cowboy hats.
There was a chandelier made of antlers and best of all, the Cherrywood Bar that I'd heard about. But we were told, "No this is The Grill, the saloon is through that doorway."
Fireplace & Skull
We wandered back through a number of rooms and it seemed like they were all occupied with diners. I guess all those tourists had finished watching the shoot out and now they were enjoying a Prime Rib Buffet.
We weren't up for the buffet, but I did have to get a picture of the amazing fireplace made with rock, ores, minerals and fossils form nearby Big Horn Basin... with a little cow skull thrown into the mix.
Silver Saddle Saloon?
This wasn't part of the saloon either. These wonderful wooden booths with little buffalo shaped hat hooks and framed portraits and lots and lots of flags, was all part of the big Irma Grill with the cherrywood bar.
I don't have a photo of the saloon because it wasn't photo worthy. Just a '60's era bar, glowing with Monday night football TVs. But we did have a drink and a nice chat with locals about how friendly Cody used to be back in the day... and how frustrated the ranchers get when they lose their livestock to the wolves...and how there's nothing you do when you meet up with a mama grizzly...
Queen Victoria's Bar!
We finally got our chance to sit at the beautiful carved bar that was a gift from Queen Victoria to Buffalo Bill. She fell in love with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show when it performed in London.
Don and I absorbed the beautiful details as we ate a French Dip sandwich and taco salad, served by a terribly serious young summer worker from Bulgaria.
So Many Buffalos
As I stared up at the sweet carved critter on the top of the bar, I began to wonder just how many buffalo figures there were in the hotel. Then I started to wonder what Buffalo Bill would think if he saw these tourists sitting at and near his beautiful cherrywood bar.
A display case of old rifles took over the space where whisky bottles would have been at home. Glass shakers of sugar, salt and pepper cluttered the bar counter instead of mugs and shot glasses. I guess maybe he would be glad to just know the hotel was still there.
Dreaming of Buffalo
It was a treat just walking up that old stairway to our room that night. Luckily all was quiet on the streets below, on a Monday night.
I expected to dream of buffalo since we'd seen so many buffalo reminders in the hotel. Besides, we'd started our day driving through a meandering herd as we left Yellowstone Park. But I don't think I encountered a single one in my dreams.
It was gimmicky and touristy, but I will happily put up with that, to enjoy an authentic piece of history. This was not an old hotel with a Wild West theme. It was the hotel that Buffalo Bill built.
Bill Cody made his money playing to the tourists and his hotel is still doing that. I guess that makes it all work out. I'm just glad we weren't there in the summer with carloads of traveling families or caravans of bikers. And maybe I'm glad we weren't there on a cold and windy winter night!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!