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Yellowstone Hotels & Lodges - The Companies

Copyright 2020 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. (YPIC)

Organized on Jan. 18, 1883 by Carroll T. Hobart, Rufus Hatch, and Henry Douglas. Hobart and Douglas originally signed an agreement with Ass’t Secretary Interior Joslyn on September 1, 1882 that assured them a monopoly on the park hotel business. However, they lacked sufficient financial backing and teamed up with Hatch in 1883. The company received approval for leases of 4400 acres, a complete monopoly on park concessions, and almost unlimited use of park resources for their operations. Hobart was appointed vice-president while Hatch and his friends provided initial financial backing in the amount of $112,000. After the extent of the lease provisions became public, Sen. Vest canceled most of these provisions on March 3, 1883. A new contract was signed that included leases for 10 acres spread out among seven different locations. Tent hotel facilities were opened for the summer at Canyon (near the present Upper Falls parking lot), Norris, and Old Faithful (near the west end of the present Inn parking lot). Construction of the National Hotel in Mammoth began in the fall of 1882 with a partial opening on August 1, 1883. The company however, suffered financial problems and went into receivership in May of 1884. Hobart remained as manager, but the following year they went bankrupt. The NPRR bought out the assets at a receiver’s sale and created the Yellowstone Park Association in 1886 to run existing operations and build new hotels. 

Yellowstone Park Association (YPA)

Created in 1886 by the Northern Pacific RR to take over the properties and operation of the bankrupt YPIC. The heads of the company included Charles Gibson, Nelson C. Thrall, Frederick Billings, and John C. Bullitt. NPRR officials held at least 60% of the shares. The YPA received a 10-year lease on April 5, 1886 and agreed to build hotels at Canyon, Lake, Norris, and complete the hotel at Mammoth by the beginning of 1887. They opened Norris Hotel in 1887, but it burned down soon after opening and was replaced by smaller, temporary facilities until 1901. The contract also gave the company a boat concession on Yellowstone Lake, but they did not use it until 1891 when E. C. Waters began managing the Yellowstone Lake Boat Co. and provided ferry service from West Thumb to the Lake Tent Hotel. In 1886 YPA obtained the Firehole Hotel and built a tent hotel at Lake Outlet. They bought out the Henderson’s Cottage Hotel at Mammoth in May of 1889. That year construction began on the Lake Hotel, which opened in 1891. Trout Creek Lunch Station opened in 1888 with Larry Matthews as manager. In 1890 construction started on the which opened the following year. The Trout Creek Lunch Station closed after the 1891 season and was replaced by the West Thumb Lunch Station. In 1898 Charles Gibson sold all of his shares to Northern Pacific Ry, making them sole owner of YPA. The NPRy then sold the stock in June to the Northwest Improvement Co., an NPRy subsidiary. Harry Child, Edward Bach, and Silas Huntley purchased the company in 1901 with financing from the Northwest Improvement Co. Huntley died in Sept. of 1901 and his stock reverted to NWIC. Bach sold his shares to NWIC in 1902. The Old Faithful Inn opened in June of 1904 while Child acquired additional shares in 1905 to obtain 50% ownership of YPA. He acquired full ownership in 1907 with loans from NPRy. On December 9, 1909 Child had the name of the company changed to the Yellowstone Park Hotel Co. At that time Child’s son Huntley became vice-president and son-in-law William Nichols became secretary of the company.

Yellowstone Park Associatio letterhead

From The Anaconda Standard, Montana, April 6, 1901

"St. Paul, April 5. The Yellowstone Park Association this afternoon sold out its entire belongings and interests in the National park to the Yellowstone Park Transportation company, which consists of S.S. Huntley and E. W. Bache [sic] of Helena, Mont., and H.W. Childs of St. Paul, the consideration being close to $1,000,000. Among the items being transferred were the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel recently built for $200,000: the Fountain hotel, $100,000; Grand Canyon hotel, $100,000, and Lake hotel, $75,000, besides four lunch stations and other property. J.H. Dean, president of the old company, will be manager of the new and the transportation company is now purchaser of all the property in the great national park." [excluding of course, the general stores and camps operations]

Yellowstone Park Associatio letterhead

Yellowstone Park Hotel Co. (YPHCo)


Formed Dec. 9, 1909 by H.W. Child to take over the operation of the Yellowstone Park Association, which he also owned. Son Huntley Child was chosen as vice-president and son-in-law William Nichols became secretary. In 1910-11 the company built the grandiose new Canyon Hotel, incorporating the old hotel within the structure. They remodeled the National Hotel at Mammoth in 1911-13, adding a new wing, eliminating the top floor and creating a flat roof. After the end of the 1916 season the Park Service granted the company an exclusive monopoly on the park’s hotel concession with a 20-year operating lease. The Fountain Hotel, Norris Hotel and West Thumb Lunch Station were closed down after that season.  Hotels remained in operation at Old Faithful, Lake, Canyon, and Mammoth.  YPHCo built no new hotels after this time, but numerous renovations and additions were conducted at all locations.  Child re-negotiated a new 20-year lease in 1923. The lease stipulated that the company would be allowed to operate and maintain inns, hotels, laundries, barber/beauty shops, baths, swimming pools, skating rinks, tennis courts, golf links, pool halls, bowling alleys, and souvenir sales.  Fortunately some of these activities were never carried out. Child remained head of the YPHCo until his death in 1931, when Wm. Nichols took over the helm.  At that time Vernon Goodwin became vice-president and Hugh Galusha was retained as controller.  The company remained in control of the park hotels until 1936, when the company was merged with the Yellowstone Park Boat Co., Yellowstone Park Transportation Co., and Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Co. to form the Yellowstone Park Company.

Yellowstone Park Co. (YPCo)


    Formed in 1936 under the direction of Wm. Nichols, with Vernon Goodwin as vice-president, Mrs. Harry Child was a principle stockholder. The company was formed by the mergers of the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co., Yellowstone Park Hotel Co., Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Co., and the Yellowstone Park Boat Co. The company received a 20-year lease in August. Nichols remained President with Huntley Child Jr. and John Q. Nichols becoming VPs in the 1950’s

    The new company embarked on an ambitious reconstruction plan at Mammoth. The old hotel was torn down, except for the North Wing, and a new lobby/office complex was built along with a restaurant, recreation hall, café and tourist cabins. Nichols obtained one final loan from Northern Pacific Ry in 1937 that was paid off in 1955. In 1956 son John Q. became company president and Nichols became Chairman of the Board until his death in 1957. Financial problems plagued the company in the 1950-60’s and maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and equipment suffered terribly. Nichols even sold off his interest in the Flying D Ranch in 1944 to help pay off company debts.

    The Park Service enacted the Mission 66 plan in 1956 to improve visitor facilities at all parks by 1966. The plan required YPCo to built lodging and marina facilities at Grant Village, a new lodge and cabins at Canyon, and a new marina at Bridge Bay. The company refused to participate in Grant Village and the marina at Bridge Bay, although they did build, against their wishes, the new Canyon Village facilities that opened in 1957. They were also forced to close Canyon Hotel, which had been making them money. These ventures drained their finances terribly. They did however; manage to obtain the operating lease for Bridge Bay Marina in 1964 after the government finished construction.

    Wm. Nichols died in 1957 and for the next nine years the company underwent a series of changes in management and the board of directors. Park Service Director Hartzog notified the company on October 8, 1965 that the government intended to terminate YPCo’s contract due to their inability to upgrade and build new facilities as directed. The Child-Nichols family finally sold the company to Goldfield Enterprises on February 4, 1966 for 6.5 million dollars.

    Goldfield became a part of General Host, Inc. the following year and they retained the name of Yellowstone Park Co. They received a 30-year lease based on promises to spend 10 million in facility upgrades in 10 years. This new company refused to honor its contract promises to upgrade and improve visitor facilities, and buildings park-wide continued to deteriorate. The Park Service, increasingly frustrated by General Host’s dismal record of service in the park, canceled the contract in October of 1979 and paid 19 million for all of YPCo’s park buildings and assets. TWA Services received the new concession contract later that year and changed the name of the company.

Letterhead for Old Faithful Inn

Left: Yellowstone Park Co. Letterhead, ca1950s

Right: Yellowstone Park Co. Sticker Logo, ca1960s

Yellowstone Park Company logo

Xanterra Parks & Resorts

The story of Xanterra Travel began in 1876 when talented visionary Fred Harvey struck a deal with the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad to open restaurants (and later hotels and gift stores) at rail stops for weary travelers making their way west.  The Harvey empire was sold in the late 1960s to Hawaii-based Amfac Resorts.

In 1988 in Yellowstone, the TWA Services name was changed to TW Recreational Services, Inc.  Amfac, Inc. bought out TWR Services in 1995 and later became known as Amfac Parks & Resorts. In 2002, the company name was changed to Xanterra Parks & Resorts, and the company was acquired by The Anschutz Corporation in 2008. In 2013 Xanterra Parks & Resorts won the contract to operate concessions in Yellowstone National Park for another 20 years.

Xanterra Parks &  Resorts logo
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