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Backstory: Casper’s Center Street From Boom To Bust To…Boom?

Center Street circa 1920s. Note the small refinery at left and the train passing through what is now near Midwest Ave. The tracks are now the Platte River Trails Rail Trail walking and riding path. The park at right near train is now the Slumberland building, which was originally built as a Sears in the 1950s. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Library)

The Wyoming History Center at Casper College has no shortage of historic images of Casper’s Center Street.

It’s not surprising since the street has been something of the backbone of Casper since it started out as an oil boom and cow town in the late 1800s.

The earliest photos show a muddy road lined with hastily constructed wood frame buildings. It wasn’t long until those early structures were replaced by sturdy brick buildings, the road was paved and lights were installed. There were no shortage of bars and pool halls sitting along side hotels, restaurants, hardware stores and drug stores.

Downtown suffered the fate of most city centers in America starting in the 1960s as freeways and malls and suburbs were built. As travelers stayed at freeway motels and shoppers went to the malls, downtowns struggled to survive.

The recent Eclipse Festival showed that Casper’s downtown is on the rebound after a long climb from the bottom. Crowds swelled through Casper’s revitalized downtown and new David Street Station plaza, which was built on land formally occupied by a gas station and repair shop. New restaurants and bars have opened, and landlords are investing money into buildings that have long been neglected.

Center Street as seen from the old Iris Theatre around 1970. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Casper, Wyoming. Center Street looking south, ca. 1894. (Photographer altered photograph
to depict Casper Mountain, which was obscured by cloud cover).
Required Credit: Morrison Collection, Casper College Library.
Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code). Any use,
publication, or distribution requires permission from both the Casper College Library
and the copyright holder.
Casper’s Center Street seen from about Center and 13th, circa 1920. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Center Street with electric lights looking north at dusk, circa middle 1920s. The original courthouse is at end of street. (Frances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Center Street in the early 1920s. Buildings from left are Rhinoceros Cafe, Elkorn Bar, Grand Central City Band, Schulte Hardware, Kimball Drug, Coxomino Bar, Grand Central Hotel Bar, Townsend Building.
“Early Day Street Scene – Looking south from about Center and ‘A.’ At left a laundry on corner now occupied by Masonic Temple; St. Anthony’s Church on corner where Reef Lounge now stands; at right is the Sam Switzer house on site of Gladstone Hotel; and just south is the C. H. King home, where Henning Hotel now stands. Beyond may be seen the belfry of old Town Hall, and Grant Hotel, just beyond the Townsend building, with the Webel Mercantile store at left. Smokestacks of the power company beside the railroad can be seen. At far right can be seen the first courthouse, and the stone jail beside it, on David (where firehouse now stands). Rear of Shorty Castle’s Livery is close to river bank, leading to area now the Sandbar.” (Fances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Bostelman & Kimball Pioneer Drug Co., Center Street, Casper, Wyoming. Sign by clock: “Dr. J. F. Leeper.” (No date).
“Kimball Drug Store – Now site of the Arcade. Standing in front of store are Mr. Bostleman [sic – C. F. G. Bostelman], W. S. Kimball [Wilson S. Kimball], Dr. John F. Leeper, Mrs. Kimball [Edness Merrick Kimball?] and sister Blanche Merrick, Frieda Van Thulan [Frieda Van Thulan Rhoades, sister of Mrs. Carl Bostelman Rhoades], F. B. Harrison of Glenrock, Myron Congdon, Missou Hines, Trapper Edwards, Charles Eads.” (Frances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
View of Casper and Center Street, circa 1914. (Frances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Center Street looking South, Casper, Wyoming, circa 1965. (Blackmore Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Townsend Hotel and Masonic Temple, middle to late 1920s. (Frances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Center Street around 1920. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
A view of Center St. facing west in downtown Casper on May 25, 2017. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Center Street as seen on Aug. 5, shortly before the reopening of the Wonder Bar. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)