There are Old West replica towns across the U.S., but they are mainly museums and entertainment centers that are open to tourists. In England, the town of Laredo has grown from one wooden cabin to an entire town of 24 buildings, but it’s not open to the public (although it has been in the past). It’s for the exclusive use of the Laredo Western Club, whose members step back in time -and across the pond- when they set foot in town. Founded by John “JT” Truder in 1970, the town is now owned by his daughter Jolene Truder, who grew up in Laredo.
One of the things that makes Laredo convincing is that it feels lived in. That’s because at least some of the time, it is. The town is open to club members every other weekend; when they arrive, usually on a Saturday, they have about an hour to get themselves into their period correct clothing, holster their weapons (no live ammunition allowed), and to stash their modern gadgets and gear. Those who have specific roles in the town—Marshal, shopkeeper, bartender—stay in the town Saturday nights, in their part-time homes at the backs of or above their storefronts (these areas are off-limits to visitors without express invitation by their residents). Guests without residences can pay to stay in the hotel, in rooms decorated with antique bedsteads, washbasins, and floral wallpaper, or in the mining camp’s cabins. The hotel, which also houses the bar, is the physical and emotional center of the town, functioning in the same way a real saloon might in a real western town. Some nights, they can pack more than 50 people in there: “We clear the tables and we can have dancing. It’s really nice, you have all the men stood at the bar, it’s lovely,” said Truder.
The club members take their interest in the Old West seriously, putting in research to get every detail right, down to the smell. Read the story of Laredo and see picture at Atlas Obscura.
(Image credit: Laredo Western Club)