This historic inn, now on the National Register of Historic Places, opened its doors on May 27, 1893, complete with electrical power which ran from a coal-fired threshing machine engine. A whistle would be blown at midnight to remind everyone that the building’s 200 lights should be turned off. Buffalo Bill Cody, who was involved with the Inn from its inception, led the grand opening celebration into the dining room on June 27, 1893.
When it was opened the Sheridan Inn was said by many to be the finest hotel between Chicago and San Francisco. It immediately became the social center for the Big Horn country area which, at that time attracted many big game hunting parties, including notables from all parts of the United States.
George and Lucy Canfield were the Inn’s first managers, catering to people who stayed at the Inn when their homes were being built, and the area ranchers who would spend their weekends at the Inn. Some even kept their good clothes at the Inn for the next party that would be thrown. Early prices at the inn were $1.00/day for a room, 25¢ for breakfast and 50¢ for lunch or dinner. A stagecoach made regular stops at the Inn so a meal ticket could also be purchased for $7.00, which included 21 meals.
In 1894 Buffalo Bill purchased the business, but not the building, and kept it until 1901, retaining the Canfield’s as managers. Across from the Inn, Bill Cody operated the W.F. Cody Transportation Company, the stage that ran from the Inn to Deadwood, South Dakota.
When Buffalo Bill was in town he lived at the inn and held many parties for his traveling companions. Later he designed and built the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming, naming it after his youngest daughter. He and his family then lived in Cody but continued to visit the Sheridan Inn often.
In 1901, Catherine B. Arnold, familiarly known as “Miss Kate,” came to Sheridan from Virginia with her parents. At the age of 22, she started working and living at the Sheridan Inn and continued work there for the next 64 years as a seamstress, desk clerk, housekeeper, hostess, and babysitter.
Miss Kate was well-loved by both the staff and the many guests of the hotel. Flowers from her garden behind the Inn decorated the dining room tables every day. She stayed at the hotel until 1965 when it was closed and sold to a developer, who planned to tear it down and use the land for other purposes. However, the Sheridan Historical Society started a “Save the Inn” campaign that lasted for the next two years. Finally, a newcomer named Neltje purchased the structure and she began extensive restorations on the first floor. The Inn reopened in 1967 for dining and dancing and Ms. Neltje operated the Inn for the next twenty years.
In 1968, Miss Kate passed away and her last request was to return to the Sheridan Inn. Her remains were cremated and her ashes buried in the wall of the room that she occupied on the third floor for so many years.
In 1990 the Sheridan Heritage Center purchased the Inn from bankruptcy court with the help of a $100,000 loan and an additional $100,000 in grant monies from the State of Wyoming. The Inn was reopened to the public in June 1991. The Wyoming Rib and Chop House is the “Keeper of the Inn,” serving both lunch and dinner, and provides banquet and party services at the Inn.
Miss Kate’s room was fully renovated by the Preceptor Tau Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, who took on the room as a community project. Miss Kate’s favorite chair was placed next to the wall where her ashes were buried. Today, legend has it that Miss Kate continues to act as guardian over the Inn.
According to staff, Miss Kate’s presence is felt on an almost daily basis. She is known to repeatedly turn lights on and off and open and shut doors. Her presence is very strong in her third-floor room often felt by moving cold spots. Cold spots also randomly appear near the front downstairs windows or in the ballroom. At other times, many have reported hearing the sounds of footsteps throughout the old inn. One person reported driving by the inn at 2:00 a.m. to see the third-floor windows dark with the drapes closed. However, thirty minutes later, they drove by again and the lights were on and the drapes were open. The inn was obviously closed at that time of the night and according to staff, there would not be anyone on the third floor during these wee hours of the morning.
The Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, many famous people have stayed at the Inn including Earnest Hemingway, President Hoover, Will Rogers, Bob Hope, and many more. In 2013, Mr.& Mrs. Bob Townsend a group of private investors bought the Sheridan and have since renovated and reopened to guests in May 2015. Operators of the new Sheridan Inn say that guests will get a feel of what it was like back in the 1800s, but with all the modern amenities and larger rooms.
Their new website gives no indication that they have removed Miss Kate’s ashes from the room, and report that her watchful presence is felt on a daily basis, and anyone who has spent hours at the Inn has grown to love her as did everyone years ago when she was alive.
The Historic Sheridan Inn can be accessed from I-90, exit #23 (Fifth Street). Travel one mile west on Fifth Street, just past the railroad tracks and you’ll be there. The town of Sheridan is in northern Wyoming, at the junction of I-90 and U.S. Hwy 14.
Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Dave Alexander, updated October 2019.