#lookback: The Noble Hotel: 100 years of Lander History
A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.
A major change came to the sleepy little community of Lander in 1906. The first train arrived in October of 1906. Tourists and freight could come to Lander by rail instead of by stagecoach or by horse drawn freighters. Lander’s population grew. Lander became where the “rails ended and the trails began.”
Entrepreneurs H.O. Barber and Fred F. Noble saw a lucrative business opportunity to provide lodging to Eastern tourists who were interested in visiting Yellowstone, America’s first National Park. Barber planned to build “the swellest hotel west of the Mississippi.” The Noble Hotel opened for business in August of 1918 on the corner of Third Street and Main.
Eugene Amoretti originally owned the site where the Noble stands when Lander was first starting out. Amoretti built a large adobe building that served as a bank, mercantile, and family home for several years. Fred Noble owned the land 1917. Fred Noble left no male decedents, but he wanted his name preserved in Lander, so it was agreed the new hotel would be named The Noble. Fred provided the lumber and the bricks from his lumberyard for the building. The Noble had a hand laid tile floor, stained glass and high ceiling in the lobby and maple floorboards in the rooms and hallways. The Noble boasted a bank, a drug store, a restaurant and a Smokery that sold cigars and fine chocolates.
When tourist visited in the 1920s they would spend a night or two in the Noble and then start their wilderness adventure by riding in busses owned by the Lander –Yellowstone Transportation Company. It was a 150-mile trek in open-air buses that seated 10 passengers. The buses had a top speed of about 25 miles per hour and travelled through the spectacular scenery we still enjoy today. During the 1920s and 1930s the Noble hosted actor, Tim McCoy and a film crew. Tim McCoy was a popular westerns movie star. Some of his westerns were filmed on the reservation and starred the local Native Americans.
H.O. Barber died in 1930 and his friend, Harold Del Monte purchased the Noble. Del Monte refurbished the hotel installing showers instead of tubs with hot and cold running water. Del Monte decorated the lobby with western style furniture built by one of Thomas Molesworth’s apprentices. Molesworth was a popular furniture builder in Cody. Navaho weavings provided upholstery for the western furniture. Taxidermied Wyoming wildlife elk, buffalo, moose, deer, antelope and bighorn sheep mounts overlooked the lobby and from a fish tank in the lobby a guest could select a trout for dinner.
Del Monte loved history and did extensive research in order to decorate each room with an historical theme such as the Indian Room, the Coal Mining Room, or the Railroad Room. The Indian Grill displayed Del Monte’s extensive collect of Indian artifacts on the walls. Del Monte also commissioned J.K. Ralston to paint 23 canvases depicting events from the life of Chief Washakie. These works were originally on display in the individual rooms and in the Indian Grill. Until recently this collection was on display in the state capitol in Cheyenne. Thanks to the fund raising efforts of the Pioneer Association the Ralston collection will soon be back home in Lander on display in the Pioneer Museum as part of the permanent collection. Thank you to every one who contributed to this fundraiser.
Times change and by the 1950s motels were replacing fine old hotels like the Noble. By the 1960s the Noble was falling into disrepair. In 1973 Paul Petzolt, the founder of NOLS, purchased the Noble to become the headquarters for NOLS. Office staff occupied the ground floor and students and staff lived on the second and third floors before they went on their wilderness adventures.
In many ways the Noble is fulfilling its original mission from 1918 to house visitors before and after they participate in a wilderness adventure, but now instead of arriving by train as they did in 1918 most Noble guests arrive by plane. Instead of open air busses guests carry backpacks into the wilderness.
As the first of the 2019 Wind River Visitors Council Treks, the Pioneer Museum will be leading a walking trek of the historic hotel April 13, at 10 p.m. The trek is free although donations are suggested. People wanting to attend should meet at the front door of the hotel on Main Street at 10 a.m.
Next up for the Fremont County Museums
April 11, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander in 1919”
Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series
April 13, 2pm at the Riverton Museum, “Paint a Bird House”
Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series
April 13, 10am at the Pioneer Museum, “Noble Hotel Walking Tour”
Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series
The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. 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 Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.