The History of the Occidental Hotel

1800s Occidental

Founded in 1880, the Occidental Hotel quickly became one of the most renowned hotels in Wyoming. Located near the Bozeman Trail at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, it was visited by many famous people of the Old West as they traveled along the Trail.

Among those who enjoyed the hospitality of the Occidental in the early days were Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, and General Phil Sheridan. Calamity Jane, who drove freight wagons on the Bozeman Trail, stopped often at the hotel.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rode to the Occidental from their hideout at the nearby Hole-in-the-Wall. The famous cattle detective and killer, Tom Horn, was another frequent visitor. And legendry frontier sheriffs like Frank Canton and "Red" Angus were regulars at the bar.

In 1880, the hotel was housed in the handsome log buildings shown in the photo at the top of the page. It boasted six rooms upstairs in the main building, with a lobby, restaurant and saloon on the ground floor. The outbuildings contained a livery stable and a kitchen. Early in its existence, the Occidental established a reputation for hospitality and fine food. Owen Wister, author of The Virginian, spent many happy hours in the Occidental lobby and saloon, and based characters in his celebrated novel on cowboys and gunslingers that he observed there. Many historians believe that the shoot-out at the climax of the book — the first "walk down" in Western literature — took place in front of
the Occidental.

As time passed, the Occidental was expanded and re-built until it became a "grand" hotel, with elegant decor and fine service. Cowboys and ranchers from miles around, and many business travelers and tourists, went miles out of their way to enjoy the many pleasures offered by the Occidental.

Among the famous people who visited the hotel at this stage were President Theodore Roosevelt, President Herbert Hoover and Ernest Hemingway.

1930sThen, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the splendor of the hotel began to fade. As everybody in Wyoming tightened their belts, money became scarce. As business dried up, the owners of the Occidental began a long struggle to keep the doors open.

During World War II, business picked up temporarily. But after the war, the slow decline of the hotel continued, as motels began to take business away from hotels. By the 1970s and 1980s, the Occidental was barely functioning as a hotel, and many of its rooms had been turned into apartments for retirees. In 1986, the hotel finally closed its doors.

A few small businesses continued to occupy shops on the ground floor of the building, but very little money was available to keep up the structure. Year after year, the building became more and more dilapidated and unsafe. By 1997, the final demolition of the Occidental seemed close at hand.

But the Occidental was not demolished. Instead, 1997 proved to be the year in which the grand old hotel was re-born. In that year, Dawn and John Wexo purchased the building and began a 10-year restoration process that has returned the Occidental Hotel to its status as one of the fine hotels of the West.

As a result of this Award-Winning Restoration, you can visit an authentic Frontier hotel today that looks as it did almost 100 years ago. You can stay in elegant suites and rooms... eat at the finest restaurant in Northern Wyoming...and enjoy one of the most beautiful saloons in all of the West. The good old days at the Occidental Hotel are back!