The site of the fort built in 1841 by the American Fur Co. Located on high ground in a bend of the Laramie River, it dominated the then treeless valley from bluff to bluff. Many historians believe this was also the site of log-stockaded Fort William, erected in 1834, but conclusive evidence as to its location is lacking.
Erected in 1849 or early 1850, the adobe section of this structure housed a general store. The stone section was added about 1852 and used in part as quarters for the sutler. During the next three decades, many other additions were made, all of which had disappeared by 1883.
Passing the sites of missing units of "Officers' Row," you reach this two-storied frame structure which has dominated the scene since the late summer of 1849, when it was partially completed of lumber sawed locally by horsepower and millwork hauled overland from Fort Leavenworth.
"Old Bedlam" comes from the name of the English Mental Hospital in York. Actually the hospital was Bethlehem Hospital for the Mentally Ill, but it was publically known as "Bedlam" You can decide what the treatment in the hospital was like by it's nickname. Since the 12th or 13th Century, the name 'Old Bedlam' has been applied to places that have an uncontrolled nature to them.
Occupying part of the site of Fort John is a large frame building used as officers' quarters and built in 1870. Originally designed for one family, it was later divided into a duplex with two kitchen wings and verandas on three Sides.
On the hill to the north stand the ruins of the post hospital erected in 1873. The hospital contained a 12-bed ward, dispensary, kitchen, dining room, isolation rooms, surgeon's office, rooms for orderlies and storage, but no laboratory or operating rooms. It was the first lime-concrete building erected at Fort Laramie. There is good evidence that this building stands in the midst of the cemetery used by the fur traders before 1849 and by the Army before 1868. These early burials, probably including that of Milton Sublette in 1836, remain undisturbed.
It was a hot day and the ruins are up on a hill. The distance, lack of shade, and lack of water (up there) discouraged us from heading that way. It is interesting that the hospital was located so far from the rest of the Fort. Obviously, an attack was not expected when the fort was designed.
When approaching the fort, the visitor passes next to the old North Platte River Bridge, a picturesque iron truss bridge which was built by the Army in 1875-76 with materials hauled by ox team from Cheyenne. A short distance above the bridge, on the south bank of the river, is the site of old Fort Platte, rival of the second Fort Laramie (Fort John).
The bridge is in good condition. It's three spans, of which two cross a field. Obviously, the North Platte wondered about when the bridge was built, so it was made long enough to cross whichever channel the water chose to use, create, and/or flood. For more images see my North Platte River Bridge travelogue.
The cavalry barracks, as originally constructed in 1875, provided quarters, kitchens, messhalls, washrooms, reading rooms, and other facilities for two 60-man units of troops.
With mansard roof and lime-concrete walls, there stands next to the sutler's store the last officers' quarters erected at Fort Laramie in 1884.