In his day, Buffalo Bill Cody was arguably the most famous American in the world.
No surprise, really, considering the former soldier and frontiersman formed his Wild West show in 1883 and toured the U.S. and Europe for three decades.
In 1895, between tours, he helped found the town of Cody, where, in 1902, he opened the Irma Hotel, which he named after his beloved daughter.
Cody was particularly proud of the Irma, calling it the “sweetest hotel that ever was.”
Some exterior walls are made of sandstone from nearby Beck Lake, while the fireplace is an assemblage of rocks, ores, minerals and fossils from the Bighorn Basin. The old part of the hotel holds 15 rooms, while another 24 are available in various additions.
“The Irma is the anchor of our town’s main road, Sheridan Avenue,” owner John Darby says. “When it was built, there was nothing like it in the area.”
Old West artist Frederic Remington, sharpshooter Annie Oakley and scout Calamity Jane have allegedly stayed at the Irma.
In addition to the notables of the past, musicians such as Trace Adkins and film and TV stars like Tom Selleck and Robert Duvall have stayed at the Irma. Wilford Brimley, who lives in the region, is a regular visitor, Darby says.
The Irma Restaurant is renowned for its prime rib. Be sure to check out the cherrywood back bar at the Silver Saddle Saloon. It was a gift to Buffalo Bill from Queen Victoria, one of his many admirers.
If you stay here during the summer months, you can catch a performance by the Cody Gunfighters next door. Of course, no trip honoring Buffalo Bill would be complete without viewing artifacts and photos of the showman at the prestigious Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a few blocks from the hotel.
Those who plan ahead might be lucky enough to reserve Buffalo Bill’s private suite, which Darby calls the most rented room in Cody. “People are really impressed with its history,” he says.
So are we.
John Stanley, the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s 2007 Conservation Media Champion, is a former travel reporter and photographer for The Arizona Republic.