The Nicest Place in Wyoming: S. Chestnut St. in Casper
NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2019 FINALIST
When snow falls, it’s a race to the snowblowers to see who can do their neighbors’ walks first. Everyone wins!
When the first snow falls in winter on South Chestnut Street in Casper, Wyoming, for some, the silent precipitation is a starting gun. Whoever gets up and out first will snow-blow everyone’s sidewalk, winning the “race.” They also have the same race to mow one another’s lawns in the summer, or so our nominator, Danica Sveda tells us. To anyone who has had to shovel snow or cut grass, it seemed too good to be true.
So we called up one of her neighbors, Marlene Ashbaugh, who lives just a block over on Walnut Street.
She couldn’t vouch for what happens on Chestnut, but says, “My next-door neighbor, he always goes up and snow-blows all of ours. There’s probably one on Chestnut Street who does that,” adding, “It happens all over.”
Hard to believe, but we can confirm that it’s true at least in “Big Tree,” as the neighborhood is known. The name calls out the huge, older trees that line the streets, a rarity in high-plains towns. But in Casper, a city of 55,000 in the center of the state that sits at 5,100 feet of elevation, there are 123,000 trees.
They’re like old friends who occasionally make a big mess, as one big storm showed recently.
“Lemme tell ya, Mother Nature has her own way of pruning. Branches, trees, everything was knocked over,” Ashbaugh recalls.
City officials said they’d haul the trash out as long as the residents piled it up—so they jumped into action.
“Instead of being mad, they were out there laughing, gathering the branches. Kids were helping, it was absolutely amazing,” says Ashbaugh. “I don’t know how many tons of branches and debris were hauled to the dump that year, but it was incredible.”
This summer, Sveda’s mother is getting married, and instead of having a big wedding, they’re going to have a neighborhood party.
“The people that mean the most live right next door,” she says. “This area is a diamond in a world of disconnectedness.”
A heavily tree lined street, everyone on Chestnut St. knows there neighbors. Often the whole neighborhood meets out on their front lawns and has a street BBQ. Kids run across the open front lawns and play in everyone’s backyards.
In the winter (which can be long and brutal) there seems to be a race to get to the snowblowers first. Whoever wins will snow blow everyone’s sidewalks. In the summer, we mow each others front lawns as they are all connected and take turns mowing each others lawns. The kids in the neighborhood all play together and often a wild herd of children can be seen running through the front yards. It isn’t uncommon to tell the neighbors, can you watch my kids while I run to the store depending on whose backyard the kids are in.
There are many front porches filled with people enjoying conversation and often the party will shift from front porch to front porch. Most of the neighbors have watched multiple generations of kids growing up from the front porch. The neighborhood is called the Standard Oil Subdivision and was built to house the workers of the oil refinery. The oil refinery is now a golf course on the river, but the neighborhood still remains as one of the jewels of Casper, Wyoming.
The streets are all named after trees and for a good reason. The mature trees planted long ago are a prominent feature of the area. None of the front yards have fences so it has the appearance of one block long yard, which is taken advantage of by young and old alike. In a Casper Area Chamber of Commerce brochure, it was Chestnut Street on the cover.
The houses were mostly built in the 40’s so they are not cookie cutter new build, but charming mid-century homes. Each homeowner knows the history of their house. One of the houses was built in the early 1900’s and was moved to the street from its original location at the refinery.
Everyone that lives on Chestnut Street knows what a special neighborhood it is. Instead of moving, most opt to live in a smaller house instead of moving, due to the importance of the community of neighbors that surrounds their home.
This summer, my mom is getting married and decided to have a neighborhood party in lieu of a large wedding. The people that mean the most live right next door. This area is a diamond in world of disconnectedness. The kids here would rather play outside with friends instead of playing on devices.
This is hands down “one of the nicest places” in America, filled with the nicest people working together to build a community within a community. The kids call themselves the Chestnut gang and they often involve themselves in the work of bringing everyone together.
I also forgot to mention the herd of turkeys that live in the neighborhood. They add a lot of excitement to the rest of the gang. They roost in the cottonwood trees.
This nomination came through ourpartnership with Nextdoor, the world’s largest social network for neighborhoods.