October 29, 2022 | Last updated Apr 25, 2023

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

At first glance, an 18-room French Second Empire-style mansion might not strike you as “western,” but take a look at that huge barn! This is what a western man would build for his family if he found himself with a lot of extra money in the 1880s.

By David L. Bristow, Editor


The Wild West built this house.

At first glance, an 18-room French Second Empire-style mansion might not strike you as “western,” but take a look at that huge barn! This is what a western man would build for his family if he found himself with a lot of extra money in the 1880s.

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody came to Nebraska in 1869 as a Fort McPherson cavalry scout. Later he made his fortune as a showman. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was a traveling outdoor show that combined elements of theater, circus, and rodeo, with lots of fancy riding and shooting and mock battles against Native American performers. Buffalo Bill did a lot to create the popular mythology of the American West. His influence shaped the Western movies and TV shows of the twentieth century.

With show money rolling in, Cody had the house at his Scout’s Rest Ranch built in 1886. The big barn was added a few years later. In the early days, Scout’s Rest was a working ranch with 4,000 acres. Cody hired others to manage it, but lived here with his family between tours.

Cody sold the ranch in 1911. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission bought it in 1964 and opened it to the public as the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park.


“Buffalo Bill” Cody (front and center) at Scout’s Rest Ranch. History Nebraska RG3004-0-44.


Cody wanted trees on his treeless ranch, but it was hard to get them to grow. The solution? Plant prairie-adapted species such as cottonwoods and box elders. This early twentieth century photo shows the result. History Nebraska RG3004-0-44


Never shy about self-promotion, Cody had his ranch’s name painted on the barn roof. Union Pacific Railroad travelers could read the name from a mile away. History Nebraska RG3004-49


A circa-1950 photo from inside the barn shows old Wild West posters left over from Buffalo Bill’s heyday. History Nebraska RG5741-5



This article first appeared in the April 2021 issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: Spade Ranch

Marker Monday: Spade Ranch

Nebraska’s Japanese American History

Nebraska’s Japanese American History

Marker Monday: Long Pine – A Railroad Town

Marker Monday: Long Pine – A Railroad Town

Fred Astaire’s Omaha Origins

Fred Astaire’s Omaha Origins

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.