Old West Saloons
An Authentic Old West Saloon is Right Here in Tombstone!
Old West saloons were among the first businesses to open in any new settlement. After a hard day of work, or for a newcomer to town - the saloon was a meeting place, and a place to relax.
It was nearly all men. It was their means of entertainment. The typical saloon in the old West didn't have bar stools as they do today.
As you'll note in the old photos - patrons stood along the bar. Sometimes they had chairs and tables in a back section. Plus there was often a gambling area with the card table and chairs.
Women who moved out West, did not feel comfortable in these environments. They didn't have many entertainment options in town. As Clara Spalding Brown [San Diego Union Letter, July 7, 1880] wrote "The ladies of Tombstone are not so liberally provided with entertainment, and find little enjoyment aside from a stroll about town after sunset..." They would sometimes go into the more respectable, lavish establishments for sponsored special events. But only if they were properly escorted.
I'm glad it's not that way today! We enjoy frequenting one of the historic Old West Saloons, that's still here - right in town. In fact, if you see us at the Crystal Palace or Ringo's, where we'll most likely be when we're out on the town - be sure to say "Hello!" [See more about us here>]
Old West Saloons of Tombstone AZ
Like many Old West Towns - Tombstone's founding came from its mining operations. Silver mining brought many adventurers seeking a means to make a living, and perhaps great wealth.
To support the mining interests, other businesses soon followed. The most immediate were the mercantiles and grocers. And to supply entertainment, quick eats and relaxation the saloons and brothels followed mining towns rather quickly.
In 1880 when Tombstone elected its first mayor, the population was steadily increasing. By the middle of the year, it had all the major conveniences a town of that era should need, including 18 saloons or bars. That included the following more savory drinking establishments:
- The Alhambra Saloon on Allen Street, midway between Fourth & Fifth Streets. It was known as the finest in town, or even in all the West, except for San Francisco.
- The Cosmopolitan Hotel Saloon, completed in July 1880, was in a fine building for the time. It even had an orange tree garden lining the front along Allen Street.
- The Oriental Saloon has been one of the most famous, at the corner of Allen & Fifth. Opened by Milton Joyce in the Vizina & Cook building on July 21, 1880.
The Rebuilding of The Golden Eagle Brewery made the fine establishment: The Crystal Palace Saloon of 1882
- A most historically known is the Golden Eagle Brewery. It opened July 1880 on Allen & Fifth by Bernhardt Wehrfritz and the Tribolet brothers. After the May 1882 fire it was rebuilt as the Crystal Palace - still in business today. [Read More Here>]
- A small bar opened in May 1880 on Fremont Street. The owner, Julius A. Kelly began expanding, and reopened on August 6 as Kelly's Wine Rooms.
- The Grand Hotel Saloon, was on the first floor of the deluxe Grand Hotel, fronting on Fourth Street. The building itself took up about a third to half along the block on Allen Street. It opened its doors on September 9, 1880.
Almost all drinking establishments also offered games of chance of one sort or another. The most popular were usually Faro or Keno. Sometimes roulette or poker were found in the more exclusive places.
Other less opulent bars and saloons were available:
- D.P. Walsh's Cock Pit Saloon also offered cock-fights on which wagers could be placed
- The Arcade Saloon was on Allen Street between Fifth & Sixth Streets
- The E. Fontana Dance Hall was on Fremont & Sixth
- The Tivoli Gardens was located on Allen Street, between Fourth & Fifth
- The Occidental Saloon was popular, on the North side of Allen Street, midway between Fourth and fifth
- Hafford's Saloon, was found at the NE corner of Allen and Fourth Streets
- Campbell & Hatch's was a Billiard Parlor & Saloon, on the North side of Allen Street, between Fourth and Fifth
- Then there was Thomas Corrigan's Saloon
- Billy Owen's Saloon was an option
- Sampling Room Saloon & Bowling Alley, at the SW corner of Allen & Fifth
Other Well-Know Old West Saloons
Throughout the Old Wild West, certain Old West Saloons gained some fame and reputation. Gunfighters, notorious lawmen, famous outlaws drew headlines relating to events in these establishments. Some of them no longer exist - but their reputation lingers! Others can still be visited today...
The Long Branch Saloon
Long Branch Saloon Opens - 1874
Inside the Long Branch Saloon, Dodge City, Kansas
In Dodge City, Kansas, first built in 1874. It lasted until a fire took it down in 1885.
Chalkley Beeson purchased it in 1878, along with his partner William Harris. Harris designated the name - The Long Branch - after the town where he was from: Long Branch, NJ.
Incidentally, that's the same town where my husband Bill was born (in a hospital long since defunct, crazily called Hazard Hospital!).
It was a regular popular feature on the television show, Gunsmoke. In reality, many well-known historic people frequented the bar and gambling tables. Such men as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Luke Short and Bat Masterson.
White Elephant Saloon
The White Elephant Saloon
This old West saloon was in Fort Worth Texas. It opened in early 1884, in deluxe style. They had a write-up in the local paper for their grand opening - and even invited the local ladies, for it was a leap year Grand Opening!
There was a gambling room on the upper floor. Those who stopped in to play included Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, Bat Masterson and Charles Coe. It was located on Main Street, between Third and Fourth.
It's no longer there, as a fire destroyed it in the 1890s. If you walk by the Morris Building, you can reminisce that it's where the White Elephant once stood.
But it was rebuilt, and relocated shortly thereafter, in 1896. 3 blocks further South on Main Street. Move along to the Winfree Building, right between the Ashton Hotel and Kress Building - and that's where it was. A much more modern version. It didn't last, though - closing with financial issues.
You'll find there is a White Elephant Saloon in a different Fort Worth location today - but it's just a modern remake, and no relation to this historic Old West saloon. Get even more authentic details: Read More >
Brewery Gulch, Bisbee Arizona - 1890s
In Bisbee Arizona, this mining town is located Southeast of Tombstone AZ. Its growth and history was interrelated with Tombstone. The area of town where the saloons predominated was called Brewery Gulch. Its remnants, with some historic saloons, still remain today. And the street is still named Brewery Gulch, originating at the Eastern end of the old town.
One of the old West saloons of the era was called the Orient Saloon. It was one of among 50 others at the time. It had a raucous reputation, and attracted many gamblers such as the Dutch Kid, Charlie Bassett and Smiley Lewis.
Express St. James
Old Wild West years of the St. James
In Cimarron, New Mexico, this hotel/saloon attracted a lot of action. Many famous old West lawmen, gunfighters, gamblers and desperadoes spent time there. The Earps stopped in, a convenient rest along the Santa Fe Trail. Jesse James was a frequent registrant. Buffalo Bill Cody and Black Jack Ketchum also traveled through.
It was built in 1872 by Abraham Lincoln's personal chef. Today it's a part of the Cimarron Historic District and is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can still get a room there, and have a drink at the bar. Many bullet holes from the wild West gun-fighting days can still be seen if you come by!
More Old West Saloons
There's many more Old West Saloons you can visit throughout the Western states. Some have been restored, some you must just reminisce as you see the sites they occupied, and some are now reworked into another era.
Still Here Today...
- Buckhorn Saloon - North Fork, Sierra Nevada Foothills. Near the South entrance to Yosemite, it's been around since the late 1800s. Started by Les Smith, its since had at least 8 more owners through the years. It's now been refurbished and renewed, with a nice new menu too. Located at 32992 Road 222. Call for details: (559) 877-8700
- The Board of the Trade - Now known as The Silver Dollar Saloon in Leadville. It opened in 1879, at 315 Harrison Ave., on the West side of the road. The bar was shipped by covered wagon from St. Louis MO. Upstairs were the gambling rooms which included Faro and chuck-a-luck. Even during prohibition they endured by maintaining stills outside town for supply, trap doors under the bar to hide evidence, and private booths for customers. In 1963 it took on its present name, with Irish ownership incorporating that heritage, as well.
- Buckhorn Saloon - San Antonio, first opened on Dela Rosa St.in 1881. It's moved 5 times since then, but the last time just down from the original. It still has its first back-bar and many of the historic items. Find it at 318 E. Houston Street.
- The Buckhorn Exchange - Denver, at 1000 Osage Street, the corner of 10th - has been there since it opened on November 17, 1893. There's a ton of history in its walls, and you won't be disappointed in the menu. The upstairs Victorian Lounge is where you'll find the original back-bar made in Germany in 1857.
- The Buckhorn Saloon - In the small historic village of Pinos Altos, a little north of Silver City. 32 Main Street. The main bar's origin goes back to 1865. The original adobe walls still exist. Other newer features have been added on, such as an expanded dining room. The bar and back bar were made by the Brunswick-Balke-Calander Company and shipped by wagon. They still serve food and drinks today!
Bill checks the Menu at the Buckhorn in historic Pinos Altos NM
Historic Back Bar at NM The Buckhorn
Occidental Saloon in Wyoming
- The Occidental Hotel & Saloon - In Buffalo, at 10 N. Main St. A popular and sometimes wild, old west saloon. Bullet holes can still be found as testimony! Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid were guests, Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody were also customers. The original 1880 bar-room was quite basic, but finely refurbished in 1908.
The Jersey Lilly Saloon - Law West of the Pecos
- Jersey Lilly Saloon - Created in the 1890s, named after the English singer Lillian Langtry. Judge Roy Bean, a man of dubious law accountability, set himself up as the law West of the Pecos in his saloon and courthouse, as a justice of the peace. In naming his saloon, the town forever was established in history and folklore. Today it is a Texas rest-stop along State Hwy. 90, not too far from the Rio Grande and the international border.
Creede Colorado - 1892
Holy Moses! The Saloon is Open 24/7
- Holy Moses Saloon - Located in Creede, a silver mining boom town in the upper Rio Grande, near its source waters. Bob Ford, Bat Masterson and Soapy Smith owned saloons in town. Despite the name of the Holy Moses, a brothel housed soiled doves named the Mormon Queen, Poker Lulu Swain and Timberline. The Holy Moses was one of the very basic old West saloons in town, without even a front door - no need, as it was open 24/7!
- Buffalo Bar - In Silver City NM. The building & facade are still there. But it seems there's no hope of it ever reopening. The liquor license has been sold - to CVS! The building's front had safety issues, and the iconic neon sign was removed. On Facebook they even claimed as a dive bar/lounge! Motto was" The Oldest, The Baddest, The Best."
Iconic Buffalo Bar Neon Sign, Silver City NM
Buffalo Bar Front Entrance - Neon Sign Gone & Closed now in 2017
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