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Fort Laramie National Historic Site

February 5, 2011

Last week, I made a new year’s resolution public in a column. My poor blog has been falling on hard times not only because I have little time to write, but because I don’t get out as often as I used to.

So, last weekend, husband and I drove over to Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming for my January “new place.”

Let it be known that the temperature that day hovered around 32 degrees.

Let it be known that only two of the buildings had heat – the visitor center (the 1884-built commisary storehouse, which includes a gift shop with a book selection of fantastic proportions that forced me to beat a muddled retreat before I came home with 167 pounds of books) and the cavalry barracks (built in 1874).

It’s good those two buildings had heat, since they feature modern bathrooms. Much better than what’s left of the “general sink,” which drained directly into the Laramie River.

Eeeew. Cholera epidemic, anyone?

Also let it be known that we had the site all to ourselves that day, and we wandered around for about two hours.

After awhile, I looked longingly at all the coal stoves around the place and started to wish I was Charlie McGee.

That buffalo robe bedspread would have been fantastic draped over my frozen self.

The chill made me pity the fools who found themselves locked up in the “new” guardhouse (built 1876). A sign mentions that the cells down below were unheated.

Another sign mentions that the guardhouse could be used as a tornado shelter

I could see that. It has nice, thick floor beams above the cell room.

The video on the history of the fort is worth watching. It documents the fort as it moves from a fur trading site in the 1830s to an Oregon trail and Indian war post in the 1840s through 1860s to a homesteader settlement in the 1890s (the cavalry barracks was converted into a hotel/bar/dance hall that drew people from a hundred miles around) before restoration efforts began in the 1930s.

Many of the buildings were lost to neglect and people salvaging supplies.

Here is a view through the ruins of three officers’ quarters buildings:

Constructed nice and tidily straight. You would have had a perfect line of sight into your neighbor's window.

Here is what the 1849 “Old Bedlam” bachelor officers’ quarters looked like in the 1930s:


Here is what it looks like today, after restoration:

She cleans up real nice, don't she?

It’s so neat to look around at the details of the place. Some of the décor was pretty fancy. During the peaceful period before the government sold off the obsolete fort, it grew into something of an “urbanized frontier village, with such amenities as boardwalks, mineral oil street lamps, white picket fences, vine-covered verandas, and birdbaths at the corners of the parade ground.”

No, the back porch rail of Old Bedlam isn't made of twisted branches. It's all wavy due to the old, poured glass I was pointing the camera through.

Doorbell on the Burt House. It works. No one answered. (Sorta glad about that.)

Lovely banister of the very sturdy steps of the Burt House.

I am currently thinking about rugs for my own house, so I took about a half-dozen pictures of some of the vintage floor coverings in the fort’s buildings. I intended to splice them into a “floors of Fort Laramie” mosaic, but I got lazy, so, here’s just one rug:

Rug in the post surgeon's quarters.

You know what’s kinda fun? Taking self-portraits in the fort’s mirrors.

Self portrait #1: the captain's quarters

Self portrait #2: post surgeron's quarters

You can go visit the rest of the fort yourself, or check out this nausea-inducing online tour (some of which requires the Google Earth plugin).

But I will leave you with one final picture of an artifact from the visitors center:

Schlitz ? Really?

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2011 6:49 am

    Nice post and pictures, Katie. I can just imagine living at the Fort during the winter (probably in the guardhouse). I wonder if the prisoners got a daily issue of Schlitz?

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      February 5, 2011 12:32 pm

      Heh. Guardhouse for you, eh? At least you would be safe from those winter tornadoes.

  2. vnewman permalink
    February 5, 2011 7:54 am

    So glad you made it over there. You’ll have to go back in the summer when they have their rangers out in living history clothes. They offer a candle lite tour in August I think, its really good.
    We too are looking for a rug. Our new place in Powell has all hard wood floors. Likely won’t find one before we leave, but as my mom says, “We’ve got our eyes peeled.”

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      February 5, 2011 12:34 pm

      I will have to go back. I think it’s cool they open up some of the buildings for special events – like the dance in the barracks at Christmastime. Also, I hear I missed out on sasparilla sales.

      So glad you found a place! I love hardwood floors.

  3. February 5, 2011 10:40 am

    Fantastic post!
    Equally superb photos–some you could submit for photo contests and win!


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