National Register of Historic Places


Virginian Hotel

Medicine Bow

Date Added to Register

Monday, May 22, 1978

Smithsonian Number

48CR1196

Read all about it

The Virginian Hotel, constructed in 1911, is a freely adapted example of Renaissance Revival architecture in the Italian style located in the small town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Medicine Bow is the setting for perhaps the greatest of all Western novels, The Virginian, written by Owen Wister. Located in the Laramie Plains, a large expanse of grazing land in the Northwestern Plains, the town grew up as a railroad shipping point for cattle, sheep and wool. Before the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad in June, 1868, Medicine Bow was the site of a tie operation, where logs and railroad ties cut in the Medicine Bow Mountains and floated down rushing mountain currents, gathered behind a boom stretched across the Medicine Bow River. With the addition of a water tank and roundhouse, the settlement became a permanent railroad station along a great transcontinental route.

Author Wister, who crisscrossed Wyoming fifteen time in the years 1885-1902, borrowed scenes from the country around Medicine Bow for his book, which was written in 1902. The Virginian Hotel did not play a role in that book. August Grimm, who with George Plummer was responsible for building the hotel, may have had in mind the fame of that great American novel, but the hotel probably was not built to honor Wister or the hero of his novel. Although cowboys, as well as railroad workers needed a place to stay when they arrived in town, the hotel was built to serve a clientele from a much wider area. The significance of the Virginian Hotel rests upon its architecture and its role in local history. The Virginian stands as a physical landmark and as a commercial landmark in the town of Medicine Bow.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources