The Cheyenne Club was a men’s social club organized in 1880 by a group of insanely wealthy stockmen. Originally called the Cactus Club, its members were originally all cattle barons … many of whom wintered in Europe and spent summers in Cheyenne. It had a worldwide reputation and its amenities rivaled those of the best “Gentlemen’s Clubs” in the British Empire. For those of you who have visited us, it was located on the northwest corner of Seventeenth Street and Warren Avenue (directly across the street from Quizno’s parking lot).
The club was an impressive two story brick building with a large veranda, two grand staircases, central heating, tennis courts, an elevator and a large decorative cupola. It sported wine vaults, a smoking room (supplied with fine Havana cheroots), billiard room, card room, lounge and a reading room offering The Drovers Journal and newspapers from New York and Boston. The oak paneled dining room enjoyed a splendid reputation and served many nationally known dignitaries (such as Andrew Carnegie and Teddy Roosevelt). The chef was imported, having been trained in Europe, and the wine vault was filled with the finest vintages. Six elegantly appointed private apartments were located on the second floor for members and their guests (women were not allowed but it is rumored that some high stakes gambling took place in the private rooms). The entire club was decorated with the most sumptuous furnishings and décor available at the time
Member ship was limited to 200, and over time it grew to include the city’s most elite businessmen, state and local legislators, and high-ranking professionals. While it was designated a social club, much informal wheeling and dealing took place there. There was to be “no profanity, no drunkenness, no blows struck, no cheating at cards, no smoking of pipes, no tipping, no betting and no games on Sunday.” There were nineteen hitching posts along the street and local boys received five-dollar tips for tying horses to the posts.
Rules were strictly enforced and several violations of decorum are recorded. John Coble, who provided funds for Tom Horn’s defense, was suspended (and then resigned) after he discharged his .45 into a painting hanging in the Club. Harry Oelrichs, noted for arriving to the Club in his $4,000 coach, kicked a steward and was himself booted from the Club.
The cattle business was effectively ruined after a disastrous blizzard the winter of 1886-1887 and many of the barons lost their money and left Cheyenne. In 1909 the Club’s name was changed to the Industrial Club and in 1927 it was taken over by the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. The building was demolished in 1936.
Note: In 1970 there was a film entitled The Cheyenne Social Club that was directed and produced by Gene Kelly. It starred Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda and Shirley Jones. James Lee Barrett’s script earned a Writers Guild of America nomination for “Best Comedy Directly Written for the Screen”, however he lost out to Neil Simon for The Out-of-Towners. While the names are similar, the movie’s Cheyenne Social Club was a brothel and did not depict the elite and utterly decorous Cheyenne Club.