In just about every western TV show or movie we watch, inevitably there's a scene where the hero or the villain puts his horse in a livery stable. Or it's a scene where the bad guy knocks the stable master over the head, takes his money, steals a horse, and gets outta town. But one way or another, we usually see a livery stable scene in those films.

So what was a livery stable...just some place to stash your horse while you go to the nearest saloon and booze it up? Well, yeah, but it was a lot more than that.

Not only could you board your horse while you have a day or night on the town, but also overnight or a few days. You could rent a horse, horse teams, buggies, and wagons. If you weren't boarding a horse, you could head over and purchase coal, grain, hay, seeds, straw, and wood. Many fires broke out in liveries, thanks to a careless cigarette being tossed into the straw. It didn't take long for these wooden structures to burn down.

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Many hotels had a livery stable attached, making it easier for travelers to board their horses while they spent the night. Streets were lined up & down with hitching posts, a necessity as towns grew and more livery accommodations were needed.

You think the idea of liveries and horses and staying in 'old-tyme' hotels is romantic? Don't forget the smell that permeated from these places. The horse waste, damp hay, rats, garbage, and more added to the fragrance of the livery surroundings. Sometimes it got too much to bear and the business was urged to move closer to the outskirts of town.

Does this sound like anyplace for a lady or woman of stature and respectability? No way. And the men took advantage of that. The guys would congregate at the stables and engage of all kinds of activities that the womenfolk would disapprove of: cockfights, drinking, gambling, and strip shows. Once automobiles became the accepted mode of travel, the livery stables diminished...but they never went away. We still have 'em.

Not only do we still have horse liveries, but boat liveries, and bicycle liveries.
There's even some for your car...
They're called “overnight parking lots”.

Vintage Livery Stables

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