04 Aug Western Landmark: Chamberlin Inn
Like many small, well-preserved cities in the mountain West, Cody, Wyoming, projects a palpable sense of history. The main street, wide enough to turn a wagon around, is dotted with period buildings, anchored by a hotel founded by Buffalo Bill and surrounded by mountains. Visitors come for the scenery, the dude ranches, the big game hunting, the nightly rodeo, the Buffalo Bill Museum and the town’s proximity to Yellowstone National Park. They come seeking Western authenticity. It is only fitting, reasoned Ev and Susan Diehl, that the town’s lodging options include an inn with that same authenticity. Thus, when they saw an opportunity to buy a downtown property with a century-long history as a hotel, they grabbed it.
Longtime Cody residents, the Diehls were in fact living on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific at the time of the purchase of what was then the Pawnee Hotel, known as the place the rodeo cowboys bunked while on the circuit. They sailed to the West Coast, sold their boat, moved back to Cody, drafted their two daughters to help, strapped on toolbelts and worked for two years to restore the buildings, not just to — but well beyond — their former glory.
The Chamberlin Inn today is a series of four buildings arranged around a central open courtyard of lawn, patio and gardens with a fire pit. The original red-brick boarding house, founded by town leader Agnes Chamberlin as the Chamberlin Hotel in 1904, was stripped to its brick walls and restored as close to its original configuration and details as possible. Each of the 17 guest rooms is different; each has a unique configuration, period details, its own color scheme and original art. The main building houses a wood-lined library, a newly outfitted lounge and dining area and a glass conservatory that opens up to the garden in inclement weather. Its lobby is original; displayed there are the hotel’s first switchboard, complete with plugs, and the guest register from 1932 displaying Ernest Hemingway’s distinctive signature.
The property includes The Courthouse, the building that served for three years as the original courthouse when Park County split from Big Horn County in 1909; it is now a two-story lofted residence with period touches. The Chamberlin’s original barn sits directly behind the main hotel. It was rebuilt from the studs and now contains two apartments and a loft with a vaulted ceiling. Finally, the original shop was transformed into The Cottage, a stuccoed romantic escape with a lofted ceiling, fireplace and clawfoot tub.
Cody’s Chamberlin Inn has become a popular venue for weddings, off-site meetings and small conferences. The Diehl family and their staff cater to all visitors with a personal touch. From luxurious extras — organic linens, Belgian chocolates, Italian lotions and fresh flowers — to individualized concierge services, the inn routinely exceeds the expectation of its guests. And for the many tourists who come to Wyoming in search of the true West, it provides even more: a chance to dwell, even if briefly, in its turn-of-the-century history.