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(PHOTOS) Backstory: Casper’s downtown Gladstone Hotel tower had grand past, faces unknown future

The Gladstone Hotel and the 1954 addition, now named The New Gladstone. (Casper College, Western History Center)

CASPER, Wyo. — The concrete nine-story tower at First and Center Street in downtown Casper had been out of the spotlight for decades until a proposal to convert the building into affordable transitional housing was floated by City Council recently.

The plan, proposed by local realtor and investor Erin Marquez, involved securing a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for a project she estimated would cost $4.5 million to complete.

Originally built as an addition to the Gladstone Hotel, it was used as an office building for decades before closing completely a couple of years ago. The original Gladstone Hotel was demolished in 1970. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The ambitious proposal would have involved major upgrades to the structure and was eventually rejected by the council.

What happens next to the building, which is listed for sale, is anybody’s guess.

When it was first completed in 1954, however, it was billed as the hottest new attraction in a bustling downtown area.

The Gladstone Hotel addition under construction. It opened in the fall of 1954. (Casper College Western History Center)

The tower was constructed as a modern addition to the elegant 1922-built Gladstone, which stood tall among two other big downtown hotels and a smattering of smaller ones in the centralized area.

A suite in the new addition of the Gladstone Hotel, circa 1954. (Casper College Western History Center)

To stand out, the owners built a glass-walled restaurant and nightclub at the top story, offering striking views of the city and Casper Mountain.

The Sky Room is seen around 1954 shortly after opening at the very top of the new Gladstone Hotel addition in downtown Casper. (Casper College Western History Center, Chamber Collection)

When it first opened for business, a four-page ad supplement to the Sunday, Oct. 17, 1954 edition of the Casper Tribune-Herald & Star promised an exciting new era for downtown entertainment.

“The New Sky Room offers you the ultimate in food, drinks and entertainment,” boasted the article.

The new Gladstone Hotel addition is seen at right, with the Hotel Townsend at left. The Henning Hotel is just south of the Gladstone across First Street. (Frances Seely Webb Collection, Casper College Western History Center)

The good times didn’t last long, however. By the mid-60s, the nightlife action was moving to newer spots around town. When the 300-room Ramada Inn complex opened near the new Interstate 25, Casper grand downtown hotels were left to struggle and deteriorate.

Of the original historic downtown hotels, only the Townsend Hotel survives, now converted into the Townsend Justice Center after years of neglect.

The original Gladstone Hotel was demolished in 1970, leaving the relatively new addition awkwardly converted into a standalone office building. The Sky Room survived a number of incarnations, the last being a disco before permanently closing in the early 1980s. Parts of the original Sky Room interior still survived into 2018.

Demolition of the original section of the Gladstone Hotel, 1970. (Casper College Western History Center)

Inside, the hotel’s mid-century–tiled bathrooms and hotel layouts survive to this day. The elevator is out of code, along with much of the building’s systems.

Demolition of the original section of the Gladstone Hotel, 1970. (Casper College Western History Center)

An effort to revive the building and its once-spectacular top floor Sky Room in 2018 also fizzled, leaving a fascinating piece of Casper downtown history to still sit idle, awaiting its time to shine yet again.

A corner of a former hotel room that was used as office space in The Tower. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The former Sky Room as it is now. Note the ceiling features, which marks where the musical entertainment would stand. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The hall of the 8th floor of The Tower, formally an addition to the Gladstone Hotel. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Mirrors on a column are about all that survives of the disco era in the former Sky Room. The disco operated under the name Studio 9 until around 1981. The top floor has been empty since then, while the rest of the building was used for offices until a couple of years ago. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
A detail of paint design on the walls of the Sky Room. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The relay panel in the elevator room was still original 1950s-era equipment as seen in 2018. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)
A stairwell that led to the old Gladstone Hotel lobby now leads to nothing. After the building was demolished in 1970, a parking lot for The Tower office building was put in its place. The original basement is still under the lot and connected to The Tower’s basement. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The basement of the old Gladstone Hotel is all that survives of the grand building since its demolition in 1970. It was used for additional storage for The Tower, the Gladstone’s 1954 addition. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Vintage tile from the original Gladstone Hotel is still visible in the basement of The Tower. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
A July 26, 1970 Casper Star-Tribune clip at Casper College’s library tells the story of Mrs. E. N. (Celia) Miller, who according to the paper designed the original Gladstone Hotel with her husband Elias Miller. The Gladstone was in the process of being demolished when the paper talked to Mrs. Miller, who was living in the Ada Apartments on Center Street. Mrs. Miller had a few snarky thing to say about other buildings (“It annoys me,” is what she had to say about what’s now the Wells Fargo building). On the demolition of the original Gladstone, she said, “It makes me kind of blue.” (Western History Center Casper College)
A postcard for the newly-constructed Gladstone Hotel, circa 1923. (Casper College Western History Center)

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