"Make it a good street. Make it wide enough to turn this damn team of mules around in." (Henry "Sixteen Mule Team" Johnson) Thermopolis was named for the nearby hot springs by combining the Greek words thermo (hot) and polis (city). In 1896, the Shoshone and Arapaho sold a ten-mile square of land at the northeast corner of their reservation. These lands included the hot mineral springs (Bah-gue-wana), reportedly the largest in the world, and the site of today's town. When the treaty was ratified the next year, settlers from the nearby small towns of Andersonville and Old Thermopolis promptly picked up and moved to their new townsite.
Freight teams transported all goods in and out of the isolated town from distant railheads. As soon as freighter Henry Johnson learned of the new town, he requested a street wide enough to turn his team of sixteen mules. The town founders and surveyors honored his request, and the unique street of Broadway was laid out 150 feet wide. A treacherous stage road connected the young town to the railhead at Casper by way of Copper Mountain over Birdseye Pass. But when the first Burlington engine steamed into town from the north in 1910, the freighting era was gone forever.
Historic photos of West Broadway from the 1920s show a landscaped
median gracing the middle of the street with room for parking and two lanes of traffic on both sides, but by the 1930s the center strip was graveled and used for parking. In the early 1950s, a portion of Broadway once again featured a median with grass and trees. In 1983, the Downtown Thermopolis Historic District (on the east side of Sixth Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.