In 1880, when the cattle kings of the West reigned like, well, royalty, their wealth and desire for comradeship led to the formation of the only male-dominated social club west of Denver. Formed by members of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, the club was initially named The Cactus Club, then later changed to The Cheyenne Club. The founding members claimed degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Columbia, and all were frequently seen on the Riviera, in London, Paris and Mexico City.
I have to tell you. I had no idea. I stumbled upon The Cheyenne Club while researching WYOMING WILDFLOWER, my first book with Dorchester, now re-released as an ebook and currently my best-selling self-published title. Once I discovered this fascinating piece of Western history, I fell in love with the place. I centered my storyline around the historic icon and the men that once walked upon its thick carpets.
The Cheyenne Club shattered my illusion of weather-bitten cattlemen who lived on remote ranches and lived simple lives, enduring each day only for the precious cattle that grazed across acres as far as the eye could see. These men knew what comforts their money could bring, and they didn’t hesitate to spend whatever it took to wallow in that comfort.
Let me tell you a bit about it.
The three story brick building was built on the corner of what is now 17th and Warren in Cheyenne. A skylight towered over the main hall. The Main Floor boasted rooms for smoking, billiards, reading, games, as well as the prominent dining room. All had hardwood floors. Copies of the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, the Boston Sunday Herald, and the New York Graphic laid on the library’s tables, alongside the Drover’s Journal of Chicago.
The kitchen and wine cellar were located in the basement, and three elevators hoisted hot cuisine prepared by a Canadian chef up to the dining room. Champagne was served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rugs graced fireplaces with attractives grates and marble-topped mantels. Shakespearan quotations were inscribed in the blue-and-white, and brown-and-white tiles to “supply cheerfulness” to the guests.
Six sleeping rooms comprised the upper level. Each room had thick carpets and were furnished with ceiling-high walnut wardrobes and hand-carved walnut beds. Marbled covered the dressers and commodes. Brocade satin and velvet drapes hung at the tall windows. A lavish bath added to the guests’ comforts.
Another opulent feature of The Cheyenne Club was the piazza, flanked by Victorian French Windows. Up to 26 arm rockers lined the area, large enough to be used as a dance floor. Often on sunny days, chess tables were set-up for those wishing to enjoy an afternoon’s game. Photographs of members’ horses and racing trophies adorned the walls of the Club. A tennis court was located to the west of the club house, and a brick servants cottage was located to the north of it.
Club functions required dress suits and evening gowns. Perfectly trained staff served liquors and delicacies shipped from New York City and San Francisco, as well as providing cigars and cheroots for those with a discriminating taste for fine tobacco. All this opulence from a club house that towered on a corner lined with dirt streets.
Alas, the blizzards of 1886 and 1887 wiped out the herds of many of these cattle kings, and The Cheyenne Club slumped, never again to regain its glory. In 1936, the club house was razed, and in its place, the present Chamber of Commerce and Frontier Days Committee building stands.
Just makes you want to sigh, doesn’t it?
You can read more about The Cheyenne Club in WYOMING WILDFLOWER. Here’s a little blurb about the book:
One of her father’s daughters . . .
All Sonnie Mancuso wants is to be needed by her father. Unfortunately, he already has a daughter–six, to be exact–and all he needs is a son.
One of her father’s men . . .
Orphaned in the slums of New York, fifteen-year-old Lance Harmon needs a home. Sonnie’s father gives him one, on the cattle-rich Rocking M ranch. Through the years, Lance learns to love the land, the work . . . and Sonnie.
And their legacy . . .
But Vince Mancuso’s health is failing, and there’s trouble on the Wyoming range. Sonnie returns home to claim the legacy that’s rightfully hers . . . but learns Lance has already claimed it.
Buy Wyoming Wildflower for your Kindle!
Although wives and female guests were allowed at The Cheyenne Club, membership was strictly male. Do you know of any female-only clubs? How do you feel about allowing women onto a male-dominated turf? Or vice-versa?