Backstory: The life and fiery death of Casper's swanky Riverside Club (Photos) - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Backstory: The life and fiery death of Casper’s swanky Riverside Club (Photos)

Residents examine the gutted Riverside Club in North Casper the day it was destroyed by a fire on June 17, 1964. (Chuck Morrison collection, Casper College Western History Center)

A column in the June 17, 1964 Casper Tribune reads almost like an obituary to a beloved friend.

In Irving Garbutt’s “Off the Cuff” column, the writer mournfully memorializes one of Casper’s most notable night spots, The Riverside Club, which had been gutted by a fire in the wee hours the day before.

According to the article, it was a speakeasy innocently referred to as “Mother’s Place” during early prohibition days. In the 1940s, “roulette wheels clicked, black jack and barbuit (card) games flourished…”

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After the gambling days it became known as “the best place in town to get a steak dinner.”

Entertainers and musicians on the club circuit made regular stops at the Riverside, and it was the absolute place to be seen in your fanciest clothes during special occasions and company holiday parties.

A 1920s-era newspaper ad lists the Riverside Club’s address at 1260 North Durbin, which at the time was in the county just barely outside of Casper’s city limits. That allowed them to use a county liquor license, according to an old Tribune article.

The club appeared to be located in a residential area. Surviving photos show a nondescript one-story building with white wood siding and what appear to be a number of additions.

According to newspaper accounts, the fire that ultimately destroyed the club started in the wee hours of June 17, 1964.

“More than 20 Casper and Natrona County firemen had to be called, some of them from their beds, to fight the fire,” reported the Casper Morning Star the following day.

“The city fire chief said that the entire inside of the building was gone and that it would be very difficult to determine the exact cause of the fire,” said the Star, which speculated the fire started in either the kitchen or laundry area.

Later news accounts said the owner would not recoup enough insurance to rebuild, and the burned-out shell was later demolished. The land at its old address in North Casper is still empty.

Irving Garbutt concluded his newspaper article proclaiming, “There’ll never be another place like Riverside.”

He was right.