Historic Preservation is a community effort. It can also be messy and difficult! The effort to preserve the Sheridan Inn is one such example. At more than one point this historic inn was on the verge of being torn down. In the 1960s the community, led by the Sheridan County Historical Society, worked to save the historic building from being lost.

The Sheridan Inn around the turn of the 20th Century.
Item Number: 2003.18.045

The Sheridan Inn is one of the most iconic landmarks of Sheridan.  The Sheridan Land Company and the Burlington Railroad partnered in 1892 to build this much needed quality hotel in Sheridan for travelers to stay in. Construction finished in May 1893,and was one of the first buildings in Sheridan to have electricity. The owners brought in a professional staff from Nebraska to ensure that the Sheridan Inn had the best food and drink around. The inn became a popular place for area ranchers to stay while in town, and a top pick for parties and wedding receptions. Through the years, the inn had its ups and downs passing through multiple owners, but remained a treasured part of the community.

Sheridan Inn Registration Desk In Lobby, 1896.
Glenn Sweem, Jr. Collection Item No. 2003.058.043

The passage of time eventually put the Sheridan Inn in a very sticky situation. In 1962 a man at an Eagles event fell down some stairs. The owners of the inn didn’t have enough insurance to cover the cost of his injuries. They decided they needed to sell their business. In 1965 the land the inn sat on was sold to the Northwestern Development Company, who had no interest in the inn itself. They wanted to build a strip mall. The inn’s owners were responsible for removing (aka demolishing) the building. The owners came to an agreement with the Sheridan County Historical Society to give them the building if they moved the inn or purchase the land from the development company. The Historical Society did get a quote to have the building moved, they felt that the history of the inn was as tied to the location as it was the building. The decision was made to attempt to reach a deal for the land with the developer, so the land and the building could be saved together.

One of the many reasons the Historical Society wanted to save the Sheridan Inn was because it was Sheridan County’s only National Historic Landmark. To earn this designation, a site has to be not only significant to the history of its local community; it needs to be significant to the history of the United States on a national level. To tear down the inn, or even move it, risked losing this important designation in American history.  

Fundraising efforts began to save the Sheridan Inn with the Historical Society throwing a Gay 90s party. The Society also received multiple grants towards their efforts to save the inn from local organizations and out-of-town companies. A year into the fundraising efforts the Historical Society had still not come to an agreement with the Northwestern Development Company. The Historical Society had to pay $1,000 to show their commitment to pursuing the deal, which they did. This put off demolition of the building until May 19,1967.

Gay 90s Fundraiser May 22, 1965
Glenn Sweem, Jr. Collection Item No. 2003.058.051

With the new deadline the Historical Society organized a community work day to help clear away 2 years of disuse. Local craftspeople, boy scouts, and average citizens showed up to get the inn in peak condition. After the cleanup the next phase of fundraising launched. Help Save The Sheridan Inn Day was held on April 1, 1967, bringing thousands of people to Sheridan. The mayor was in attendance to give a speech, the drum and bugle core played, there were Crow victory dances, and much more to celebrate the Sheridan Inn’s reopening.

Many people attended the event due to the attention The Sheridan Press was giving the cause of saving the Sheridan Inn and the “Bucks for Buffalo Bill” campaign. The “Bucks for Buffalo Bill” campaign asked people to send in one dollar per person in their household to save the inn. The campaign was very successful, gaining momentum nationwide. Many notable people sent money in for the campaign including relatives of Buffalo Bill. The Museum at the Bighorns has in its collections the decorated letter and envelope artist Bernard Thomas sent in with his contribution towards the inn.  

The Sheridan Inn c. 1962
Glenn Sweem, Jr. Collection Item No. 2003.058.036

In May of 1967 the amount needed still had not been raised, so a one month extension was granted. The pleas over the radio to raise funds for the inn reached all around the Rocky Mountain Region. Local groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution, Civic Theater Guild, Homemakers Club, and more continued to raise money through everything from bake sales to cocktail parties. The closer this final deadline got the more an air of hopelessness crept over the project. How could they raise the remaining money in time? It didn’t seem possible, but the Historical Society and community kept moving forward. They still needed to raise another $42,000. Even with an extension to July 19th, the chances of coming up with that kind of money seemed slim.

Before the July deadline was reached, an anonymous party reached out through a local lawyer to the Historical Society. His client was interested in purchasing the inn and land in order to preserve it. A deal was struck stating that the buyer would give the Historical Society the money it needed to exercise its option on the land. The Historical Society had been working with the developer, so only they had this option to buy the land. Then, the Historical Society would transfer the building and land to the buyer. The Historical Society agreed on the condition that the buyer maintained the historical integrity of the Sheridan Inn. On June 23, 1967 the Sheridan Press announced the purchase of the inn by the anonymous buyer. The community rejoiced!

The Historical Society had delayed the demolition of the Sheridan Inn for two years. The community came together to raise funds to save it. Then Neltje, the anonymous buyer, saved it once more from imminent demolition. She owned the Sheridan Inn for the next eighteen years, with the restaurant and bar open, but no hotel facilities. Because of the community coming together to keep Sheridan’s only National Historic Landmark intact, the Sheridan Inn still stands to this day.

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