Sometimes you see something and you just instantly gravitate towards it. It could be a bar, or a pair of shoes, or a restaurant, or a certain person, or a tiny town in South Dakota. It could also be a hotel. Who’da thunk it?
As we were preparing to leave the Black Hills and head west toward Yellowstone, we started browsing around for hotels that were a decent enough distance away, but not too far. We hate driving too far, especially since we never take the interstate. We like to give ourselves plenty of time to mosey, and plenty of chances to gravitate if the situation calls for it.
The closest – but farthest we wanted – city was Cody, Wyoming. This is the gateway to Yellowstone, and Cody knows it. The town abounds with touristy kitsch, and is full of hotels that price themselves as high as demand will allow. That wasn’t a huge issue, but most of them were also sold out.
So, we backtracked a bit and started googling hotels in other small towns. Et voilà: Greybull, Wyoming. And along with it, Historic Hotel Greybull.
We were immediately drawn into this place, reading about its hundred-year history and historic status. The rooms were all kept to a style of days gone by, albeit with modern amenities and the like. And can you say speakeasy? Booked!
Situated east of Yellowstone at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, Greybull is in a great location to explore the surrounding area. It’s nice and small, but sits on three U.S. highways that easily catapult you to natural wonders that encircle the town.
There is also a gorgeous river running through town, with ample opportunities for fishing and water activities.
Driving into town after a long day of back roads, we immediately saw the property with its vintage signs and look straight out of the early 20th century. On this particular hot summer day, not too many of the 1,800 residents were around as the heat index was well over 100F. Many buildings were for lease, giving the appearance of a town way past its heyday.
The hotel itself stands out as a diamond in the rough, and a visitor will immediately notice its proud presence at the main intersection in town. Everything is in operation and seemingly, perfectly restored condition. With all of its period-era polish and central location, it’s impossible to miss unless you’re one of those people who’s driving like a bat out of hell to get to the kitsch capital of Cody before the trinket shops close.
Entering the hotel, we knew we had made the right choice. The first floor serves as a breakfast space and coffee bar, decorated in an old-school style that’s held together by serious craftsmanship.
And this is where we met Myles. Myles owns the hotel, along with his partner Lori, and has a personality and heart as big as his six-foot-four frame. He took us back to his office, which of course is the old vault for the bank that once sat inside the first floor of the building. I mean, come on!
This guy is the perfect combination of having a passion for what he does, having a great sense of humor, and having a willingness to give people like us a bit of a hard time. All in good fun, of course.
Leading us up to our room through the lodging entrance next door, Myles showed us around some of the rooms on the second floor, which was originally part-hotel, part-brothel. That’s kind of how things rolled in the early 20th century, and it was fascinating to see so much of the original furniture and decoration back in place.
Complete with the original check-in desk on the second floor…
…and some of the old guest-room inventory cards.
The rooms are of various size, some of which are suites, some of which have en-suite facilities, and some of which only have a shower and sink with a shared toilet in the hall.
This is how it was way back when, and everything has been so carefully restored that it really shouldn’t matter to you if you have to walk two feet outside your room for a tinkle. It’s not a flophouse, ya dig? This is pure, proud, American history.
After getting settled and walking around town a bit, we headed down for dinner. Because they also have a restaurant. In the basement. Which is a former speakeasy.
This place was used by the famed bootlegger Joe Carey, who ran rum from Canada through here during Prohibition. When Myles bought the place, the secret staircase was covered up by decades of various flooring installations. He originally saw the speakeasy from the back entrance before he bought it, and found the original, interior staircase when they started ripping up the old floors to uncover the original, wooden glory.
Going down the stairs and into the speakeasy – now the main dining room – really takes you back in time. We sat there, imagining the secret debauchery that took place nearly 100 years ago.
Also, we were sitting a few feet from actor Wilford Brimley to one side, and NFL player Brett Keisel to the other. No joke. The former has retired in the area, and the latter is from Greybull. We thought Myles was joking when he told us we’d be sitting next to these guys at dinner, but we got downstairs and there they were. Ha.
Not wanting to bother these otherwise normal folks having dinner with their families, we spent a lot of time talking to our waitresses, Mikaela and Chris, about their experiences in the small town and how they feel about being part of such an historic establishment.
After a slammin’ meal and a good night’s sleep, we woke up in the morning and decided to go bug Myles for a bit. We wanted to know how he got to this old railroad town, and what inspired him to rejuvenate this historic hotel that is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Myles is probably in his 40s – we didn’t ask – and towers over pretty much everyone he meets. He looks like a guy who you can instantly become friends with, but has the power to crush you with a stern look if the situation arises.
Hailing from Bremerton, Washington, near Seattle, Myles was originally studying to become a doctor, like his father. After his father’s untimely death, Myles went another direction and started studying mechanical engineering. After spending several years as an engineer, he got sick of people telling him things couldn’t be done instead of actually trying to solve problems. Our kind of guy, no doubt about that.
He said screw it, and quit the engineering game to start his own construction company. His handiwork is evidenced by some of the photos on the wall in the on-site café, and he points out the first house he ever renovated and flipped. It’s clear that Myles has always taken pride in his work, as the house was quite the looker.
Somewhere along the way, diabetes tried to get the better of Myles, causing problems with both his vision and his legs. It got so bad that he eventually had both legs amputated below the knee. The good news is that his vision problems went away. When we asked Myles how that affected him, he told us that it only made him stronger. When we hear what is normally a tragic story like that, we often feel sympathy and really think that there are endless struggles with such dramatic trauma.
However, Myles is blunt about how he feels, and doesn’t seem to have let it slow him down one bit. He has two prostheses and walks with a noticeable limp, not letting it stop him as he literally does everything he did before the amputation. He even joked around with the dog about it, asking Louis if he’d like a bite of his legs.
These days, he gets a lot of requests from people to talk to other amputees and give them some hope in life. He’s the perfect role model for this, and we didn’t even realize he was a double amputee until he told us.
At some point between then and now, he grew tired of Washington and decided he’d up and move the family to Montana. After selling his real estate and business, they started a new life in Big Sky Country. After some time, Myles was living in the town of Red Lodge, Montana, and headed down to Wyoming to check out some properties with his partner, Lori.
A friend had told them that Greybull would be a great place to invest in, and they came down with the intention of snagging some rental properties. Of course, things change and sometimes go way beyond what one expects, and they ended up stumbling upon what is now the Historic Greybull Hotel. It was for sale, and how was Myles going to say no?
By this point in time, what was once a bank/brothel/hotel/speakeasy had been turned into retail shops and upstairs apartments. Myles and Lori wanted to return it to its former glory; thus, the property was purchased and years of work were begun.
One of the first things they did was make it a point to get the building listed on the aforementioned National Register of Historic Places. This would prevent the building from being torn down in the future, whether by owners down the road, highway expansion, or otherwise. While all that was going on, they got several rooms prepared and opened for business.
Throughout the last several years, the hotel has been returned to its former glory. History has been studied, construction has replaced the missing original stoop, the speakeasy has been reopened, and all the rooms have been redone.
Now, people come from all over the world to stay a night in the hotel. Usually, they’re like us and Greybull was found as an alternative to nearby Cody. Being that there are so many buildings for rent in this town and it is by no means bustling, we asked Myles if or how the town plans to revitalize itself and become a destination rather than a way station. We thought it’d be nice if more people stuck around here instead of sleeping one night and moving on to the next.
While there are indeed other businesses – mostly motels and restaurants/bars – that survive in town, it’s absolutely clear that Greybull could benefit from destination traffic. Myles clearly feels the same way as he tells us about new businesses coming to town, or other companies that are being courted to open shop in the region.
Greybull really is situated in a great location, and it’d be nice to see the town come alive again, as it once was during the oil and gas boom of the early 20th century.
And how is it that Myles can talk about courting corporate investment in the region? Because Myles is on the city council. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given his passion for what he does and the success he wants to see in Greybull. He’s doing just fine with heavy booking at the hotel throughout the year, and fervent local support for the tasty and classy restaurant downstairs.
Even though you might think he only wants to see growth so his investments can prosper – the whole reason he came here in the first place – you can tell that he really believes in the town and has grown to have much more than a financial interest in seeing it evolve.
Myles is a guy with passion. He’s a guy that has triumphed over tribulation time and again, and worked his backside off over the years to do what he wants, when he wants. He’s personally invested in himself and the people around him, and seems to have the utmost respect for both himself and the things that he does. These are, without a doubt, requisites of the American Dream that make Myles and his passions a real part of the Fabric of America.
As is the case when we meet people with some of the same attributes as Myles, we’re honored to have met him and very grateful for both what he has done and the time he gave us while we were there. Next time you’re on the road, stop by Greybull, Wyoming, and say hi to Myles. Stay at his hotel and eat at his restaurant. You will not be disappointed with the experience and the lasting memories.
Historic Hotel Greybull is located here:
602 Greybull Ave.
Greybull, WY 82426
Tel: +1 (307) 202-0329
You can also visit Myles and the hotel at historichotelgreybull.com.
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Any thoughts about Myles, the Historic Greybull Hotel, or our conversation about the Fabric of America? Have you ever been to Greybull, or found a place like his? Any other thoughts? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!