Why is there a pyramid hidden in the plains of Wyoming?

9:15 PM, Jun 9, 2010   |    comments
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It is not just any pyramid; it is a towering, granite pyramid.

"It's very random," Todd Thibodeau, the planning manager for Wyoming State Parks, said.

It is Thibodeau's job to care for the pyramid, which is part of the state park system.

"There aren't many structures like this in the country," he said.

The pyramid is located a couple miles off of Interstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne. It is called the Ames Monument.

Built in 1882, the Ames Monument honors Oliver and Oakes Ames - two brothers credited with the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Oliver Ames ran the Union Pacific Railroad, while his brother represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress.

Union Pacific built the pyramid despite accusations Oakes Ames bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars. The project was expensive and labor-intensive.

Famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson designed it and sculptor August St. Gaudens chiseled the portraits of the Ames brothers.

The intent was to have trainloads of people see the monument as they passed through the town of Sherman.

"Originally, the transcontinental railroad passed about 100 yards down the hill from [the monument]," Thibodeau said.

Not long after the monument was built, the railroad was moved and the town of Sherman collapsed. But the pyramid stayed put. That is why Wyoming has a pyramid in the middle of nowhere.

Just because it is hidden, does not mean it is not treasured.

"It has a great deal of meaning to me," Anna Lee Frohlich, who is related to the Ames brothers, said.

She says she loves the monument, just not its condition.

"It's been neglected over the years," she said. "It makes me sad."

In addition to being neglected, the monument has also been abused. For years, visitors would crawl into the empty interior of the pyramid through a small opening.

"If you talk to people who went to school in the 50s, 60s or 70s, they can probably regale you with stories of going into the Ames Monument drinking a beer or doing whatever," Thibodeau said.

Though still impressive, the monument sits in disrepair. Thibodeau says that will change this summer. He has scheduled a rather large renovations project.

"I think it will really shine when we get it all cleaned up," he said.

If you want to visit Wyoming's pyramid, drive up Interstate 25 and head west on I-80. Turn off on exit 329 and follow the signs from there.

Do not expect to crawl inside. That opening was closed up 30 years ago.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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