Outlaw Inn a landmark in Wyoming for 54 years

Wyoming has many iconic hotels. The Wolf Hotel in Saratoga, the Plains in Cheyenne, the Parkway Plaza (soon to reopen with a new name) in Casper, the Noble in Lander, the Irma in Cody, the Sheridan Inn in Sheridan, and the Occidental in Buffalo.

But one of the most unique was in Rock Springs. 

Don Anselmi had a dream. But sometimes dreams were hard to come by in 1965 in his historic railroad town.

He dreamed about a big hotel in a little town of 6,000 people. Reason for his dream was the audacious news that the largest highway project in United States history was poised to put a major east-west link through Sweetwater County. 

With his brother and attorney John Anselmi, bar owner Mike Vase and petroleum distributor Vern Delgado, they borrowed $1.5 million, which was a fortune back in those days.

Soon they broke ground on a parcel of land at the intersection of Highway 191 and the new Interstate 80. A photo from the Rock Springs Daily Rocket Miner at the time shows a smiling Don Anselmi digging a spade full of dirt. He was literally standing in the middle of nowhere.

Now a big hotel in a small town is usually pretty big news but what made this hotel special was its unique and almost one-of-a-kind style.  It would be a huge complex with all the guest rooms, meeting rooms, restaurants, bar, and swimming pool under one big canopy.

Delgado had friends in Pinedale who were from Lubbock, Texas, who had just built a new style of hotel. 

Its design included a huge canopy over everything, which brought the outdoors indoors. In Lubbock this was done because of the stifling heat. If used in Wyoming, it would be done because of the wind and the cold. 

Hundreds of Holiday Inn Holidomes were built in the decades after this design made its debut, but the Lubbock hotel and the Outlaw in Rock Springs were the pacesetters.  

Today, the Outlaw Inn is still in the hands of the Anselmi family.  Don’s son Mark with his wife Nancy have owned an interest in the hotel for 30 years and have owned it 100 percent for the past 17 years. And it has thrived.

Today, Mark rolls his eyes when recalling the unique design on the front of hotel when it was built. But to Mark, as much as he appreciated its unique look, all he can remember are all the times when trucks collided with it. One time a UPS truck hit it with such velocity two of its wheels came off the ground. 

The hotel was doing OK and became a tourist site in its own right.  The summers were busy but the winters and springs, especially, could get slow.

Then 1971 came along and everything changed.  Pacific Power and Light, the huge regional electrical power company, picked Rock Springs as the location for its gigantic Jim Bridger Power Plant.

Besides that boom, if there was another golden age for the hotel, it was when Don Anselmi was the state chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party.

The hotel became the epicenter of Wyoming Democratic politics during this time. If something exciting was happening in the party, it often occurred right there at the Outlaw at the intersection of Interstate 80 and highway 191 in Rock Springs.

In recent years, Mark and Nancy have invested millions of dollars to upgrade the entire look of the hotel. Today the exterior of the Outlaw is surrounded by new, bold, detached canopies that stand high enough to avoid any collisions by distracted truck drivers while the interior has seen complete renovation over the past seven years. 

Most recently, several suites in the hotel have been furnished with unique furniture created by Centennial Woods of Laramie and designed by Russell Meyer using reclaimed wood originally used on early snow fences that protected Interstate 80 from driving snowstorms. 

The first time this writer visited the Outlaw was in the early 1970s as my partners and I were in the process of buying the newspaper in neighboring Green River.

This building makes a powerful first impression. I had never seen anything like it.  It was like walking into a giant spaceship.  

Here, in little Rock Springs in little Wyoming, was this amazing structure. It was memorable.  Especially to me some 45 years ago. I had never seen anything like it. 

The Outlaw is a historical marvel and has recently been listed as a National Historic Place. 

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.