Purchased from the Smith family by Dawn Dawson Wexo in 1997, the historic frontier Occidental Hotel, Saloon, Gift Shop, Virginian and Busy Bee Café in Buffalo, WY still stands because of her restoration efforts. Her decision set into motion the preservation of the buildings; which, at the time were designated for demolition in about 8 weeks. This magnificent treasure would have been lost forever to the community and the State of Wyoming.
Dawn truly believed in the property’s valuable history and foundation in the community. She established the Museum of the Occidental Hotel and achieved the registration of the Hotel on the National Register of Historic Places. Meticulously, she began the restoration process of the buildings, while seeking the assistance of investors, volunteers, and residents of Johnson County. She took on business partners from various backgrounds to implement the work and financially support restoration projects that ranged from foundation work to the historical integrity of interior features.
One set of business partners included David and Jackie Stewart. They came to the Occidental in 2005, assisting in financial investments, musical investments, promotional projects, and assisting in the continuation of the buildings’ restoration. The Stewarts became sole owners in 2013 and brought to completion a total of 19 restored hotel rooms. These rooms allow guests from all over the world to become a part of the hotels Old West Frontier history.
Since 2015, the Stewarts have refocused their restoration efforts on the buildings’ exterior structures and interior floors. They started with the restoration of the Occidental’s exterior by having the bricks of the buildings repointed. It was a large scope project that started in 2015 and reached completion in 2017 with the support of the Wyoming Cultural Trust fund who contributed $10,000 dollars to the overall cost of $78,000 to complete the project.
The wood floor refurbishment began shortly after and spanned the 1906 and 1908 buildings. More specifically, they restored the wood floors of the historic Occidental Saloon, the Hotel Lobby and Halls, the upstairs landings, and two hotel rooms.
Presently, the Museum of the Occidental and the Stewarts, with the support of the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund and the Littler Foundation, are actively working on the completion of a roof project. The roof project is focused on the 1906 building which has suffered interior damage because of stress on the roof from environmental factors ranging from freeze and thaw to hail. The project includes the installation of insulation, a window repair, an installation of a commercial grade roof liner, and the installation of gutters and drains for prevention of water collection, and other small repairs. The newest projection for the completion of this roof project is February of 2019.
In the future, Stewarts and the Museum of the Occidental are hoping to move onto the restoration of the buildings’ windows by carefully restoring the frames, glass panes, and repairing any damaged weights that contribute to faulty window operation. The scope of the project is large considering the number of associated buildings and the windows they hold.
The Historic Occidental is a true labor of love and the appreciation of the history these wonderful buildings represent.For more information about the Occidental Hotel, visit the website.