Friday, May 18, 2012

Ladies Parlour, Sheridan Inn

Ladies Parlour, Sheridan Inn (early photo)
Ladies Parlour, Sheridan Inn

Location: 856 Broadway, Sheridan, Wyoming, USA

Opened: Construction begun in December 1892, opened May 27, 1893

Closed: First floor remains open, including the former ladies parlour, for meetings, dinners, and receptions. Upper floors in need of restoration. As of this year (April), the hotel was in danger of foreclosure.

Sheridan Inn (2008)
The Sheridan Inn has a long and colorful history, beginning with its two-year association with "Buffalo Bill" Cody. The hotel was designed by Nebraska architect Thomas R. Kimball, based on the hotels of Scotland. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Read more about its history here.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Head White
Hollyhock and Little Hills (1935)
What I find fascinating is the contrast between the traditional Scottish exterior, and the very spare western aesthetic in the ladies parlour. Nearly all the hotel spaces I have ever seen that have been designated for "ladies" or "women" have had been steeped in the European design tradition. Not this one. It looks like we're stepping into a Georgia O'Keeffe canvas. I have been unable to establish who did the interior design.

Ladies Parlour - after 1969?
Yet in this photo, the "ladies parlour" is set up as a rather dull and conventional Victorian dining room. If we are to judge from a photo taken during a dinner that was held there, this layout was associated with a later renovation--probably the 1969 restoration of the ladies parlour, dining room, and Wyoming Room. In addition, if you examine the first photo carefully, you'll see--despite efforts to "old up" the appearance--that there are modern pictures on the wall, newer air vents, and what appears to be recessed ceiling lights.

Given all the male diners, this was clearly not a womyn's space by this time. That's hardly a surprise though. We know from past research that nearly all lady-designated dining spaces of the late nineteenth century were constantly infested with male "escorts" and the like, who not infrequently outnumbered the women. In addition, ladies cafes, restaurants and the like often doubled as small banquet facilities for men and women. So they never had a very stable or consistent function, unlike, say, the men's smoking room or the men's grill.

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