The old railroad town of Evanston, Wyoming, was supposed to be a quick stopover and our first night in a real bed after a week of camping at Yellowstone and Grand Teton. We ended up sticking around the next morning a bit longer than we had anticipated, enjoying how the town preserves its heritage.
We started exploring Evanston along Front Street and Depot Square, at the heart of the small and compact historic downtown. The Union Pacific railroad came into town in November 1868 as the town was founded. This is also the starting point for the excellent Evanston Walking Tour.
A number of historic buildings sit on Depot Square. The most important is the old Evanston Depot, built in 1900 and donated to the town by Union Pacific in 1989. It’s now used as an event center.
Uinta County Museum
Beeman Cashin Building
Across from the museum is the Beeman Cashin Building, which was built around 1883 as an implement depot and relocated to the square in 1984. It’s now a community center. Next to it is a monument dedicated to 9/11 with steel beams from the World Trade Center.
There’s also the replica Chinese Joss House. It’s a museum dedicated to the Chinese immigrants who worked in Evanston from the 1870s to 1930s. Behind it is a small Chinese garden with a koi pond and gazebo. The Joss House has free admission.
A bit further up Front Street is the Columbo Hall, which served as an employee club for Union Pacific workers. It sits next to Martin Park. There, you can find an original Lincoln Highway marker, a gazebo, and a statue of “Albert the Bison”.
Uinta County Courthouse
Walking a block up 9th Street from Front Street I came to the Uinta County Courthouse. It was built in 1873 and once had a prison and hotel along with the government offices. Legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy was once incarcerated there for a short time.
In front of the courthouse is a Doughboy monument erected in 1920. It was originally dedicated to local veterans of the Spanish-American War and WWI, but WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were all added to plaques on the base. It’s believed to be the only memorial in the country dedicated to veterans of five different wars.
St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church
Across the street from the courthouse is St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. It was built in the 1930s and patterned after a similar church in Ireland. The original church was a wooden structure that burned down.
I then walked down Main Street, where I found the Blyth & Fargo Building. It was built in 1882 and housed one of the first department stores in the West. The store had a unique sales counter system with miniature trams connecting each counter to the cashier’s office in the back of the store. Receipts and change would be returned to the front of the store in small wooden containers.
The Strand Theatre, also on Main Street, opened in 1918 for showings of silent films and vaudeville acts. The original interior burned in a fire in 2007 but was later restored.
An interesting aspect of the town was the retro advertisements painted on the sides of many historic buildings. It gave the town a more authentic feel.
Old US Courthouse and Post Office
Finally, I stopped by the old US Courthouse and Post Office. I thought it was strange to have both of these government organizations in one building. I had never seen anything like it before but it seemed practical for such a small town. It was built in 1907 but got much more use as a post office on the first floor. The second and third floors were occupied by the federal court, but historians aren’t sure if a trial was ever held there. The building now holds shops and offices.
Staying at the Prairie Inn Motel
Our hotel in Evanston was the Prairie Inn Motel, conveniently located near I-80. The room and bathroom were huge but could’ve used an update. Breakfast was included but wasn’t anything special. The owner was friendly, although it got annoying when he asked at least five times at check-in if we had any pets or were smokers. The price was US$74 for a room with two queen beds. If I had to stop in Evanston, I would stay there again.
Dinner at Suds Bros.
We ate dinner at Suds Bros., a brewpub on Main Street. It’s located in a historic former JC Penney store (JC Penney’s mother store is in nearby Kemmerer). They’ve got good food, friendly service, a fun atmosphere, and a nice selection of beers. Try the Monkey’s Butt Amber Ale. For our meals, I had a very tasty bowl of chili while Martin and Gönül had burgers.