Hotels in the Yellowstone
Lake Hotel & Lodge
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.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel
Original Lake Hotel
The year 1889 was a big year for the Yellowstone Park Association as they undertook the construction of two high-class hotels in Yellowstone National Park. The large hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs was completed in 1885, and there were somewhat crude hotels at Canyon and Old Faithful. An impressive hotel at Norris burned down in 1887 barely after it had opened. The Yellowstone Park Improvement Company, predecessor to YPA, opened a tent hotel nearby in 1887. Now the Association looked forward to a set of new hotels to draw in the moneyed class of traveler - Lake Hotel and Fountain Hotel.
Construction began on this Lake Hotel along the shores of Yellowstone Lake, just west of the outlet for the Yellowstone River in 1889. This plain-looking building opened in 1891 with 80 rooms. Around this same time the road to Lake from Old Faithful over Craig Pass opened up, creating the Lower Loop Road. Previously guests had to reach the Lake via the Mary Mountain Road from Fountain Flats and had to backtrack when heading to the Grand Canyon. Prior to construction of the hotel, guests stayed at a small tent camp that opened in 1887.
Top Left: The original Lake Hotel, soon after construction.
Note the Widow's Walk on the top. [Photo 1890s, YNP Archives]
Top Right: Lake Hotel from other direction, ca1901,
[Photo from Annual Report to the Interior, 1901]
Lake Colonial Hotel
The original hotel had alway proved inadequate in size to meet the tourist demand. It was planned to be larger, but problems with transporting massive amounts of construction material resulted in changes to the plan. It ended up having a smaller capacity than envisioned. This was somewhat rectified by renovations in 1903-04, under the direction of architect Robert Reamer. Lake Hotel took on a new look when a third gable was added, and the front gables extended, creating large porches. 50' ionic columns were added to the front of the hotel, creating a "Colonial" look. An additional wing ell was added to the structure increasing the number of rooms to 210. Decorative dormer windows, false balconies, fanlight windows, and oval windows added to the picturesque appearance. The exterior was painted a soft yellow and the hotel became known as the Colonial Hotel.
Above Left: Lake Hotel, ca1915. [Haynes Postcard No. 180]
Above Right: Lake Hotel, ca1914. [Haynes 500-Series Sepia Postcard, No. 518]
Renovations again changed the shape of the hotel again in when the Portico was added to the front entrance of the hotel in 1920. The East Wing, with 113 additional rooms was added in 1922-23. Robert Reamer directed the renovations, which also included expansion of the dining room that doubled seating. Employee dorms were built in 1924 that freed up additional rooms in the hotel that had been used for employee quarters.
In 1920 the porte-cochere was enclosed and a
new porte-cochere was added. The lounge and solarium were also added in 1928 and the lobby again remodeled.
Top: Lake Hotel Porte-Cochere changes, 1920. [Haynes PC #20090]
Bottom: The Solarium at left, 1953 view [YNP #30126
Top: Lake Hotel Lobby, 1909. [Photo from Stimson Collection #CT3004, Wyo. State Archives]
Bottom: Lake Hotel Lobby, 1923. [Haynes #23449]
Above Left: Lake Hotel Dining Room in 1919. [Haynes #19025]
Above Right: Lake Hotel Dining Room in 1925. [Haynes PC #25007]
Employee dorms were built in 1924 that freed up additional rooms in the hotel that had been used for employee quarters.
[Photo from 1930, YNP #193429-93]
One hundred and ten cabins were built near the hotel in the 1920’s, and the North Wing was removed in 1940. Additional cabins were constructed to replace the lost rooms and to appeal to the automobile crowd, although building progress slowed because of the war.
[Photo from 1952, YNP #30125]
Brass key tag (fob) from the Yellowstone Park Association, used ca1886-1909.
Brass tag above from the Yellowstone Park Hotel Co., in use ca1909-1940s.
Plastic-type key tag from the Yellowstone Park Co., used ca 1950-70s
Lake Camp & Lake Lodge
Yellowstone Lake Camp
Prior to 1919, The Lake Camp was beautiful. At that time, the canvas-topped lodge tents were arranged around a central campfire. When the moon shone across the Lake and practically into the camp, it was a wonderful sight. In 1917, the Wylie and Shaw & Powell Camps were consolidated into the Yellowstone Park Camping Co. (1917-1919). The Shaw & Powell camp west of the hotel was eliminated and the Wylie Camp to the east of the hotel became the new Lake Camp. The central of the old camp was dismantled and construction of a new log lodge building began in 1918. WWI delayed construction efforts and the lodge, designed by Robert Reamer, opened in 1920. By that time, the Yellowstone Park Camps Co. under Howard Hays had taken over the “YP Camping Co.
Top Left: Kitchen buildings from the Wylie Camp in 1917. [Haynes 12M-26]
Top Right: The new Lake Camp lodge building, 1920. [Shipler Photo #20571]
Bottom Left: News article regarding the opening of the new Lake Camp (Click to enlarge) [Jun 9, 1920, Butte Miner]
Bottom Right: Postcard from the Yellowstone Park Camps Co.
The camp lobby featured a large stone fireplace and rustic log tables. Tents from the Mammoth Camp were moved in during this time and were located near the end of the lodge. The kitchen was enlarged in 1924 and two wings were added in 1926 that included the cafeteria and recreation hall. Dances and shows were held on the stage of the recreation hall. Along with physical improvements to the structure came the construction of accessory service buildings, including employee dorms, restroom and shower cabins, storage, housekeeping, and utility buildings. Sewer and water supply lines were brought in during the early 1920's.
Above: Lake Camp lodge building in 1922. [Haynes PC #22732
Below: Canvas-top tent cabins, 1920. [Shipler Photo #20568]
Above: Dining Room in the Lake Camp lodge bldg., 1920. [Shipler Photo #20574]
Below: Lake Camp ca1923. YP Transportation Co. bus right foreground. [1923 Haynes Guide]
Harry W. Child, owner of the hotel and transportation operations in Yellowstone, bought the controlling interest of the Camps Company in 1928. the new company was called Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Co. It was around that time that the “camps” operations became “Lodges.”
A porte cochere was added in 1929 to accommodate the ever increasing car traffic coming to the lodge. Robert Reamer designed the exterior of the additions to match his plans for the original central building, with exposed logs, stained shakes, and a cedar shingle roof.”
Above Left: Main lodge building in 1926. [Haynes PC #26011]
Above Right: Main Lodge building with new portico (porte cochere) and buses unloading passengers. [Haynes PC #29374]
Left: Interior of Lake lodge bldg. in 1926. [Haynes Photo #J67697]
In the years 1923 to 1930, the following guest facilities
1923 50 new tent units
1924 27 two-room & 25 one-room cabins
1925 30 tent cabins converted to pole/frame cabins
1927 40 new cabins erected (25ea 12’x14’; 12ea 12’x12’)
1929 51 new cabins built
1930 10 log/frame cabins built
The lodge was closed in the years 1942-1944 due to WWII. But following the end of the war, visitation surged. More modern cabins began to replace the tent-tops and older cabins in the 1950's. By 1953 the site for the cabins was altered to include a 90-car parking lot immediately north of the lodge. The cabin area was moved to the hillside west of the lodge. A new girls' dormitory was constructed in the early 1950s immediately west of the lodge which featured a flat roof and contemporary building materials.
After 1963 most of the cabins were removed from the south side of the lodge. This allowed the lodge to be seen from the southern approach of the main road from the hotel for the first time without visual encumbrance.
The Western units were added between the years 1960-1965, replacing tent cabins. The Porte-cochere was removed in the 1960's and in the 1970’s new multiplex lodging facilities are erected at the northwest end of the Lodge complex. Cafeteria-style dining replaced the dining room in the 1980's.
Above Left: Main lodge building in 1951. [Haynes PC #51K032]
Above Right: Lake Lodge, ca1970s. [Yellowstone Park Co. PC]
Top: Architect Fred Willson drawing of Lake Lodge complex in 1930.
Right: Modern Lake Lodge cabin map from Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Notice that all the guest units to the left and immediate right of the lodge building were either removed or moved farther back up the hill behind the Lodge.