Backstory: The Parkway Plaza, now at a crossroads, was once Casper’s place to be (Photos)

The new Ramada Inn is seen in the late-1960s. The hotel was one of the first and largest modern luxury hotel built in Casper after WWII. It eventually became the Parkway Plaza. (Chamber of Commerce collection, Casper College Western History Center)

The sprawling Parkway Plaza has been a fixture of Casper life for so long it’s difficult to imagine when it didn’t exist.

The hotel, with over 300 rooms and whopping 42,000 square feet of convention space, closed suddenly last month after several years of rocky operation. About 50 people lost their jobs.

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According to a Casper Star-Tribune article, the building will be put up for auction at a foreclosure sale on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Natrona County Courthouse. This news comes after the building’s owners, Cru Casper LLC, a subsidiary of Cru Real Estate Group in California, claimed to have sold the property to a “national company.”

Planning on the complex originally began around 1964, when it was announced that a modern Ramada Inn would be built near the river at what was then the 100 block of West E Street.

Ralph L. Schauss, a colorful Wyoming native who died in 2013 at age 91, developed the property. It was budgeted at $1.2 million dollars, which works out to over $9.8 million in today’s dollars.

According to an April 16, 1964 Casper Tribune article, the motel was the second 100-plus unit motel proposed for Casper at the time.

The new developments came as Casper was in a post-war boom, and the Ramada was one of the first new luxury hotels built after the war. The trend of building new hotels, convention and entertainment complexes closer to the new interstate highway helped signal the demise of the classic, big downtown hotels.

It would only take several years before Casper’s grand central hotels fell into disrepair. Most were demolished. The Townsend sat vacant and blighted for decades before being repurposed as the Townsend Justice Center, which ironically will be the location for the Parkway’s foreclosure auction.

The Casper Star-Tribune revisited the new Ramada Inn again as construction was in full force in Nov. 1965. The project had expanded to 706 rooms, with another 48 units added in two years. A 30 by 50-foot swimming pool was touted, as well as a 24-hour coffee shop, dining room and “bar capable of seating 400,” according to the article.

The complex opened with much fanfare in April 1966.

The property was known as the Downtowner after the Ramada era. The Downtowner chain was popular in the south, but “not beneficial to us in this part of the country,” general manager Charlie Williams told the Star-Tribune in an Oct. 11, 1989 article. According to that article, the hotel had gone through foreclosure in 1987 and was purchased by the Equitable Insurance Company, which also owned the Hilton, now the Ramkota.

The property was renamed Casper Inn in 1989, and became the Parkway Plaza in 1994.

Over the years it hosted everything from craft fairs to boxing matches to speeches by Wyoming dignitaries like Sen. Al Simpson and future vice president Dick Cheney.

Now with six decades of wear and tear, the big building that served Casper in post war booms and busts is again at a crossroads.

The Ramada Inn (now Parkway Plaza) can be seen at lower center with the Holiday Inn (now Ramada Plaza) lower right in this aerial image from the early 1970s. (Chamber of Commerce collection, Casper College Western History Center)

The Ramada Inn can be seen at lower right in this aerial image from the early 1970s. (Chamber of Commerce collection, Casper College Western History Center)

Boxers compete in the Holiday Festival Boxing Tournament in the Ramada Inn grand ballroom in this undated photo, likely taken in December circa 1980. (Casper Star-Tribune collection, Casper College Western History Center)

Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson gives a talk at the Ramada Inn on Aug. 16, 1979. (Casper Star-Tribune collection, Casper College Western History Center)

An unidentified man poses in front of the Ramada Inn, now the Parkway Plaza, as it is under construction in this photo likely taken in 1965 or early 1966. The hotel and convention center opened in April, 1966. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Western History Center)

An unidentified man poses at the front of the Ramada Inn, now the Parkway Plaza, in a photo likely taken early 1966. (Chuck Morrison Collection, Casper College Western History Center)

A clip from the Nov. 18, 1965 Casper Star-Tribune shows the new Ramada Inn under construction. It opened in April the following year.

An ad in the Casper Star-Tribune announces the Ramada Inn’s New Year’s specials for 1966, the year it opened.

A photo of a model of the new Ramada Inn is pictured in an April 1964 article in the Casper Evening Tribune. The Ramada Inn opened early 1966 and was eventually renamed the Parkway Plaza.

The Parkway Plaza, built in 1966, has been closed by its owners as of Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The lobby of the Parkway Plaza is seen on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, one day after the sudden closure of the hotel and convention center. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The Parkway Plaza is seen after its closure on Nov. 1, 2018. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

A note announcing the Parkway Plaza’s closure is posted on the front door on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Participants in the Wyoming State Pool Tournament line up their shots during competition on, Mar. 15, 2017, at the Parkway Plaza and Convention Center. (Oil City News file photo)

Enthusiasts look through telescopes set up in the Parkway Plaza courtyard during AstroCon during the Eclipse Festival in Aug. 2017, in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Michael Kauper sits with his telescopes and cameras behind the Parkway Plaza during the Eclipse Festival in Aug. 2017, in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)