Wyoming August 27, 2017
by Lisa Jensen Most People Don’t Know About This Unusual Pyramid Hiding In Wyoming
If you’ve yearned to visit an ancient pyramid, you don’t need to travel halfway around the world to cross that item off your bucket list. There’s one hiding in plain sight right here in Wyoming.
The Ames Brothers Pyramid is almost everything the Great Pyramids of Egypt are: located in a remote spot, constructed of rough-hewn stone, and bearing the likeness of kings (well, kings of industry, in this case). Sure, getting there means taking a detour from civilization, but most great adventures require at least a short journey out of your comfort zone.
Traveling north on I-80 between Buford and Laramie, keep an eye out for a sign indicating the exit to take to get to the Ames Brothers Pyramid.
You'll find it on Monument Road just off Vedauwoo Road after you've exited the Interstate.
The centuries-old pyramid sits solitary atop a plateau about 2 miles down a well-traveled dirt road leading to what appears to be the middle of nowhere.
The Ames Brothers Pyramid is 60 feet high and 60 feet square. The structure is mostly solid, though it does have alcoves inside and a corridor running through it.
Stepping from your car and getting a bit closer, you can read a bit about the history behind this stately structure.
The pyramid was constructed as an attempt to whitewash history, a monument to a pair of less-than-savory players in the railroad game back in the 1800s.
Oakes and Oliver Ames were brothers; Oakes was a congressman and Oliver headed up Union Pacific Railroad as president. They made a fortune selling shovels to people who'd gone to California looking for gold, then used their millions to take over U.P.R.R. It's estimated that they cheated taxpayers out of around $50 million by wildly padding railroad construction costs. Because Oakes had bribed his congressional cronies, Washington gladly looked the other way.
Both brothers died shortly after the truth about their fraud surfaced, and the railroad came up with the idea of building a monument to the brothers to take the distasteful edge off of the scandal and their legacy.
A site was selected close to an isolated railroad town, one where trains had to stop anyway to change engines.
U.P.R.R. figured they'd take care of two birds with one stone by building in this specific location. Travel-weary passengers were given the chance to get off the train to stretch their legs and encouraged to visit the monument as a way to pass the time while the engines were being switched.
Henry Hobson Richardson, a prominent architect at the time, was hired to design and build the pyramid. Richardson made the most of the natural resources, harvesting chunks of pink granite from this nearby outcropping of rock.
A plaque declaring that the pyramid is "perhaps the finest memorial in America" sits at the base of the monument.
A sculptor, August St. Gaudens, was commissioned to chisel Oakes and Oliver's likenesses onto special blocks that were placed near the top of the pyramid. Oliver's portrait faces toward California while Oakes's face looks east toward Washington D.C.
Time, weather, and the occasional hunter using the pyramid for target practice have take a bit of a toll on the monument and the brothers' silhouettes. Both Oakes and Oliver are now nose-less.
The railroad no longer runs anywhere near the site, but the pyramid did obtain National Historic Landmark status in 2017.
What other unusual structures have you found in Wyoming?
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