(PHOTOS) Backstory: The tower of the Gladstone Hotel in downtown Casper had a grand past and faces an unknown future


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

CASPER, Wyo. – The nine-story concrete tower of First and Center Street in downtown Casper had remained in the spotlight for decades until a proposal to convert the building into affordable transitional housing was recently put forward by the municipal Council.

The plan proposed by real estate agent and local investor Erin Marquez involved securing a block community development grant of $ 500,000 for a project she estimated to 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 it closed completely a few years ago. The original Gladstone Hotel was demolished in 1970. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The ambitious proposal would have involved major structural improvements and was ultimately rejected by the board.

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What is going on next to the building, which is on sale, anyone guesses.

When it was first completed in 1954, however, it was touted as the hottest new attraction in a bustling city center.

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

The tower was built as a modern addition to the sleek Gladstone built in 1922, which stood among two other large downtown hotels and a handful of smaller ones in the centralized area.

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

To stand out, the owners built a glass-walled restaurant and nightclub on the top floor, offering stunning views of the city and Casper Mountain.

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

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

“The New Sky Room gives you the ultimate in food, drink and entertainment,” the article boasts.

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

The good times did not last long, however. By the mid-1960s, the nightlife action was moving to new places in the city. When the 300-room Ramada Inn resort opened near the new Interstate 25, large downtown Casper hotels struggled and deteriorated.

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

The original Gladstone Hotel was demolished in 1970, leaving the relatively recent addition awkwardly transformed into a free-standing office building. The Sky Room has survived several incarnations, the last being a nightclub before it closed for good in the early 1980s. Parts of the original Sky Room interior still survived in 2018.

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

Inside, the mid-century tiled bathrooms and hotel amenities survive to this day. The elevator is out of code, as are most building 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 Sky Room on the top floor in 2018 also failed, leaving a fascinating piece of downtown Casper’s history at rest, biding its time to shine again.

A corner of an old hotel room that served as an office in The Tower. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The old Sky Room as it is now. Note the ceiling elements, which mark the location of the musical entertainment. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The 8th floor lobby of The Tower, formerly an addition to the Gladstone Hotel. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Mirrors on a column are pretty much all that survive from the disco era in the old Sky Room. The nightclub operated as Studio 9 until around 1981. The top floor has been empty since, while the rest of the building served as offices until a few years ago. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
A detail of the painting on the walls of the Sky Room. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The relay panel in the elevator room was still original equipment from the 1950s, as seen in 2018 (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)
A stairwell that led to the old lobby of the Gladstone Hotel now leads nowhere. After the building was demolished in 1970, a parking lot for The Tower office building was provided in its place. The original basement is still under the ground and connected to the basement of the Tower. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The basement of the old Gladstone Hotel is all that survives of the grand building since it was demolished in 1970. It was used as additional storage space for the tower, the 1954 addition to the Gladstone. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
The vintage tiling of the original Gladstone Hotel can still be seen in the basement of the tower. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
A Casper Star-Tribune clip from July 26, 1970 in the Casper College Library tells the story of Ms. EN (Celia) Miller, who the newspaper said designed the original Gladstone Hotel with her husband, Elias Miller. The Gladstone was being demolished when the newspaper told Ms Miller, who lived in the Ada Apartments on Center St. what she had to say about what is now the Wells Fargo Building). On the demolition of the original Gladstone, she said: “It makes me a little blue.” (West Casper College History Center)
A postcard for the newly constructed Gladstone Hotel, circa 1923 (Casper College Western History Center)

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