Jay Em, Wyoming – Barely Holding On

Jay Em, Wyoming Downtown by Jimmy Emerson, Flicker

Jay Em, Wyoming Downtown by Jimmy Emerson, Flicker

The historic district is a tightly knit commercial center with all of the buildings within a block of each other. The buildings, constructed with the materials at hand, display a consistency of architectural design. The buildings are wood frame, with ship-lap siding and some concrete walls and foundations. They have simple functional doors and windows, gabled roofs and they are small, one and two stories, constructed to serve the needs at hand.

A few modern structures are scattered about the fringes housing the very few residents who remain.

The district, looking much as it did in the 1910s and 1920s, remains in the hands of Lake Harris’ heirs.

The buildings of the historic district include:

Jay Em Lumber Company, courtesy Mapio

Jay Em Lumber Company, courtesy Mapio

Lumber Yard – This is an unusual commercial structure with a two and a half story false front at the east end, an arched connecting wall, and a gabled warehouse which creates a courtyard in between, which has two shed type outbuildings. This building The mill building was first called Jay Em Store and then General Store. In 1917 it housed the grocery, hardware, drugstore, livestock feed, and lumberyard. 

Stone Company – A two-story gabled brick structure that has two large shed roof wings flanking the central structure. The concrete wings are one story and may have functioned as living quarters on the east and storage on the west.Lloyd Damrow and Oscar Bradbury opened a business called Jay Em Onyx & Gem Co. Through the years it was also known as the Wy. Marble & Stone Inc., and Jay Em Stone Shop. Here they made head stones, fireplace mantels, tabletops, paperweights, salt & pepper shakers, ash trays, candle stick holders, and jewelry.

Bank – This one story wood frame, ship-lap commercial building has a concrete foundation and flat roof. There are two oversized fixed windows flanking the central front door with concrete sills and plain surrounds. There is a small one-story frame garage with a gabled tin roof and original double doors in back. Farmers State Bank opened for business in 1920. In 1933, after a month-long run on American banks, President Franklin Roosevelt temporarily shut down banks on March 6th and they weren’t allowed to reopen until March 13. The Farmers State Bank in Jay Em did not receive word of this so it stayed open. The bank was robbed in 1935. The bank was sold to the 1st National Bank of Torrington in 1945, but it never reopened. At one point the post office was located in a front corner of the Bank building.

House – This is a very simple one-story frame house on a concrete block foundation.

Restaurant-Feed Store-Post Office-General Store – This multi-purpose building consists of two 2½ story gambrel-roofed frame buildings connected by a single story flat-roofed link. The left side of the structure, built in 1935, replaced the grocery store that was originally in Lake’s home. People were allowed to charge their groceries and dry goods. The hall above this store was used for Sunday school, church club meetings, and as apartments. The right side of the building was called J.M. Hardware. it also had a soda fountain and gas pumps. Town meetings, socials, and even rifle practices were held in the hall above the store. Located between the grocery and hardware store, was a cream station that, at one time, shipped out more cream than any other station in Wyoming.

Garage in Jay Em, Wyoming by Carold Highsmith

Garage in Jay Em, Wyoming by Carold Highsmith

Repair Garage – This is a one-story wood frame building with the front gable overhanging to create a sheltered drive-through. James Shoults was the first proprietor, from 1928 to 1945. 1928–1945, calling it “Shoults Garage.” From 1946–1960 it ran as “Wolfes Repair.” A blacksmiths shop was located in the rear.

Gas Station – This is a small one-story gabled, wood frame and ship-lap structure. The gable end is extended to create a drive-through carport

Lake Harris House – An irregularly massed one and two-story wood frame house. There are three interior brick chimneys and two porches. The house was built over the original dugout, with an “owl wall” still in evidence.

Today Jay Em is called home to about 15 people. A nondenominational church and a post office remain open.

Jay Em is located 23 miles south of Lusk, Wyoming just off highway 85.

©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2018.

Sources:

Annals of Wyoming, University of Wyoming, 1960

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

Ultimate Wyoming

Also See:

Ghost Towns Across America

Jim Moore – Notable Pony Express Rider & Rancher

Wyoming Ghost Towns

Wyoming Main Page

 

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