Lodges in  the Upper Geyser Basin

Old Faithful Lodge - Camper Cabins

Snow 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.

Old Faithful Camp

The current Old Faithful Lodge is a descendent of the Shaw & Powell Camping Company that operated in the park from 1898 to 1916. Starting out with a "moveable camps" operation, they received permission in 1913 to build permanent camps in Yellowstone Park, following after the pattern of the Wylie Permanent Camping Company. Within two years Shaw & Powell had erected permanent facilities at most of the main park locations, including, of course, Old Faithful, where they had a ring-side seat near Old Faithful Geyser and the Old Faithful Inn.

View of Old Faithful Camp taken from the Crow's Nest atop Old Faithful Inn, ca1916. Notice the tents to the left of the main pavilion.  [YNP #02784]

Old Faithful Camp. Old Faithful Lodge
Old Faithful, Shaw & Powell Camp

In 1917 organization changes in the park mandated by the Department of Interior combined all the permanent camp operations into one company that became known as the Yellowstone Park Camping Co. It was jointly run by both the Wylie and the Shaw & Powell companies. The Wylie Camp near Daisy Geyser was abandoned and the Shaw & Powell Camp became the primary camps facility with tent cabins and eventually camper’s cabins.  1917 was also the year motor cars ruled the roads and the stage era fell by the wayside. Although private vehicles were allowed in the park beginning Aug 1915.

Undated photo of the Old Faithful camp pavilion. Note a type of auto garage/shed has replaced that section of tens shown in above photo.  [Real-Photo postcard]

In 1919 Howard Hays, who had been instrumental in the promotional efforts of the Wylie Camping Co., bought out the company with partner Roe Emery and renamed the operation Yellowstone Park Camps Company. In 1920-21 a recreation pavilion was constructed that was used for dances by the tourists and other purposes. There was a charge for the dances, netting the company some additional income.  The Caldwell Tribune (Id), reported on May 26, 1921 reported, “At Old Faithful, the permanent camp has been further improved by the erection of a large amusement hall, where a fine orchestra will be employed to entertain guests and campers from a nearby automobile camp.”

 

Fifty new cabins were constructed in 1921-22 that increased the capacity by 20%. The Supt.’s Annual report noted that a “delicatessen tent, 20x40 feet was constructed in the public automobile camp adjacent to Old Faithful Camp. This delicatessen served prepared cooked foods such as soups, roasts, hot biscuits, muffins, pies and cakes, also fresh milk.”

Old Faithful Camp, Old Faithful Lodge

Top:  Photo of Old Faithful Camp from a 1918 YP Camping Co. brochure. It is surrounded by military-type rows of tent cabins.

Bottom:  The original lodge building stands right center. The new recreation pavilion is barely shown at right.  [YNP # 36502]

Old Faithful Camp, Old Faithful Lodge
Old Faithful Camp

Top:  Original lodge on left with new recreation pavilion on right, ca1922-24.  [YNP #185327-420]

Bottom:  Alternate view of lodge (L.) and recreation hall (R.)   [YNP #185327-417]

Old Faithful Camp, Old Faithful Lodge

Fifty new cabins were constructed in 1921-22 that increased the capacity by 20%. The Supt.’s Annual report noted that a “delicatessen tent, 20x40 feet was constructed in the public automobile camp adjacent to Old Faithful Camp. This delicatessen served prepared cooked foods such as soups, roasts, hot biscuits, muffins, pies and cakes, also fresh milk.”

 

Operating the company until 1924, the YP Camps Company made many improvements to the lodge at Old Faithful, and to their lodges at Mammoth, Canyon, Lake, and Roosevelt. The 1922 Superintendent's Report revealed that ". . . 50 new cabins are in process of construction which will increase the capacity of that camp [OF] more than 20 per cent. The new recreation pavilion was operated during the season and proved a successful addition to the entertainment features at the camp. A delicatessen tent, 20 x 40 feet, was constructed in the public automobile camp adjacent to Old Faithful Camp." Ed Moorman, Gen. Mngr. of the Camps Company claimed the deli opened in 1920. A section of a new dining room was built in 1923 that became part of the present lodge building.

Old Faithful Camp, Old Faithful Lodge
Old Faithful Camp DIning, Old Faithful Lodge

Left:  Color postcard view of the Rec Hall (center) and the original lodge to the far left, 1924.  [Haynes PC #24076]

Right:  Old Faithful Camp Dining Room, constructed 1923. It became a part of the new OF Lodge structure in 1927-28. [Haynes PC #24080]

In 1924 Vernon Goodwin, who had been manager of the Alexandria and Ambassador hotels in Los Angeles, purchased the Camps operations, with financial backing by Harry Child, for $660,000. Child, who probably was the majority owner, and, as he had done in past ventures, kept his involvement anonymous.  Although the name technically became the Vernon Goodwin Company, in practice the Yellowstone Park Camps Company name endured. Around 1927-28, Goodwin renamed the company Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Co. Up until that time, the Old Faithful operation was simply known as the "Old Faithful Camp," or the “Old Faithful Permanent Camp,” and by 1927 was called Old Faithful Lodge.

 

One tourist in 1926 remarked, “Near Old Faithful Geyser stands the hotel called Old Faithful Inn and the cabins and bungalows which constitute Old Faithful permanent camp. These cabins, electric lighted and heated by wood-burning stoves, are ideal for complete relaxation, rest and sleep. The social assembly and dining halls are in separate buildings from the sleeping rooms, and provided with fireplaces.”

[2Mar1927, Pittsburgh Daily Post]

Yellowstone Park Camps Co.

1926 Yellowstone Park Camps Co. brochure.

Old Faithful Lodge Cabins

Camping out Deluxe

The Yellowstone Park Camps make a friend of every guest. For more than a generation they have been serving Yellowstone visiters and serving them well. The lodges and camps have personality. They have the vacation spirit. The unique bungalows, the great rustic central buildings, lobbies and amusement halls, the campfire festivals, the hospitable dining rooms, the community singing, the dancing parties, the free guide service, the college boys and girls who serve you with right good will, the restful, cordial informality and active friendliness—the real "Out-West Americanism" of the camps—these make up the fabric of an outing adventure which will share interest with the wonder and grandeur of Yellowstone itself. If you are taking a vacation for a "change," and to see different sorts of things and to enjoy new kinds of experiences; to leave routine, humdrum and ruts behind, go through Yellowstone Park "The Camps Way." You will have a real vacation.

Old Faithful Lodge Cabins

Originally, lodging facilities for the guests consisted of canvas tents. They were gradually reconstructed to include wood floors and partial wood sidewalls. Eventually the cabins became constructed entirely of wood with log posts and rafters. Many new cabins were added over the years, 200 of them between 1924 and 1929.

Top Left:  Rows of wooden cabins near the Lodge ca1928, Haynes PC #28188. 

Top Right: Cabins view ca1964 - they are not so regimented as the original layout.  [Haynes PC #64k013}

Camping Out Deluxe

"The Camps are located at the main centers of scenic interest. In each lodge, guests come first to great central buildings, which house lobbies, dining halls, social assembly rooms, business headquarters, curio shops and many of the usual facilities of hotels and clubs. Surrounding the main buildings are the small lodges—of one-room, two-room and four-room capacity. They are of three types—(1) log, (2.) rustic clapboard, (3) bungalow-tents—all substantially built, comfortable and well furnished. Each lodge is heated by a rustic wood-burning stove (for nights and mornings are cool in the mountains), the beds  are full size and of high quality, the furniture plain but adequate. The dining rooms serve wholesome, well-cooked food."  [1926 Yellowstone Park Camps Co. brochure]

Old Faithful Lodge

Old Faithful Lodge

Around 1926-27 construction began on a complex that would include a lobby, offices, curio shop, soda fountain, picture shop, barber shop, and new recreation hall. The new building was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who was responsible for the design of the Dining Lodge in West Yellowstone and numerous other buildings in carious national parks. The construction incorporated elements of some of older buildings with some other older structures being demolished. The lodge featured massive log construction and stone pillars with ample windows facing directly toward Old Faithful Geyser Orchestras entertained guests during the evenings on a regular basis. Nightly entertainment was held in an outdoor theater located along the banks of the Firehole River. Around that time Vernon Goodwin changed the name of the company to Yellowstone Park Lodges & Camps Company, retaining that name until 1936 when it was incorporated into the Yellowstone Park Co. with the hotel and transportation operations.

Old Faithful Lodge
Old Faithful Lodge Lounge
Old Faithful Lodge Recreation Hall
Old Faithful Lodge Recreation Hall

Top:  Old Faithful Lodge, newly constructed, 1928.  [Haynes PC #28029]

Bottom:  Front end of OF Lodge Rec Hall, facing toward the current parking lot, with rustic cabins.  [Haynes Photo]

Top:  Old Faithful Lodge Lounge, with rustic wood work, 1928.  [Haynes PC #28182]

Bottom: OF Lodge Recreation Hall on right of lodge building, 1984 [HABS Photo]

In 1939-40, single, duplex, and triplex cabins were constructed, making a total room count at that time of 638. Up until that time, the cabins were laid out in a linear, organized fashion, but the NPS required them to be rerganized in a more natural manner, following topographic features, with curved, narrow roads. Running water was added to the cabins in the 1940's. In the ensuing years many older cabins were moved to other locations or razed. 

 

During the mid-1960s, the Lodge became known as the Old Faithful Motor Lodge, following in the steps of the “motel” phenomenon. When the Yellowstone Park Company operation was sold to the Goldfield Corporation in 1979, the official building inventory listed "162 cabins & other bldgs," not including the dorms and residences. In 1997 there were 133 guest cabin units available. In 1982 the complex was added to the national Register of Historic Places.

Old Faithful Lodge Orchestra
Dance at Old Faithful Lodge Recreation Hall

Left:  Undated photo of one of the employee orchestras that played in the Lodge recreation hall  [NPS #133444]

Right:  Guests dancing to a band or orchestra ca1939 in the recreation hall.  [1939 NPRR Brochure]

Old Faithful Camper Cabins

With its beginnings in the early 1920s, the Old Faithful Camper Cabins seemed to have been an offshoot of the nearby public auto camp that had opened in 1920 by the National Park Service, along with the Old Faithful Camp/Lodge. Hundreds of housekeeping-type cabins were built to house the hordes of visitors to Yellowstone. Most of these cabins probably provided a bare minimum of services and facilities and guests generally had to provide, or perhaps rent blankets, sheets, and towels. The cabins allowed visitors to prepare their own meals, furnish their own bedding if desired, and have their automobile adjacent to the cabin. These facilities were for those who did not wish to sleep on the ground or cook over an open fire, giving them the convenience and economy of camping without the burden of packing a tent. The operation was run by the YP Camps Company until around 1927 when the name was changed to YP Lodges & Camps Co.

Old Faithful Camper Cabins

To help relieve congestion and provide additional visitor services, the NPS began constructing a “Promenade” in the early 1920s. It was a 2-lane boulevard, separated by a center divider with rocks and trees. It ran from the Ranger Station what would become the Hamilton Upper general store in 1929. It was close to public campground and OF Lodge, and concessioner buildings began to line the Promenade. Facing Old Faithful geyser, Jack Haynes established his store on the right-hand corner closest to the geyser basin in 1927, and the same year the YP Lodge & Camps company built a log cafeteria across the boulevard from Haynes.

Old Faithful Cafeteria
Old Faithful Cafeteria

Left:  Log cafeteria built by the Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Co. in 1927. It was located on the Promenade across from the Haynes Photo Shop. The Billings Gazette claimed on Dec 4, 1926, that the building was being constructed and would accommodate 500 guests.  [Courtesy Wyoming State Archives, P2012313]

Right:  View of the cafeteria in 1951. It would be razed sometime after the 1980 season.  [YNP #51-389]

Old Faithful Camper Cabins, Camper Cabins Office

In 1929 a main office building that included visitor services, laundry, shower baths, housekeeping facilities and other conveniences was erected on that left side of the Promenade, on the corner closest to the new Hamilton Store. In between to two buildings were some 40 cabins, a comfort station, and employee laundry. Across the boulevard were located a woodshed, a repair garage for the transportation company, and bath facilities. By the 1930s there were 400 cabins associated with the operation, mostly located directly behind the Upper Store in a large area now occupied by the new Snow Lodge. In later years some of those cabins were removed to allow for employee dorms.

The Camper Cabins main office and Housekeeping office in 1929, soon after construction. A girl's dorm occupied the upper level.  [YNP #31195]

Old Faithful Camper Cabins, Camper Cabins Office
Old Faithful Promenade, Hamilton Upper Store, Hamilton BAC Store

Left: The Camper Cabins main office and Housekeeping office in 1951. Note the Promenade next to the Office that ran toward the edge of the Geyser Basin. 

[YNP #51-389]

Right:  View of the cafeteria in 1951. It would be razed in Dec. 1980, at which time it was said to seat 160 people.  [YNP #51-389]

Old Faithful Camer Cabins map
Old Faithful Camer Cabins map

Yellowstone Park Co. Plat map of the Camper Cabins area

The Cafeteria is on the Promenade, far right center, to its left is the Cabin's Office and Girl's Dorm. Across from the Cafeteria is the Haynes Photo Shop. Lower Center is the Hamilton's Upper Store.  In 1957 a new Cabins Office & Dorm (Snow Lodge) was built in the cabin area above the Ham's Store. The Haynes Photo Shop was moved next to the old Snow Lodge in 1974. Eventually all the buildings were removed from the Promenade and the area returned to a more natural state.   [Map courtesy Xanterra Engineering Archives]

Click on left map to enlarge, and Click on right map to bring up magnifier.

Headlines from the Wednesday, June 26, 1955 edition of the Idaho Falls Post Register newspaper described the fire carnage that destroyed the Old Faithful Camper Cabins Office in 1955:


"A spectacular early Wednesday morning fire razed the Old Faithful girls domitory and office, sending 35 pajama-clad girls scampering for safety in the cold night air .  .  . Shortly after the fire was discovered at 3 a.m. some 35 girls living in the dormitory were hurried out of the burning building. They escaped in ony their nightclothes and huddled near by watching the flames consume all their belongings.  Origin of the fire was not immediately determined but it is presumed it started in the laundry in the girls dormitory."  Luckily no one was hurt and many of the "homeless girls" were taken by cars to West Yellowstone for housing.  The article said that the office also housed an automatic laundry, showers for the guests, and stored blankets and other equipment for the cabin units.  With the 4th of July weekend right around the corner, it definitely put a crimp in the ability of the Camper Cabins operation to adequately serve their guests.”

News Ad 1955 OF Dorm Fire
Old Faithful Dormitory Fire, Old Faithful Camper Cabins

The 1956 Superintendent’s Report noted,

“The Yellowstone Park Company proposes to spend some $325,000 for new construction and new equipment in 1956 which will include $160,000 for a new office building providing laundromat, private showers and girl’s dormitory in connection with the Old Faithful tourist cabins to replace the building destroyed by fire last June.” 

 

    Losing those important visitor services, guests were directed to the nearby OF Lodge until the lodge could be opened. Some cabins and other buildings were razed in 1957 to make room for the new lodge, which contained a lobby, registration desk, dining room, and rooms for employees upstairs (this facility was torn down in 1998). The lodge was completed by the end of the year and opened for business in 1957. 

    That same year, an A-frame shaped building was erected across the road from the new lodge, and served as tourist laundry facilities and public showers. It would later (also in 1973) become known as the Four Seasons Snack Shop.

Upper Left:  Headline from the Idaho Falls Post-Register, June 29, 1955 

Bottom Left:  Photo of the aftermath of the fire that destroyed the dorm and office building.  [YNP #34546-3]

“The fire which occurred on June 29, 1955 and completely destroyed the new laundromat and shower baths in connection with the Old Faithful tourist cabins, robbed visitors of a much needed service in this area. However, the new shower baths which became available late in the 1955 season in connection with Old Faithful Lodge proved very popular throughout the summer as did the laundry service and shower baths which became available this summer at West Thumb. A new building was constructed this summer to replace the burned-down building in the Old Faithful Tourist Camp area so that laundry service and shower baths will again be available there next summer.”

Jackson's Hole Courier, 24 Jan 1957, p3

Old Faithful Camper Cabins Lodge, Old Faithful Snow Lodge
Old Faithful Camper Cabins, new lodge bldg 1957

The new Cabins Office facility, containing cabin registration area, lobby, public laundry, and shower baths. An employee dorm occupied the second floor.  

[YNP Photos, (L.) 193429-130, (R.) 193429-129]

Old Faithful Cabins aerial

1956 aerial night-time view of the Old Faithful area. It has been enhanced to better illustrate the mass of cabins and buildings. It was taken after the fire and before the new lodge was built.

The new Cabin & Office/Dorm was built across the street from the old site, and next to the Hamilton Store. The OF Lodge is to the left of Old Faithful, out of the photo. Click to enlarge.

[YNP #10737]

Old Faithful Snow Lodge

In the winter of 1971-72, the Yellowstone Park Company opened the Camper Cabins/Dorm building for use during the winter for snowmobilers and other winter guests.  Bombardier slowcoaches that could carry 10-12 guests operated from park entrances at Mammoth, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch near the southern entrance.  Guests stayed in the 30 upstairs dorm rooms, with a capacity of about 90 persons.  Cross-country ski tours were available along with day trips to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  Advertising covered newspapers across the country and the name Old Faithful Snow Lodge came into being. The operation was a success and by the winter of 1973-74 twenty-four nearby cabin units with private baths were winterized and put into service for winter guests.  Buffet-style dining was available in the "Snowshoe Room" and guests could warm themselves in the lobby around the free-standing fireplace or have a cocktail in the lounge.

Yellowstone snowcoach, Yellowstone Bombardier
Old Faithful Snow Lodge

Photo of the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in late Spring, undated.

Four Seasons Snack Shop, Yellowstone Snack Shop

The Billings Gazette announced on Oct. 24, 1971, that,

    “Plans announced by Yellowstone Park Co. for winter visitor facilities at Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park marks what could be the beginning of more extensive use of the nation's oldest and largest national park It may also be a boon to Jackson. West Yellowstone and Gardiner, communities near the three park entrances which will get winter use. Richard H. Ludewig, director of marketing and sales for Yellowstone Park Co., said the Old Faithful plans mark a long-term and extensive investment by the company to "develop another season in Yellowstone. ’ but added the firm is only "guardedly optimistic' about future expansion. YP Co. will have 36 units available at Snow Lodge at Old Faithful, each to serve two or three persons at a cost of $18 a night for one, $26 for two or $35 for three including dinner and breakfast.

    The company will provide snow coach transportation from the North. West or South entrances and has special package plans for stays of three days and two nights, the latter two including some time at park entrances. The National Park Service will maintain roads and a new
visitor center at Old Faithful will be open.”

Four Seasons Snack Shop, Yellowstone Snack Shop

The old Camper Cabins Laundry & Shower A-frame, built in 1957, converted to the Four Season Snack Shop for the winter of 1973. It was used summer and winter seasons until 1998, when torn down during the construction of the new Snow Lodge.

Left: Photo ca1974, YNP #03268   -   Right:  Undated/uncredited  photo during summer season

A 1990 NPS Winter Use Plan Environmental Assessment noted,

“The Old Faithful Snow Lodge was originally designed as an employee dorm. It offers 29 rooms without baths in the lodge, 34 rooms with baths in detached cabins, and 37 units with baths at the Snowshoe employee dorm. Food service facilities include a dining room (99 seats), a fast food outlet (40 seats), and a bar (25 seats). Concession employees dined in a temporary modular unit attached to the rear of the lodge.”

Old Faithful Snow Lodge dining room, winter 1978.   [YNP #09949]

Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Snow Lodge Dining Room

Fourteen guest cabins and some employee cabins (one of which the author summered at in 1975) burned in the ‘Fires of 1988.’ New ‘Western’ cabin units were built the following year to replace those and other cabins that had been removed. As time went on, the old Snow Lodge became unable to meet the needs of the increasing number of winter guests. In the words of a 1990 NPS Winter Use Plan Environmental Assessment:

“The Snow Lodge is poorly designed for winter use, functionally obsolete for visitor lodging, and aesthetically incompatible with the rustic character of the historic Old Faithful buildings.”

 It was torn down April 20, 1998 in preparation for a new lodge to be built on the same site, and many tourist cabins were also removed to make space for the new operation.

Snow Lodge Snowcoaches, Snow Lodge Bombardiers

The New Snow Lodge

A new "Snow Lodge," designed by A&E Architect of Billings, Montana, arose from the rubble of the old lodge and was built in two phases, the first segment opening for the winter season of 1998-99. There were initially 52 guest rooms, restaurant and lounge, 2-story lobby fireplace, hardwood floors, heavy recycled timber construction in the lobby, and exterior log columns. The second phase of the lodge opened for use about a year later with 48 additional guest rooms. This "new" Snow Lodge remains in operation from about early May-October and mid-December to early March and is operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge

Note: When the new Snow Lodge becomes "history" after 50 years or so, more information will be added - but certainly not by me - LOL