Since blogging about the historic Plains Hotel at this time last year (“In Cheyenne, Stay at the Plains”, Sept 5, 2015), I have experienced 2 more authentically great old hotels in The West. One has been modernized, the other not so much. Both are fun and not-best-western. Ruth and I found the supposedly haunted Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming, a riproarin’ hoot.
Buffalo, also once called The Rustlers’ Capital, is best known for its connection with the Johnson County War that inflamed cattlemen and farmers. The Occidental Hotel has been at 10 North Main since 1880 and looks it. Restored to its frontier glory, The Occidental has an abundance of antique furnishings and is like staying overnight in a museum. I especially liked the hole-in-the-wall room’s water closet. Butch Cassidy, Calamity Jane, and Teddy Roosevelt are just 3 of The Occidental’s illustrious guests.
Completely run-down by the 1980s, The Occidental was a candidate for the wrecking ball. However, John and Dawn Wexo began a 10 year restoration instead. Said to be the only fully restored historic hotel in Wyoming, it has just 18 rooms. As a result, book well in advance of any stay. The Occidental once had 60 guest rooms that must have been tiny, and I imagine its bar was noisy well into the night. Frontier sheriffs like Frank Canton frequented it. The Occidental also has a restaurant, The Virginian, and delightfully themed guest rooms on 2 floors with no elevators.
Calamity Jane more than likely stayed here because she was droving freight wagons on the nearby Bozeman Trail, the one that saw gold rushers mingling with Oregon-bound settlers. Legendary Ten Sleep Canyon is not far from Buffalo, so Native American raids were not uncommon on the Bozeman, especially in its first couple of years in use. Ruth was especially curious about this hotel’s name, but no one seemed to know what it has to do with 19th century Asian countries.