History of the Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Geyser is definitely one of the highlights of visiting Yellowstone National Park. A visit to Old Faithful would not be complete without stepping in to the amazing Old Faithful Inn.

The inn’s front porch has a view of the most famous geyser in the world, Old Faithful Geyser, as well as a few other geysers. The building’s placement is offset to allow the sight of Old Faithful Geyser from the road. Montana’s “big sky” and pine forest complete the view as a beautiful background. Architect Robert Reamer designed Old Faithful Inn to blend in with the surroundings in Yellowstone National Park in 1902, and the plan became a reality in the winter of 1903-1904. Its tall, pointed roofs symbolize mountains and the asymmetry stands for the wildness of nature. Inside, a lobby with a 65 foot high ceiling has windows placed high to admit light, similar to that filtering through a forest canopy. The foundation is veneered stone. Gnarled logs form a majestic staircase for visitors to climb to two floors of balconies with lodge pole pine railings, and gaze around the entire room with its 500 ton Rhyolite fireplace and chimney. The staircase and balconies can leave a visitor marveling for hours at how amazing the lobby truly is. The entire inn is 700 feet long, made from rustic logs and stepping inside makes one feel as though they have stepped in to a time machine to visit the early 1900’s. The roof is covered with redwood shingles. The rustic style is related to the Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized hand-hewn work fitting in with nature.

Part of the money to build Old Faithful Inn was contributed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, which also commissioned Reamer to design its Gardiner, Montana, depot, near the northern entrance to the park. The two structures were designed as a set, in the same style of rustic architecture.

In 1913-1914, Reamer built an east wing with 100 additional rooms. Although the interior walls were made with lath and plaster, the stone-veneered foundation, cedar-shingled walls, and log construction still fit in with the rustic look of the original section of the building.

In 1927, Reamer once again came back to build a 150 room west wing and carriage entrance, completed in 1928. Many guests and workers have claimed to see ghosts in this west wing. Headless apparitions and fire extinguishers coming to life have been reported. The lobby was extended with the building of the new entrance and plate glass windows were installed.

As the first national park in the world, Yellowstone established many traditions for the National Parks Service, and architecture is no exception. The style of the Old Faithful Inn, built in the winter of 1903-1904, set the style for the “parkitecture” of many western parks. Grand Canyon lodge, although made from different materials and having a flat roof, carries on the same tradition as Old Faithful Inn, in that it is designed to fit in with the natural scenery and surroundings. Some parts of it appear almost as outcroppings of natural rock. Grand Canyon cabins are built of logs reminiscent of Old Faithful Inn. Buildings in Crater Lake National Park also have steep roofs, natural rock and wooden detailing. The first museum built for the National Park Service, in Yosemite, California, was constructed of native rocks, logs and shingles for a natural look. In 1933 the National Park Service put the Civilian Conservation Corps to work in construction. Guidebooks were issued instructing the builders to make structures all in the rustic style. This is evident in the many buildings throughout Yellowstone.

In 1987 Old Faithful Inn was placed on the Register of Historic Places, and in 2004 the country celebrated the inn’s centennial. It remains as one of the important buildings symbolizing the history, natural beauty, and conservation principles of Yellowstone Park and the United States National Parks system.

One Comment on “History of the Old Faithful Inn”

  1. I just found a really amazing photo of the interior of the lodge here. http://www.treyerice.com/2010/12/log-limb-lobby-old-faithful-inn/

    It shows the wood work very well.

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