Bound for posterity


The old sign is gently released from her moorings and prepared for a ride to Salt Lake City for refurbishment.
Grace Moore photo

The sign has graced the front of the Wyoming Motel for many years will soon go on display in the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette.


The Wyoming Motel has been part of Moorcroft’s history for around 75 years. Stewert Ensign, with the help of a few friends, built it a short time after they completed the Texaco station on the corner.

The sign has been advertizing rooms with phones and air conditioning on Converse since the late 1940s, according to Paul Smoot, Ensign’s grandson. He doesn’t remember who built it, only that, “it was hand built and the original sign had a sprite on the top. I only remember seeing one picture in my lifetime of it having that star.”

Through the decades, the sign, which originally sported neon lights, was rebuilt several times and eventually lost its lights.

“Mom and Dad pulled the neon off of it probably in the 90s; the reason is because kids were walking by and there were some issues, things kept getting broken,” Smoot says. The sign was spot lighted from that point.

Jeff Wandler owns the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette and is, “always looking for neon and trying to rescue history from the ‘30s to the 60s”. Area resident and antique car enthusiast Randy Blakeman helped Wandler find Bob Smoot, who has owned the motel and former filling station on the northwest corner of Converse Street and Yellowstone Avenue since the death of Ensign.

“I talked to Bob Smoot and he introduced me to his son Paul.  It took some time, six or eight months…but I was able to buy the sign. I’m going to take it to Salt Lake City and have it completely restored,” he says.

He explains that the Smoot family will allow him to examine pictures of the sign when it was newer and fully intact with the star and neon, “and we’ll make it exactly like it was”.

“We’ve been negotiating with Jeff for awhile,” Smoot concurs. “We really weren’t comfortable at the time and then , when Dad got confirmation that the sign would be taken down, shipped to Salt Lake City, rebuilt to its old glory and put in a museum, we thought that was pretty cool.”

Wandler anticipates approximately six months before the sign will reach its destination in the museum. “I’m going to build a small motel to put it in front of; I think I’m going to make it…with a fake second story and the bottom will be a room that you can go in, something that will fit the era.”

Wandler is still trying to track the star. “I knew who had it 20 years ago, he tried to sell it to me, but I wasn’t collecting stuff like this, [but] it needs to be on there,” he says.