Backstory: Remembering Arcade Bar, one of downtown Casper's longtime watering holes - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Backstory: Remembering Arcade Bar, one of downtown Casper’s longtime watering holes

Interior of Kimball Drugstore, 1912. On South Center. Cosmetics is at left and jewelry at right. The drug store was replaced by the Arcade Bar, which operated at 214 S. Center for decades. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Western History Center)

There aren’t many images of the Arcade Bar on file at the Western History Center at Casper College.

In spite of its current elusiveness, it was for decades one of Casper’s most venerable establishments for suds and conversation.

Located at 214 S. Center, the spot had a history even before the bar was established. That spot was the first location for Kimball Drug Store, an early outpost of necessities for citizens making their way in a young boomtown.

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The first simple wood building was replaced by a handsome three-story structure in the early-1900s. Kimball moved to Second Street and the Arcade Bar moved in sometime in the early-1930s.

That was a time when the west side of Center was pretty much lined with bars. A lot of bars.

In a 1977 Casper Star-Tribune column, the author recalls the heyday of the Arcade.

“The Arcade flourished in the 1930s, through World War II and into the 1940s and 50s. Ernest Hemingway was enthralled by the place in the late 1940s when he had an enforced stay in Casper as a result of his wife Mary’s miscarriage and subsequent treatment at Memorial Hospital. The late Casper artist Dick Sebald spent many hours in the bar and his early cartoons were framed and displayed and later sold at the bar.”

The Arcade was a popular stop for ranchers and cowhands, and would gladly cash their paychecks perhaps knowing a good chunk of that money wasn’t leaving the bar.

An ugly brawl at The Arcade in 1972 made headlines when a man named Ray Gibson, an injured Vietnam War veteran, was charged with felonious assault after he stabbed Edward Cisneros.

According to a Casper Star-Tribune account of the proceedings, Gibson’s lawyer claimed self defenses. “It’s clear there was a hell of a fight in the Arcade Bar, Mr. Gibson took a terrible beating,” said the defense.

By the late-1970s the owners were petitioning city council to move their license and Arcade Bar name to another location away from downtown. The space was eventually taken over by Okes Jewelers, which occupied the location for several years.

The building still stands, but it’s unrecognizable to historic photos. The top floors were demolished and facade given a total makeover in the mid-1950s after the neighboring Grand Central Hotel was demolished for the construction of the Petroleum Building on the corner of Center and Second Streets. The building sharing the 214 and 208 S. Center addresses is mostly, if not entirely vacant.

Original Kimball Drug Store on Center Street, circa late 1800s. (Frances Seely Webb Collection, Western History Center)
Center Street in Casper, circa early 1920s. The Arcade Bar was located in the southern corner of the three story building, second from right. (Western History Center)
The Arcade Bar sign can be seen next to the Saddle Rock Cafe. The building at far right was the Grand Central Hotel, which was in the process of demolition for the Petrolium Building in the mid-1950s. The Arcade Bar and Saddle Rock building was partially demolished down to one story. It still stands today, but is unrecognizable to this photo. (Western History Center)
The Arcade Bar and Saddle Rock Cafe are seen at left after extensive remodeling. The new Petrolium Building looms next door on the corner of Center and Second Streets. (Wyoming State Archives)
A newspaper ad from 1945 for the Arcade Bar is shown here. The bar operated at 214 S. Center from the early-1930s until sometime in the late 1970s.
After the Arcade Bar and neighboring Saddle Rock Cafe closed by the late 70s, the space has been occupied by a jewlery store, a political candidate office and a frozen yogurt business. It is now empty. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)