Wyoming: Experience the Western frontier

By Susan Eberman – For Antique Trader

Wyoming’s capital city was established at the beginning of the mass transportation and mass communication era. The U.S. Congress conceived the idea of a transcontinental railroad during a time of great national turmoil, just prior to the start of the Civil War. These leaders realized a railroad was essential to linking the prosperous East and West Coasts. Following the Civil War, the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, and the Central Pacific Railroad in Sacramento were given the task of completing such a railroad. In 1867, Gen. Grenville Dodge founded the city of Cheyenne to meet the needs of the Union Pacific Railroad. Almost immediately, several thousand entrepreneurs and settlers moved to the new town eagerly awaiting the railroad. The town rose out of the plains and was soon a bustling community.

In 2004, after being vacant since a major flood in 1985, the three-story Union Pacific Depot was restored to its glory days, back when it was considered the most spectacular depot between Omaha and San Francisco. The Art Deco lobby now houses the city’s visitor center. The west wing is home to the Cheyenne Depot Museum, which tells the story of how the Union Pacific railroad helped settle Cheyenne.

Founded in 1885, the Wyoming State Museum is dedicated to showcasing the history of the entire state. Some of the most popular pieces in their vast collection are on exhibit in the Barber Gallery. Highlights include the silver service from the Battleship USS Wyoming, firearms, Native-American beadwork and baskets, a marble sculpture depicting the state’s animals and plants, and a 1950s diorama of Wyoming cowboys at work.

The Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum offers major exhibits related to Cheyenne, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the state of Wyoming and the American West. Cheyenne Frontier Days: A Legend Walking Tall is a permanent exhibit highlighting this event from its humble beginnings in 1897. Now the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, it’s held for 10 days every July. One of the nation’s largest collections of horse-drawn vehicles includes an ice wagon, ambulance and milk wagon from local businesses. “A Woman’s Place …” is a special exhibit on display here until January, 2007. The century-old home appliances and huge collection of aprons are of special interest.

Located on the F. E. Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne, the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Heritage Museum is open to the public. It’s housed in Building 210, which was the U.S. Army commander’s headquarters a century ago. First-floor exhibits depict the history of missiles and the 90th Space Wing. The second floor creates a look back into the lives of the men and women stationed here.

The center of the state’s large petroleum industry since the 1890s, Wyoming’s second-largest city is arguably its most sophisticated, with a regular schedule of fine arts performances that much larger cities would be proud to host.
Featuring state of the art technology, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center allows visitors to experience what life was like for the pioneers traveling important trails through Wyoming. The interpretive center features an entrance designed to resemble the curved top of a covered wagon, and visitors can experience a unique piece of Western history as they sit in a wagon and view a simulated crossing of the North Platte River. The highlight of the center is an award-winning audiovisual presentation illustrating the lives and times of early settlers, including the Native-American.

Devils Tower National Monument
This nearly vertical monolith rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. On Sept. 24, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt issued a proclamation making Devils Tower our country’s first national monument. A variety of centennial activities is planned for the weekend of Sept. 22-24. Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, a President Roosevelt enactor will visit the tower. On Saturday, the park will celebrate A Century of Conservation, with presentations and displays about the natural and cultural resources unique to Devils Tower National Monument.

The Trail End Historic Site displays an elegant aspect of Wyoming’s history. Built in 1913, this 13,748 square-foot home was the residence of cattleman John Kendrick, who became governor and U.S. senator. Surrounded by manicured lawns, the home is furnished as it would have been from 1913 to 1933. Much of the baronial-style decor belonged to the Kendrick family. King’s Saddlery & Museum showcases Western history with exhibits saddles, Indian artifacts, guns, and horsehair and rawhide braidwork.