Hotel Online  Special Report

Built 100 Years Ago - The Old Faithful Inn
a Model of "Parkitecture"


YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, April 14, 2004 - The Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park will be in the spotlight this year as the world's most famous national park lodge celebrates its 100th anniversary. 

The Old Faithful Inn kicks off its centennial season May 7, 2004 at 11 a.m. with welcome remarks by various National Park Service and other dignitaries. Following the ceremony, Xanterra Parks & Resorts will host "Heritage Days," a free three-day event featuring historical programs and displays. Heritage Days is open to the public and will be a celebration of the cultural heritage of Yellowstone and will include special tours of the area and the Old Faithful Inn, historic and artistic presentations, and special interpretive exhibits provided by several local museums and organizations. Xanterra will again host Heritage Days events June 19-20 and August 28-29. 

Bulk of Construction Occurred During Winter

A partnership of the Yellowstone Park Association and the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Old Faithful Inn was built mainly during the winter of 1903-04 to satisfy a demand for luxurious accommodations.  Under the direction of architect Robert Reamer, some 40 craftsmen began constructing the Inn with the goal of opening the hotel in June 1904.

The Inn's logs were cut from a forested area about four miles south of Old Faithful geyser, and its stone was quarried from the Black Sand Basin and other nearby areas. Many materials were brought into the park, including roof shingles produced in the state of Washington.

The original structure, now called the Old House, featured 140 rooms with such luxurious amenities as electricity, heat and plumbing. Some of the rooms even had private bathrooms for the high-rollers. A wood-burning boiler provided heat.

Most of the original Old Faithful Inn remains intact, but several additions were made through the years. Among the most significant were the addition of the East Wing in 1913, expansion of the dining room in 1922 and addition of the West Wing in 1927. What is now the Inn's snack bar was built in 1936 as the Bear Pit Lounge. In 1940 the bark was stripped from both structural and decorative logs, and the logs were varnished in 1966.

Old Faithful Inn
NPS Photo

While the Inn was designed to blend in with its surroundings, its influence on lodge design has been anything but understated. Elements of the Old Faithful Inn design are found in the Old Faithful Lodge right next door to the Inn as well as in other parks and vacation destinations across the country. While less famous than the Inn, the Old Faithful Lodge on the other side of its geyser namesake as well as the Roosevelt Lodge in the northeast quadrant of the park have the "parkitecture look." Direct influences are as varied as the Wilderness Lodge in Walt Disney World and the Blue Sky Grill, a restaurant in Denver's Pepsi Center.

While the Old Faithful Inn is certainly interesting from the outside, it is the interior that most often causes visitors to stop and gaze in wonder. The 76-foot high lobby features four levels of balconies with railings and supports created from gnarled branches. The stone chimney was constructed of 500 tons of rhyolite quarried within five miles of the Inn and features eight fireboxes. The clock on the side of the chimney is fourteen feet tall. High in the lobby, almost to the roof, is the "Treehouse" where musicians used to entertain guests. Stairs also lead up and out to the Inn's roof, but they are no longer open to the public because of the high volume of visitors and associated safety concerns.

Maintaining the Inn

Today when the Inn requires repairs and improvements, Xanterra's Historic Preservation Crew gets the job. Using traditional methods and old-fashioned and often low-tech tools, the crew preserves famous and historic structures for future generations. Through trial and error, the crew determined that older tools were much better suited for certain tasks as opposed to today's equipment. For example, the crew initially tried chain saws on log work but quickly saw they were unwieldy and inefficient, so they switched to broad axes and adzes. 

The crew is comprised of employees of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the concessioner at the park, and has been specializing in repairs and restoration to historic structures since 1991. The crew includes as many as eight members and is continually attending training sessions to learn and perfect proper techniques and the use of vintage tools.

Inn Tidbits

  • It would be difficult, if not impossible to duplicate the Inn's construction today. Cutting down trees, gathering wood and quarrying rock inside the park are now all illegal.
  • Two of the dormer windows in the long front roof are actually fake, providing an asymmetrical appearance.
  • The Northern Pacific Railroad and the Yellowstone Park Association financed the construction of Old Faithful Inn at a cost of approximately $140,000, with an additional $25,000 for furnishings.
  • Much of the furniture, including the original rustic hickory chairs found in the dining room, is from the Old Hickory Furniture Company. Old Hickory is still in business.
  • The fires of 1988 posed a serious threat the Inn. The North Fork fire destroyed several cabins and other buildings in the area September 7, 1988, but the Inn did not burn. Just the year before, a sprinkler system was installed to cascade water over the Inn's roofs in case of fire.
  • Six U.S. presidents have visited the Inn, the most recent being President Clinton.
  • The Three Stooges stayed at the Inn. They did not, however, sleep three across in one bed snoring in their coordinated "mi, mi, mi, mi" fashion.
  • Timbers used for the porte cochere at the nearby Old Faithful Snow Lodge came from a dismantled sawmill owned by Aloha Lumber Company, which supplied the lumber and cedar shingles for the Old Faithful Inn in 1903/1904.
  • Some of the guests who are staying at the Inn for the 2004 season opening and 100th anniversary celebration asked for reservations close to 20 years ago.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Inc.  operates lodges, restaurants and other concessions at national parks and state parks and resorts. Xanterra is the country's largest national park concessioner. The company 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 the Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif.; Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and eight Ohio State Parks.

Mesereau Public Relations
(1) 720-842-5271
Also See: Preservation of Legendary Old Faithful Inn Reflects Old-fashioned Ingenuity of Preservation Crew / Oct 2002
As the Old Faithful Inn Approaches its 100th Anniversary in 2004, It Remains a National Park Icon / November 2003

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