Fossil Cabin, Medicine Bow

By Luke Anderson

September 14, 2016

Human history in Wyoming goes back thousands of years, but the history of modern buildings in Wyoming goes back less than two hundred. Many people will say that Old Bedlam at Fort Laramie, built in 1849, is the state's oldest standing structure. However, Wyoming has a hidden treasure that has been argued to be the world's oldest building - older than the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, or the Parthenon. Wyoming's oldest building is tens of millions of years old.

Well, technically... 

Believe it or not, there is a cabin built entirely out of dinosaur fossils in Wyoming

Believe it or not, there is a cabin built entirely out of dinosaur fossils in Wyoming

The Fossil Cabin Museum on Highway 287 just outside of Medicine Bow, Wyoming was built in 1932, but its materials are much older. The cabin is constructed entirely out of dinosaur fossils. 5,796 dinosaur bones excavated from nearby Como Bluff were used to build the cabin (Lowe). The building was meant to eccentric. After all, there were surely more economical ways of building a cabin in the 1930s. Fossil Cabin was the result of a pointed marketing campaign and an incomplete dinosaur skeleton. 

AHW staff poses with a "This Place Matters" banner in front of Fossil Cabin Museum near Medicine Bow

AHW staff poses with a "This Place Matters" banner in front of Fossil Cabin Museum near Medicine Bow

Thomas Boylan and his family homesteaded the area in 1908 at the base of Como Bluff, an area that later become known as a "dinosaur graveyard" (Cheung). Boylan had economic plans for the homestead, as it was located next to the Lincoln Highway. He intended to build a gas station on the highway and thought that he could use dinosaur skeletons from the nearby fossil quarry as an attraction to drum up business (Cheung). Boylan did find a way to attract customers to his gas station, but not the way he initially intended. Boylan discovered that paleontology is extremely hard work, and after 16 years of collecting dinosaur fossils, he still was nowhere close to having a complete skeleton from a single animal to display (Lowe). 

So he decided to build a cabin with them instead. 6,000 fossils later, stuck together with mortar, Boylan had the roadside attraction he desired to bring people to his gas station. It was an immediate hit and was soon known by many different nicknames, including "world's oldest building," "creation museum," and "building that used to walk" (Cheung). Boylan's ingenious marketing experiment worked, and he had created an instant brand for himself and his gas station. It was so unique that Robert Ripley even featured the cabin in his famous newspaper column Believe It or Not (Lowe).

Today, the cabin is closed and the adjacent farmhouse abandoned. Large sage brush as big as small dinosaurs have taken over the property. The gas station is long gone, but travelers can still pull off the highway and park on a paved pad and marvel at the surrealistic structure. The cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and will be forever remembered as one of the most eccentric landmarks on the Lincoln Highway. 

Cheung, Han. "Though built in 1933, Wyoming cabin is still the 'oldest building in the world.'" Desert News Utah. September 2, 2013.

Lowe, Stephanie. "The World's Oldest Building: The Fossil Cabin at Como Bluff." Wyohistory.org

  

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