The national historic “Bath Row” was built in 1883 by Laramie pioneer and stone mason Theodore Bath. Bath Row originally consisted of seven houses, which were rented out to employees of the Union Pacific Railroad, the men who came to manage and work on the rail line after it was built in 1869. Laramie City was founded as a construction outpost for the railroad while it was being built, serving as an important stop along the Union Pacific route and soon after growing into a thriving western town amid the open prairie. The architectural style of the houses on Bath Row is known as a Front Gable Shotgun. There are three homes left of the original seven on Bath Row on 6th Street, including 157 and 159, which were designated on the National Register of Historic Places.
These front gable Shotgun Houses are the best preserved from a row of seven identical historic homes listed on the National Historic Register. Shotgun houses were built primarily in the rural southern regions of the United States from the early 1800s to the early 1900s, and are typically one- or one-and-a-half story, one room wide and several rooms deep, with the rooms placed in a straight line. According to folklore, one could fire a shotgun through the front door, hit the rear door, and leave the interior undamaged; hence the name. The roof ridge was usually perpendicular to the street; there was a narrow gable front with a porch and often a similar porch at the rear.
Theodore Bath built these Shotgun Houses in 1883. He one of Laramie’s early pioneers, who brought with him excellent stone masonry skills that he used to construct these homes as well as others in Laramie. “Bath Row” – as the seven original houses were called – was constructed just after the tracks for the Union Pacific Railroad were completing in Laramie. Employees of the railroad inhabited the houses. Many of the renters were from Sweden and employed as “tie hacks” by the Union Pacific whose job it was to fashion railroad ties out of trees harvested in the nearby mountains.
The original dwellings were so alike that it was said that if someone looked in the side window of one house they could see all the way through to the windows of the house at the opposite end of the row. These homes were built with sandstone from a local quarry, which at the time cost one cent each and an additional 25 cents to transport the stones from the quarry. Each house cost approximately $600. Interestingly, the sandstone is the same material used in many of the historical buildings on the campus of the University of Wyoming, located just four blocks east of the houses. Even though the buildings on campus were built with a higher quality of stone than the houses on Bath Row, all of the stone was mined from the same quarry, which was located on 9th Street, just outside of Laramie.
The homes retained much of their original appearance – particularly with the sandstone siding and brick arches above the windows and doorways. Current owner, Jamie Egolf, purchased two of the houses (155 and 157) in 1978 and has since then updated the floors, windowsills, and heating system. She also built an addition to join the two houses into one home. This ‘hyphen’ join is about 480 square feet and features a different type of sandstone, which distinguishes the siding materials used in the new addition from the original stone material used to build the houses. The National Register of Historic Places allows flexibility to make such changes, but stipulates that certain requirements must be met in order to make the adaptations. For example, it was necessary for the stone in the hyphen to be different than the original stone.
Today, the historic homes that make up Bath Row represent an important part of Laramie’s railroad history; they serve as a testament to the hard working employees of the Union Pacific Railroad.