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New life for the 110-year-old Stringer Hotel, Dubois’ oldest and tallest building

Vaseline 2 months ago

Oscar Stringer and his brothers built a grand hotel in Dubois in 1914, the same year the town was officially incorporated.

Dubois was about to become a vibrant place, they reasoned, with the Wyoming Tie and Timber Co. had the headquarters of a huge woodworking company northwest of Dubois in the DuNoir, near the present Brooks Lake Lodge.

Thanks to that, Dubois would earn a place on the map as one of the largest suppliers of railway ties in the country.

The tie-hacking industry disappeared along with the railroad industry shortly after World War II.

The remains of the many timber troughs used to transport rail links across the Wind River to Riverton, built primarily by Scandinavian immigrants, are still visible around Dubois to those who know where to look.

That includes the Stringer Hotel at 202 E. Ramshorn St.

Today it looks a lot fresher than it has in a long time thanks to restoration work by current owner, Dubois resident Jason Kintzler.

“This was a place where everyone came, and we have stories of guys riding their horses onto the dance floor and all kinds of crazy things like that,” Kintzler said. “And this was the largest building in Dubois when it was built, and it may still be. It’s three stories.”

Over time, the hotel would have many lives in Dubois: gas station, restaurant, fly shop and even a salon. When the Rams Horn Inn across the street burned down, it also took over these functions for a time.

But in the end, the Stringer Hotel filled the role of a sad and abandoned building that was on the verge of collapsing and being lost forever.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that when I started considering buying it, I was working with the owner and he had another person interested and their plan was to buy it and tear it down,” Kintzler said. “They would completely demolish it.”

That convinced Kintzler that he should buy it instead.

“It just has so much history here,” he said. “And I just feel like a lot of these buildings, you know these old structures in Wyoming, we’re never going to get them back.”

  • Stringerhotel 2 4 21 24
  • The Stringer Hotel, right, in 1915, about a year after it was built in Dubois, Wyoming.  Today it has had several expansions that took up the entire city block, including the house on the left.
    The Stringer Hotel, right, in 1915, about a year after it was built in Dubois, Wyoming. Today it has had several expansions that took up the entire city block, including the house on the left. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • The Stringer Hotel as the Rams Horn Inn in the late 1940s, one of the many lives the historic building has had in 110 years.
    The Stringer Hotel as the Rams Horn Inn in the late 1940s, one of the many lives the historic building has had in 110 years. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • The Stringer Hotel in an undated photo.
    The Stringer Hotel in an undated photo. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

One cold winter

To make this deal work, Kintzler had to move his own wearable technology company into the building and start renovating from the inside.

That first winter in the building in 2021 was particularly cold, Kintzler remembers. The building still used a rather outdated heating system, a system more commonly used in sheds or shops, for example.

“There was a huge steel square tank, and there it was, you poured grease into it, and it burned this grease and then blew through the heating system,” Kintzler said. “And so, if you’ve ever seen vents with a black border around them, that’s what it was like. So it was like it was some kind of nasty thing.

The heating system itself was also not in good repair.

“We spent the winter there with a fireplace,” Kintzler said.

But once the weather improved, restoration began in full swing for the summer, and one of the first things completed was an ice cream parlor with outdoor seating, as well as offices for his business.

“We spent a lot of time peeling back the layers and repairing, you know, they had some water damage,” he said. “And they just glossed over it and went to the next thing and then the next thing.”

That led to all kinds of strange discoveries.

“The restaurant had one of those partitions where the hostess would stand,” Kintzler remembers. “And when we started unpacking, there was some sort of dirt bin in there, which still had dirt in it.”

The plants had of course already died.

But in addition to unexpected things like that, there were also beautiful trusses hidden behind filthy suspended ceilings that could be salvaged.

“We spent a few years and a lot of money to get this to where it is today, and it’s pretty awesome now,” Kintzler said. “We get a lot of compliments from people who come through the city and think it’s really cool.”

He also had many passersby stop to take photos with the new cursive neon sign.

“It says, ‘This is not Jackson Hole,’” Kintzler said. “And so that’s kind of ours, that’s our signature, and a lot of people, a lot of tourists stop and take pictures of that, because that’s kind of a Dubois vibe.”

Funny Stringer Hotel Stories

Since taking ownership of the building, Kintzler has heard many interesting things about the original Stringer Hotel, all of which strengthened his decision to purchase and save Dubois’ tallest building.

One of the funnier stories he found at the Fremont County Museum is one from Sue Beck, who remembers being a new bride sometime between 1914, when the Stringers built the hotel, and 1946, when they sold it , lived on the Trail Lake Ranch.

Her mother had promised to write the new bride a postcard from Philadelphia every week. However, several weeks passed without postcards.

Finally, out of frustration, she went into town to talk to Oscar Stringer, who, in addition to owning the hotel, was also the postmaster.

“Don’t you have any postcards for me?” she asked.

Indeed he did, he told her, and he came back with a whole pile. But, he added, he wasn’t done reading yet.

So instead of just giving her the postcards he hadn’t finished with, he offered to read her some of what her mother had written instead.

Another story the museum tells suggests that it has always been a bit cold in the hotel in winter.

The second and third floors had grilles that allowed heat to flow upwards.

This also made it easy for people to overhear the goings-on in the hotel, something the curious Oscar probably had no objection to.

However, the grilles only partially helped with the heating situation, leaving customers quite cold at night.

A guest at the hotel, a salesman, who had been shivering all night, remembered going to the lobby to warm himself at one of the heating vents, where he encountered a man named Jack Cunningham. He had just arrived at the hotel from a building he owned on the DuNoir and hadn’t even taken off his overcoat yet.

Icicles still hung from his eyebrows and beard, prompting the sleepy salesman to ask, “Good Lord, what room did you have?”

Keep it authentic Wyoming

The fun facts about the hotel’s history, as well as the cool things he found there, all solidified Kintzler’s decision to buy and save the Stringer hotel.

“We found all kinds of stuff that they had stored in the walls,” Kintzler said. “So you’d want to open up the wall and there would be old shoes there, with the soles nailed on, and things like that.”

Kintzler said he was told these wall cabinets were a common practice at the time the hotel was built. A section of a wall would be cut out and hinges attached, creating a makeshift cubbyhole to store things out of sight.

“The (hotel) rooms were very small at the time,” Kintzler said. “I’m not sure if that was just part of the way they built storage space at that time.”

He has also noticed how former owners covered up problems with wallpaper, or sometimes new walls or ceilings.

But Kintzler didn’t want to gloss over the history at all. He wanted to expose it and keep it central to the restoration. That has led to some unique pieces, especially in the retail space he built for Provisions, his wife’s ice cream, sandwich and gift shop with some clothing.

The “Woodstack” counter is probably the most striking piece, he said. It is built of stacked, split logs – like a giant pile of wood, but in an impossibly orderly shape and form.

“We get a lot of compliments on that and people take pictures of it all the time,” Kintzler said.

He also used weathered wood from Centennial Woods in Laramie, which manages the state’s contracts for snow fences. The company replaces all wooden snow fences every 10 years, creating a unique discarded wood product that is in high demand thanks to all the color variations and textures caused by weathering.

“The boards they take down are really coveted,” Kintzler said. “So people buy that snow fence to use in their buildings. I mean, tech companies like Google or high-end houses or whatever.

Kintzler felt the wood really matched the historic character of the Stringer Hotel, with its connection to the tie-hack industry.

He also used some of the planks salvaged from the city’s boardwalk, which was damaged in a fire, to build sliding doors. The planks still bear names of the townspeople who purchased the planks as a means to help build the boardwalk.

“This was a fun project and I think we made it an asset to the community that will probably be here for a while,” Kintzler said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s going to be taken down anytime soon.”

What’s next

The next phase of the restoration of the old hotel would be the upstairs rooms of the hotel, which still have their old room numbers, as well as those unique cabinets with holes in the wall.

But Kintzler isn’t sure he’ll do that part of the project.

“We have a number of people interested in the building, so I don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Kintzler said. “And I don’t know that someone else might not have bigger plans for (the building’s upper floor).”

He feels he has already accomplished his mission: ensuring the building is not demolished. And if he were to sell all or part of the building, he could look for another old building to save, he told Cowboy State Daily.

That’s one way he thinks towns like Dubois can not only maintain their authentic Western roots, but also preserve Wyoming.

Renee Jean can be reached at [email protected].