Woods Landing in Jelm, Wyoming, wasn’t named for the rugged terrain on which it sits. In 1883, Colonel Samuel Wood founded the saloon because he lacked the necessary acreage to open a ranch. About 27 miles southwest of Laramie, Woods set up shop near the Medicine Bow Mountains and on the Laramie River. Today, the property includes a restaurant, general store, gas station, post-office, cabins, and a historic dance hall.
In 1927, Clarence and Mayme Lewellen of Indiana bought the property with dreams of a vacation resort. In 1932, they hired Hokum Lestum, a Norwegian immigrant, to build a dance hall and cabins. Lestum employed traditional Scandinavian design in his craftsmanship, which included a dance floor built from hand-hewn logs that fit together so tightly they didn’t require chinking. He situated 24 boxcar springs beneath the logs to give participants additional bounce. Woods Landing remains home to the only “floating” dance floor in the state of Wyoming.
Clarence passed away in 1936, and two years later, Mayme married Lestum. Their patrons danced, dined, and made merry, but they also used the space for blood drives, holiday celebrations, and weddings. Many Scandinavian immigrants had flocked to the area in the early 20th century for tie hack jobs (a term for loggers that hewed lumber into railroad ties), and Woods Landing Dance Hall became something of a community center for them.
The springy dance hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985; its “period of significance” is listed as 1925 to 1949. Decades later, the space continues to host Saturday night dances, as well as Friday open mic nights. And the kitchen’s still churning out a full menu that encapsulates the area’s social history. Amongst cowboy fare (look out for bull fries, also known as Rocky Mountain oysters), you’ll find country cooking (gravy-smothered chicken fried steak), mid-century Americana (“Sody Pop Floats”), and Scandinavian favorites such as kladdkaka, a gooey Swedish chocolate cake.
Know Before You Go
The dining area of the resort is open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.