Beacon on the hill — Kendrick celebrates 100 years
Date posted: July 19, 2013
SHERIDAN — On July 25, 1913, the Trail End State Historic Site was the site of Rosa-Maye Kendrick’s 16th birthday party with local musicians entertaining 40 guests in the ballroom.
At the time, it was not a museum, but the most technologically advanced house in Sheridan and quite simply “home” for the John B. Kendrick family.
Almost one hundred years later to the day, the site is a beloved local landmark and will be the location for another, larger party to celebrate the century mark of the building’s completion.
On July 27, the historic site will host a full day of activities commemorating the 100-year anniversary. Community members are invited to participate in games, tours, vote on favorite local artwork, take a spin in an antique car and enjoy food and drinks on the expansive grounds.
Construction on the house actually began in 1908 when John Kendrick was already a very successful rancher and businessman who had relocated from Texas to Sheridan years earlier.
By the time construction began on the house, he net worth was more than $700,000.
“It was the most modern house in town. It was built to be seen,” said Sharie Prout, curator and assistant superintendent of the site. “Everyone from downtown could look up on the hill and see the building progress. Even the newspaper followed its progress.”
Prout said the cost of the building was $164,000 or about $3 million in today’s currency.
The family, including Kendrick’s wife Eula and their children Manville and Rosa-Maye, moved into the home between July 26-28, 1913. Kendrick was elected governor of Wyoming just 18 months later and then U.S. Senator in 1916, requiring his re-location to Washington, D.C. The home then essentially served as a vacation spot for the next few years.
“In 1929, their son (Manville) got married and they convinced him and his new wife to live here,” Prout explained.
“When the senator died in 1933, Eula moved back into the home as well,” she continued. “They lived here until 1961 when Eula died. Then Manville and his wife, Diana, just moved to a smaller home in the neighborhood. After they moved out they tried to sell it. It was on the market for about seven years.”
The property surrounding the house was eventually purchased by the Sheridan County Historical Society and the family then donated the house to the group. SCHS operated the site as a museum beginning in 1969 and in 1982, ownership transferred to the state.
Prout and site superintendent Cynde Georgen noted that the 13,000 square-foot house is truly unique and special to Sheridan because of several features.
“It is a rags to riches story,” Georgen said. “It tells a personal story, not just a political story. It is also architecturally significant. It is a one-of-a-kind structure. This is the only Flemish Revival building in the Rocky Mountain West.”
And not only is the structure and outside of the building unique, but the inside as well. Unlike many museums or historical sites that are furnished with period pieces gathered from many sources, the majority — more than 90 percent — of the furniture and household items in the home were originally owned and used by the Kendrick family.
However, acquiring these items was not easy. It took several years and the generosity of many people.
“When the state acquired the building it was empty,” Prout said. “The only items were the original rugs, the dining room table and four chairs. The family kept everything and so since then we’ve been acquiring by loan or donation, original items back. From the grandchildren we’ve gotten several large donations over the years.”
Prout said other family members as well as other Sheridan residents have donated items back to the museum.
“It is incredibly special and very unusual,” Prout said about the process of re-furnishing the house. “I think usually when historic homes are this complete it is because the contents were donated at the same time as the house, which makes this very unusual that we have gotten so much back.”
Georgen said 14,000 visitors now come to the site each year to tour the home and learn more about life in the early 20th century.
Anniversary Lawn Party — July 27 at Kendrick Mansion
9 a.m. – 9 p.m.— Free Admission to the museum
9 a.m. – 8 p.m.— Voting open on the Short Notice Art Show featuring entries by local artists
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.— Rides offered in vintage (pre-1933) cars for $2 donation to local car club
10 a.m. – 8 p.m.— Checkers, parcheesi, potato sack races, jacks, dominoes and more games will be played on the patio and lawn
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.— Badminton and croquet tournaments on east lawn
10 a.m. – 8 p.m.— Burger Wagon on site to provide food and drinks
3 p.m. – 9 p.m.— Musical hits from 1913 to 1933 on stage on north grounds featuring the following artists:
3 p.m.— Cathy Storm with Jane Perkins, Steve Baskin and Friends
4:30 p.m.— Alex Banks with Susan Kautz and Just Harmony
5:45 p.m.— Barbara and Mo Campbell with Gary McKnight and several surprise guests
7 p.m.— Erickson’s All Stars: Christian Erickson, Max Marquis, Nick Johnson, Steve Baskin, Stacy Ramsey
4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Beer garden
8 p.m.— Announcement of winners of the Beer Bear Raffle and Short Notice Art Show People’s Choice Award