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Preservation of Legendary Old Faithful Inn Reflects
Old-fashioned Ingenuity of Preservation Crew
Efforts Ensure Old Faithful Inn Will Put “Best Face Forward”
for 100th Birthday in 2004

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, October 25, 2002 – No botox for this Grande Dame. When the Old Faithful Inn turns 100 in 2004, the famous Yellowstone National Park lodge will reflect painstaking, ongoing efforts to repair a few sags and creaks. What grand lady of 100 years wouldn’t want to have a little repair work done, after all? But instead of quick fixes using high-tech tools, workers are likely to use old-fashioned broad axes and adzes. When it comes to both cosmetic and structural maintenance of the Old Faithful Inn, the venerable lodge’s protectors look to the past for guidance.

The preservation of one of the first national park lodges in the world’s first national park has been a continual challenge for its maintenance crew.  Before undertaking a major renovation project on the Old Faithful Inn, the highly trained Historic Preservation Crew will often examine ancient blueprints, postcards, books and photographs for clues about the original structure’s design and architecture.

The crew is comprised of employees of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the lodges, restaurants, tours and other concessions in Yellowstone. Since 1991, the Historic Preservation Crew has been specializing in repairs and restoration to the park’s historic structures.  Certainly the Old Faithful Inn is the most famous of those facilities.

The most common projects include masonry, glazing, painting, carpentry and log work.

Through experience, the maintenance crew at the Old Faithful Inn has discovered that using old-fashioned tools on the distinctive architectural details of the lodge allows the staff to be more efficient and perform detail work that is true to the original work. “We originally tried modern tools on many of the projects, such as the replacement of the cribbing around steel columns that hold up the porte cochere,” said Barry Cantor, director of engineering for Xanterra. “But we quickly found that the vintage hand tools we crafted or bought worked considerably better, especially on projects that required lots of detail work.”

The crew is presently replacing much of the exterior glass in the Old House, the original section of rooms in the Inn. “One hundred years ago, the glass was distorted and had built-in imperfections such as varied thickness in a single pane,” explained Cantor. “Rather than purchase today’s near-perfect panes of glass, we seek out ‘restoration glass,’ or glass with imperfections similar to those of a century ago.”

Every winter, when the Inn is closed and sealed against the winter weather in Yellowstone National Park, the Historic Preservation Crew replaces deteriorating logs using a method called a “Dutchman.” The deteriorated protruding ends of the lodge’s logs are cut away and the crew performs complex splices of competent logs to those cuts. The resulting replacement is called a “rafter tail.” “We’re doing rafter tails all winter long, particularly on log protrusions that face the north geyser basin,” said Cantor. “It’s when we replace the logs and do other work on the upper exterior levels of the Inn that we really gain an appreciation for the Inn’s original builders. While we are subject to OSHA regulations and are extraordinarily careful that we don’t put our crew in danger, the original builders managed to create this structure without all of the extra protection.”

The Old Faithful Inn was the brainchild of master architect Robert Reamer.  Design of the structure began in 1902, and the original section of the Inn was constructed during the winter of 1903/04. The massive log-and-wood-frame structure is situated near Yellowstone’s famous Old Faithful geyser. The building is 700 feet long and seven stories high. Its gable roof, asymmetrical dormers and rustic design give it a distinctive look that is now known as an original example of “parkitecture,” the term given to the most breathtaking and architecturally significant of the national park lodges.

The building’s history and architecture has been the subject of numerous books. It recently was profiled in a PBS series called “Great Lodges of the National Parks.”

Xanterra Parks & Resorts is the country’s largest operator of lodges, restaurants and other concessions at national and state parks and resorts.  Committed to the preservation and protection of the environment in each location, Xanterra has implemented a variety of proactive environmental stewardship programs and was the recipient of Environmental Achievement Awards from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and from the Department of Interior in 2001. Xanterra also received the Travel Industry Association’s Odyssey Award for its environmental initiatives in 2001.

Xanterra operates concessions in the following locations: Yellowstone National Park, the North and South Rims of Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Death Valley National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Everglades National Park, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial; and at resorts in Napa, Calif., Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and seven Ohio State Parks. 


Mona Mesereau
[email protected]
Also See: Amfac Opens the 44 Room $3.7 Million Dunraven Lodge in Yellowstone National Park / June 1999
The Mural Dining Room in Grand Teton National Park’s Jackson Lake Lodge Completes Refurbishment; Famous Murals by Carl Roters Left Unchanged / May 2002
Preservation and Visitor Access Top Priorities of National Park Hospitality Association / Oct 1999

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