The Wandering Hermit

By Dan Brecht, Owner of the Wandering Hermit

Wheatland was founded to serve the farms and ranches that sprung up in the Wheatland Flats after the Wyoming Development Company began its ambitious irrigation project. Gilchrist Avenue, the widest street in the new town, became the preferred location for new businesses springing up between the Colorado and Southern Railroad depot and the Wyoming Development Company office. A one-story brick building with two storefronts was erected at 875 Gilcrist in 1903. This building now houses The Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts. At the time this building was built there were no major roads connecting Wheatland to the outside world.  Freight and passengers came to town by rail.  Along the street were businesses designed to serve the needs of the farm families that lived in the area: a bank, a hardware store or two, the newspaper office, two hotels, restaurants, a livery stable, a general store, the Wyoming Development Company offices, and other businesses that came and went over those early years.

The Wheatland Hardware built in 1903 located on Gilchrist Avenue

The Wheatland Hardware built in 1903 located on Gilchrist Avenue

It appears that Wheatland Hardware was the first business to occupy the east half of 875 Gilcrist, and it remained in operation well into the 1940s.  For many years the west half of the building served as a drug store, although with different owners: Buechner’s, Straw’s and Thorne’s Drug.  Although these long-time businesses did not survive long after World War II, even during the direst economic times in Wheatland’s history, the building has not been vacant for long. Over the past 70 years, the building has housed a Christian bookstore and beverage bar, a secondhand store, a taxidermy shop, an antique store, a western-wear store, a plumbing store, and a mercantile.

In 2014, Wheatland native Dan Brecht and his son Zach started The Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts in the east half of 875 Gilcrist. Although the exterior had been changed drastically by this time, the interior is still close to original, with an ornate tin ceiling, maple hardwood floor, and some original lights.From l to r: Zach, daughter Jade and Dan Brecht in front of their store.

From l to r: Zach, daughter Jade and Dan Brecht in front of their store.

Five years later, Dan and Zach expanded into the building next door to the east (871 Gilcrist). They created an interior walkway between the two buildings and opened a toy store in the new space.  In addition, there is now a custom leather shop in the back of 871 Gilcrist and two apartments on the second floor. Both the interior and exterior of this building have been returned to close to their original look.  A tile floor, likely dating from the 1940s when it was O. P. Skaggs grocery store, has been uncovered and restored. A dropped ceiling was removed revealing the original tin ceiling above. The original leaded-glass transom windows have been uncovered and add much to the light inside.  A mezzanine has been added to replicate the look and feel of the original.The interior of the original Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts taken from the mezzanine.

The interior of the original Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts taken from the mezzanine.

Owner Dan Brecht says, “Tough decisions always have to be made when remodeling an old building to fit a new business.  I am willing to pay more to keep as much of the original materials and integrity of the building as possible, but there are times when the quality and condition of the original construction do not make restoration to the original possible.  In that case, I work hard to replace the old with new materials that match closely to what the original was.  That is especially the case with lighting and windows.”


    Posted September 17, 2022 11:30 am 0Likes

    Dan has so many accomplishments. A real platinum credit to Wheatland, Platte county & Wyoming. A solid real hardworking "salt of the earth" man is an understatement. all Dan knows is work work work. He is selling the store via the rite agency sign in his window as of 17 Sep 22. He is running for Wyoming state house seat 4 in this Novembers 2022 election. good luck dan I wish you continued success as your many talents & projects lead you to higher and new ambitions. What you have done in and for Wheatland is hard to enumerate.

    Sincerely, your high school friend,
    Owen L Toth (p.s.) thank god you helped me get through Mr Legoski’s Biology class:-)
    class. I wish you continued success!

  • byOwen L Toth
    Posted November 19, 2022 12:31 am 0Likes

    Friday 18 Nov 22: I met Tara today & found out the new store name is ”’The Wanderer on Gilchirst st”’ gone is the hermit aspect of the orig store name. Tara is married to a rancher in the Chugwater area (Dan Kirkbride’s son). The store has been decluttered and feels more inviting imo…The espresso/expresso is better than i remember, Thanks Tara:-) nice to meet you, your husband two boys.

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