#Lookback: Lander Hotel and the Grand Theatre

    A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
    where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
    presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

    In 1928, a Lander pioneer landmark was razed to erect a modern theater.  The Lander Hotel was built as early as 1875 by Ben Decora, Lander’s first blacksmith.  The old hotel had been built piecemeal.  Originally it had been a one story, four room clapboard house and housed Maria Decorry’s Place, an eating house. Over time it grew into a two story hotel with a livery stable and blacksmith shop down the street on the corner of Second Street and Main. Much of the early social and business life of Lander centered around the Lander Hotel.  

    After her husband’s death, Marie sold the hotel in 1883 to Lorenzo Davis, an uncle of William Vaughn, a pioneer liveryman and early Lander merchant. The facade of Vaughn’s old livery building still stands on the south side of the 100 block of Main Street.   Lorenzo built a second story and added a west wing to the hotel and also added a porch that year.  

    By 1886, Captain H.G. Nickerson acquired the building and added a brick addition.  The building served as a stage station for a number of years.  Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian was a guest of the Lander Hotel in 1887 and signed the register. The register is on display in the Lander Pioneer museum.  One of Marie’s sons, John DeCorey was working for Cattle Kate as a hired man at time of the lynchings of Cattle Kate and James Averell in July of 1889 not far from Independence Rock. Young DeCorey witnessed the lynchings and had to go into hiding soon after.  Nickerson died in 1927.

    By 1928, George Blakeslee secured an option to buy 50’ frontage on the west side of the property.  He and the Nickerson’s heirs contracted with Jensen and Gustin to tear down the old hotel and clear the way for the new Grand Theater.  

    It is interesting to note that on the east side of the property at one time stood a log house owned by John Borner. John Borner’s wife, Lena, ran a laundry in that building.  Lena was the younger sister of Calamity Jane, the scout, mail carrier and messenger for General Crook during the Indian campaigns in 1876.  Jane visited her sister frequently and probably helped out at the laundry. Later, Jane became a friend of Wild Bill Hickok and worked in some of the Wild West shows popular at the time.

    When the Grand Theater opened in 1928 it showed only silent movies, but by July of 1929, Mr. and Mrs. Blakeslee were in negotiations to introduce talkies to Lander.  That year they made a trip to Denver to purchase sound equipment for the theater.  Some of the popular movies of the day included westerns starring Tom Mix and Tim McCoy, a local cowboy who transitioned into a cowboy movie star.

    Laura Roberts, the wife of Episcopal missionary to the Shoshone, John Roberts was a fan of the movies.  She thought it might be unseemly for the wife of a minister to attend the movies.  She usually brought a grandchild or a child from the mission to escort her to the movies, so she could indulge her passion for the movies.

    In 1951, it cost .60 cents for an adult ticket to the theater, .45 cents for children aged 12 to 16, and children under 12 could get in for a mere .14 cents.  

    Much of Lander’s early history took place in the 200 block of Main Street.  Parts of some of the old buildings still stand for us to enjoy today and remember our colorful history.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    March 29, 6pm at the Riverton Museum, “Talking Photography with Wes Uncepher” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    April 13, 7pm at the Dubois Museum, “What’s This Stuff Called Air” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    April 21, 10-11 am at the Dubois Museum, “Kids Corner: Scat, Tracks and Skulls” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    April 22, 11am at the Riverton Museum, “A 70’s Time Capsule” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    April 22, 9-3 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Garden-Expo: Planting Historic Vegetables for Kids” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    April 29, 1-3pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Sheep Shearing Day” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    May 12, 10am at the Dubois Museum, “Kids Corner: Aquatic Insects” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    May 13, 9-1 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander Area Petroglyph Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    May 17, 7 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Gold Fever in the Atomic Age: Wyoming’s Uranium Boom” by Zach Larsen, Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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