RAWLINS, Wyo. — Though built in 1933, the Fossil Cabin near the dinosaur graveyard at Como Bluff is billed as the "Oldest Building in the World."
That's because the building, located just inside the Carbon County line on U.S. Route 30, is made primarily of petrified dinosaur bones unearthed from Como Bluff.
According to the National Registry of Historic Places (NRHP), a University of Wyoming dinosaur specialist concluded that the bones were of "a variety of species but that the bone collection did not include a complete specimen."
The building reportedly weighs 102,116 pounds and contains 5,796 dinosaur bones with a small amount of rock.
Thomas Boylan, the man responsible for the cabin, came to Wyoming in 1892 and after working as a cowboy for several years, filed for a homestead near Como Bluff in 1908. He began collecting bones in 1916.
According to Phil Roberts, a University of Wyoming history professor, Boylan had originally intended to piece the bones together and erect them as sculptures as a roadside attraction to his soon-to-be-open gas station on the highway.
"At first I planned to get enough of them together to mount a complete dinosaur skeleton," he told a reporter in 1938. "However, erecting such a skeleton is a long and costly task for an individual to undertake."
Boylan and his son completed the cabin just in time for "tourist season" in 1933 and established the gas station near the cabin, the Rawlins Daily Times reported.
"The Fossil Cabin is a relic of a bygone era of motorized travel when petting zoos and buildings made of dinosaur bones could entice a driver to stop and gas up," NRHP's page on the cabin reads.
The cabin gained national attention in 1938 when Robert L. Ripley called it the "world's oldest cabin" in his nationally syndicated feature, "Believe It or Not."
Boylan also dubbed the cabin the "Creation Museum" and the "Building that used to walk" on his postcards to advertise the cabin.
When Boylan died in 1947, his widow Gracey continued to operate the gas station and cabin museum.
With the completion of Interstate 80 in 1970, traffic on Route 30 dropped sharply, wiping out 82 businesses in the area including Boylan's gas station, according to an article for Wren Magazine by Medicine Bow resident and historian Marvin Cronberg.
In 1973, Gracey Boylan sold the cabin to Paul and Jody Fultz of Medicine Bow. The Fultzes ran the cabin as a museum during the summer months for many years until they started taking visitors by appointment only in the 1990s.
The cabin reopened to the public in 2001 when Mike Lewis took over as new curator. As of 2013, it is closed due to the "pending acquisition of a suitable manager," according to the Town of Medicine Bow, the closet town to the cabin.
According to the NRHP, a man from North Carolina offered to buy the building, intending to move it to North Carolina.
"The idea that the Fossil Cabin could be moved to North Carolina, so out of context, is amusing but also indicative of just how underappreciated it is on its home turf. It would be unfortunate if Wyoming loses its most significant piece of roadside architecture, one so evocative of an earlier time and directly related to the first transcontinental highway," the NRHP concluded.
Information from: Rawlins (Wyo.) Daily Times, http://www.rawlinstimes.com
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