Hotels in the Yellowstone
1887-1892 & 1901-1916
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.
The First Norris Hotel - 1887-1887
Variously known as the Norris Lunch Station, Norris Hotel, and Larry's Lunch Station, there were five different facilities at Norris between 1883 and 1916. In 1883 the Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. (YPIC) established tent hotels at various locations throughout Yellowstone Park, including the Norris Geyser Basin.
The first hotel opened up in the spring of 1887, even though construction was apparently incomplete. A workman started a fire in an unfinished chimney that set the hotel ablaze on July 14. The Livingston Enterprise reported that there were many guests in the hotel, but that all were saved. A bit of furniture was rescued, but all else was lost. Afterwards tents were set-up for guest use. The Jamestown Alert in North Dakota reported that, “the Norris hotel at the National park was burned Thursday and a loss of $50,000 sustained. Sam and Mrs. Matthews, who were at the hotel in the capacity of managers, have not been heard from as to personal loss or injury. Their friends trust all is right with them.”
Left: The 1st Norris Hotel, Spring of 1887.
[F.J. Haynes Stereoview, YNP #345]
Above: Close-up of the front of the hotel, Spring 1887. [YNP Archives #50792]
The Second Norris Hotel - 1887-1892
By the end of 1887 a temporary wooden hotel was completed with 20 sleeping rooms. It was long and narrow, built with 1" board siding. The Helena Weekly Herald noted on Aug. 18, 1887, “The Norris Basin hotel, burned a short time ago, is already replaced by a comfortable temporary structure with ample accommodations for more than a half hundred guests. Contrary to that report, Acting Supt. Capt. Moses described it as "cold and open, with no appliance for heating beyond a sheet iron stove in the common hall."
Fire again caused havoc in 1892 and this building burned down. Much of the silverware, bedding and furniture were saved this time. Once again, the fire was believed to have resulted from a stovepipe or chimney problem.
The view below would have been taken from the Norris Soldier Station, currently the Museum of the National Park Ranger. The bridge crossed the Gibbon River.
Rare view of 2nd Norris Hotel by Emily Sibley Watson from Rochester NY on 20Aug1889, during her tour of Yellowstone.
[Photo courtesy Univ. of Rochester, NY, Memorial Art Gallery]
Round-format camera view of the 2nd Norris Hotel in 1890. Photographer unknown.
The Third Norris Hotel - 1901-1916
A New Hotel.
Larry Mathews, who is so well known in connection with' the Yellowstone Park, writes us that the new hotel recently built at Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone Park, will be opened to the public Friday evening, Aug. 2nd. A 5 o'clock dinner will be served, after which a grand ball will be given. Ice cream, lemonade and all kinds of fruit will be served during the evening. It is expected that about 5,000 people will be present.
This hotel is built on the formation, where all the large geysers of the park can be seen from the front porch, is a large affair costing $150,000, including fixtures. A large silk flag 80x47 feet will be erected over the center of the building. 'Mr. Mathews will have the management of the hotel, and is considered by the park association as the best manager in the park.
[Post and Record (Rochester, Minn), 2Aug1901]
A new lunch station and hotel opened in 1901 on the Porcelain Terrace at Norris. It was located on the edge of the Basin and from the front porch, one could gaze at the various geyser erupting. It contained about 25 rooms and continued to service the lunch crowd passing through. Larry Mathews managed he new hotel in 1891, and was moved to Old Faithful and managed the old "Shack Hotel Tent Camp" in 1902-03. As with the Fountain Hotel, decreased travel times in 1917 due to motorized buses, eliminated the necessity of the lunch station. It closed after the 1916 season and was razed in 1928. There are no longer any lunch or overnight facilities at Norris.
Above: ca1905 view of Norris Hotel. Photographer unknown.
Below: Norris Lunch House, ca1912. [Acmegraph PC #6501]
Above: ca1905 view of Norris Hotel. [YPA Brochure, 1905]
Below: Norris Lunch Station, ca1912. [Haynes-Photo, No. 194]
From the 1901 Dept. of Interior Annual Report:
"A new and very comfortable little hotel has been constructed at the Norris Geyser Basin. It has been built on a far better site than that occupied by the old lunch station, which was some distance from the geyser basin – entirely too far for the majority of tourists to walk. The new hotel is so conveniently located that the tourists can now sit on its broad and sheltered veranda, after having their luncheon, and while awaiting the arrival of their coaches, they will be greatly interested in watching the playing of the geysers in the distance below them; or if they prefer to do so, they can stroll leisurely through the basin and await the arrival of their coaches at the Monarch geyser, where comfortable seats and a shelter have been provided. This hotel has been greatly needed for a long time, and will be frequently patronized by people who can not afford the time to go entirely around the park, and also by many who wish to go out of the park by the Monida route."
End of the Norris & Fountain Hotels . . .
The Yellowstone Park Hotel Company is now engaged in razing the old Fountain hotel and the Norris basin
lunch station, which have not been utilized since the stage coach days of 10 years or more ago. These institutions went out .pf use with the inauguration of the motor bus service. Materials .contained in these structures will be used in other construction work. [Great Falls Tribune, Mont., 26 Jun 1927, p.26]
Norris Hotel with stages, 1906.
[Stimson Collection, Wyoming State Archives]