By Luke Anderson
May 4, 2016
Did you ever eat at the El Conquistador restaurant in Laramie, Wyoming? If so, did you know that you were sitting in the oldest building in town? The Kuster Hotel was the first stone building built in Laramie. It was constructed in 1869, just a year after the railroad reached the town, for use by employees of the Union Pacific. In addition to serving as a hotel for railroad workers and wandering cowboys, the building also served as both a stage and bus depot later in its life. Today, the building stands as Laramie's oldest, but you might not guess so right away. The building has endured many changes throughout its nearly 150 year life. The original facade was changed sometime in the mid-20th century, and the building sports seven different layers of roofing.
The hotel was built by the Dawson brothers, but was named for German immigrant Charles S. Kuster who took over ownership in 1889. The hotel had 26 rooms, each with a bed and a sink. In 1934, ownership was transferred to James Cameron, a former janitor at the hotel, who along with his family conducted operations until 1974. The Frausto brothers bought the hotel in 1974, and ran a successful restaurant out of the hotel's first floor for several decades. Hotel operations were shut down for good in 1985 as management costs began to get too high. Today, with the restaurant now closed and 26 empty rooms waiting upstairs, the former Kuster Hotel is a building teeming with potential. It stands as a testament to the flexible nature of historic buildings. They change over time, and with each addition, each new owner, each new business, each new guest, another layer of history is added. And with nearly 150 years under its belt, the Kuster Hotel has proved its resilience in the face of time and has solidified its place as permanent piece of downtown Laramie. And just remember when you walk down Main Street in any town that you might not always be able to tell from the outside which building is the oldest. Sometimes, they are hiding right under our noses.
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