Unless you’re a huge retail buff, there’s no reason to stop in Kemmerer, Wyoming. After finishing up at Fossil Butte National Monument, I drove through this tiny town with a population of about 2,500 to check out a small but interesting piece of American history.
The humble beginnings of one of the giants of retail, JC Penney, were in Kemmerer. On April 14, 1902, the very first JC Penney store opened on the town square. It’s still open for business and an important landmark in the town.
Not too far away is the JC Penney House. It was built in 1904 and is now a museum dedicated to James Cash Penney (1875-1971). It’s open daily until 4pm. Unfortunately, both the store and museum were closed when I drove by at around 5:30pm.
The town square is an open grass field. There’s a visitor information center and memorial to pioneers who passed through the area “to win and hold the West”. Around the square are old buildings with some shops and a bank.