For a lifelong New Yorker like me, the wide open spaces and history of the great American West holds special fascination. Especially when it’s connected to the Broadway musicals I love, like Annie Get Your Gun.
Both American and Broadway history are alive and well at the historic Sheridan Inn, in Sheridan, Wyoming, where every room is named for people in the life of William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West Show was popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Annie Oakley room is a few doors from one named for fellow marksman and performer Frank Butler, who married after traveling together a while.
Another room is named for Sitting Bull, the Native American chief and warrior who led his people to resist US government policies to drive them from their land, who later became part of the show.
Each room is decorated with their photos and other mementoes, including the one named for Grand Duke Alexis, who befriended Buffalo Bill after seeing the show during one of its world tours.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show is memorialized in the Broadway show, words and music by equally legendary Irving Berlin.
Fittingly, the Sheridan Inn is located on Broadway, at No. 856 Broadway.
One of the best-known songs from the musical is There’s No Business Like Show Business. Feel free to sing along.
There’s another New York connection a few blocks away, at 15 N. Main, where the New York Store was the largest department store in Northern Wyoming when it opened in 1895, known for its selection of fashionable women’s clothing.
Now it’s several smaller shops, but the words New York Store remain carved in stone – literally – on the facade.
Buffalo Bill owned the Sheridan Inn, and lived there, from shortly after it opened in 1893 to 1901, and auditioned and rehearsed performers show on its broad front lawn, directing them from the wide, shaded porch.
The Sheridan Inn is now both a National Historic Landmark, and a member of Historic Hotels of America. And every inch is filled with history.
The grand 40-foot-long mahogany bar off the Victorian-style lobby was a gift from Queen Victoria, and the wood shines with the patina of age and elbows. The wainscotting in the upstairs hallways is leather, not wood, and the stairs creak with age despite thick carpeting.
Both Wayne and Buffalo Bill would have felt at home in King’s Saddlery on Main St., which sells handmade saddles and all kinds of ropes and tack to today’s ranchers and cowboys, many of whom test them before buying on a fake steer stationed in the store just for that purpose.
On weekdays you can watch artisans making saddles.
For visitors like me, the King’s Saddlery Museum next door is a playground of historic horse-drawn wagons and carriages, including one made by the Studebaker Brothers, before they began producing that new-fangled thing called a motorized wagon.
There are hundreds of saddles intricately embossed with flowers and medallions, some of them decorated further with inlaid silver.
Plus, antique rifles, old mining equipment from the old Sheridan Monarch coal mine, and a Norwegian bible from 1890, which belonged to one of the towns original settlers.
Across the street is the Mint Bar, famous for its 50 cent PBR happy hours and walls lined with historic photos of rodeos and runways, topped with stuffed bear, elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and pheasants and grouse.
Look for the framed front page of the Bismark Tribune from July 6, 1876, with an account of what is described as the “Custer Massacre” a few miles away from Sheridan, at Little Bighorn.
Sitting Bull would have enjoyed the exhibit of Native American artifacts at the Brinton Museum, on the prarie just beyond downtown. There are incredible beaded war shirts feathered headresses and blankets from local tribes including Crow, Arapahoe, Blackfeet and Lakota.
Most definitely, Sheridan, Wyoming is where to go to next. And you can add on a visit to Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Little Bighorn and other war sites.
But that’s another story.