The Architecture Project

This project has been on the back burner for literally 50 years. During four summers, I worked in Yellowstone Park. The first was in 1964 at West Thumb, but the summers of 69, 70, and 71 mark the beginning of an infatuation I developed for old classic Hotels, like the Old Faithful Inn etc. Once completed, I will include historical facts about the structures.  This project could take another 50 years as a lot of travel is required.

Yellowstone National Park

Above is the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs where I worked as a bellhop and began researching the history of the area. The first major hotel in the park was built here in 1883. Below are a couple of images of that grand hotel.

In 1910 the hotel was remodeled.  The upper roof was removed and a new wing added, partly visible on the right side.  In 1937 the hotel was demolished and a restaurant took it's place along with a new lobby attached to the wing.  The photo at the top is the way it looks today.

Mammoth Hotel dining room 1915

Teddy Roosevelt visits Mammoth

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

After seeing its deep canyons, misty waterfalls, and furious geysers, is it possible that anyone could improve on the natural beauty of Yellowstone?

Robert Reamer did. Three times.

In addition to creating the iconic Old Faithful Inn in the rustic style that came to be known as “parkitecture,” he also made his mark on the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016.

Creating a Classic

During his career, Reamer, known for his ability to design in a variety of styles, demonstrated his talent in projects such as Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and Hotel Deca, Olympic National Forest’s Lake Quinault Lodge, and the Fox Theater in Spokane.

When it came to his 1903 redesign of the circa-1891 Lake Yellowstone Hotel, the resort’s genteel appearance, Colonial Revival style, and towering colonnades were no accident. At the time, seaside and lakeside resorts in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, the Poconos of Pennsylvania, Maine’s Bar Harbor, and New York’s Long Island were attractive destinations. Harry W. Child, president of the Yellowstone Park Company, envisioned Reamer expanding the lodge into a large summer resort reminiscent of the grand hotels of the Northeast – perhaps one that offered a golf course, tennis court, and swimming pool (though those amenities never came about).

Ultimately, the most important feature Reamer worked into his design was a single element: peace.

“Like every visitor, Reamer recognized Yellowstone Lake as the focal point of the hotel,” explains Ruth Quinn, an interpretive guide and author of Weaver of Dreams: The Life and Architecture of Robert C. Reamer. “So he added the sunroom, also known as the Reamer Lounge, as a place where guests could surround themselves in the ambiance of this spectacular high altitude lake. To this day it’s where guests come to watch the weather progress across the lake and enjoy the lake’s changing moods.”

When you realize the hotel is also a sanctuary, it’s wise to adjust your pace to fully appreciate the serenity and romance of your surroundings.

“If I were visiting for just one weekend,” Quinn shares, “I would enjoy an elegant dinner, listen to the music of the Lake String Quartet, rent a boat and savor the beauty of the lake, and soak in every sunrise and sunset.”

"Since 1891, the stately Lake Yellowstone Hotel has welcomed visitors to the shores of Yellowstone Lake for deep connections with nature. Despite her advanced age—127 years in 2018—the “Grand Lady Of The Lake” hosts over 90,000 visitors each year, while also setting the example for sustainable lodging."

Recent View of the Lake Hotel

Canyon Hotel - Near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

"The Canyon Village Area has seen some of the most intensive lodging changes in the Park. In contrast to the more historic accommodations at Old Faithful and Lake, Canyon seems positively new.

But for over 50 years, there was another lodging facility in Canyon, one said to rival both the Old Faithful Inn and Lake Hotel: the Grand Canyon Hotel"

Below was the first attempt to build it, but this structure suffered foundation problems and wasn't well built.

The Great Lady

"Work began on a new hotel in August 1910.  The second Grand Canyon Hotel had all the hallmarks of success for Yellowstone lodging. Legendary Park architect Robert C. Reamer designed the building, and in many ways his design married the two impulses behind the Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Hotel. The use of wood was prominent, and the coloring of the walls and ceiling were appropriate to the landscape. But in terms of overall effect, Reamer was aiming for Lake’s elegant feel, which itself borrowed from the European tradition.

Rarely, if ever, has a task of such magnitude and under such great disadvantages, been accomplished with such promptness, for with the season opened in 1911 only a few finishing touches were necessary on this—on of the most unique and artistic hotels in the world, with 375 rooms, 75 with private bath, its own electric light and ice plant, cold storage, steam laundry, vacuum cleaning system and electric elevator.

The End of the Canyon Hotel

"So what did in the Canyon Hotel? For one thing, it succumbed to the same problem that doomed its predecessor: by 1956, the foundation of the hotel was found to be unstable.

Further, under the “Mission 66” program (which sought to update visitor facilities in all national parks leading up to the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary), Park officials wanted visitor activity shifted away from the Hotel and toward a new, more automobile friendly area: Canyon Village.

In the fall of 1958, an architectural firm (Orr Pickering and Associates) inspected the hotel and found, according to a memo cited by Hert: “that it was not economically feasible to rehabilitate the building and that it should be abandoned.” On July 23, 1959, Park officials announced that The Canyon Hotel was slated for demolition.

But the planned demolition never happened: instead, the hotel burned to the ground on August 8, 1960."

The New Canyon Lodge and Cabins

"With 409 rooms in the new buildings, plus accommodations in two smaller, ‘90s-era lodges, and 100 remaining Western Cabins built in the ‘60s, Canyon Lodge & Cabins is the largest single property in Yellowstone. Located on the east side of the park near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, the site’s earlier incarnation was a product of Mission 66, a parks-wide program in the 1950s and ‘60s to modernize and expand visitor facilities in time for the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary in 1966. Mission 66 brought mid-century modern design to the national parks, a departure from the traditional rustic architecture of the past."

So I began a process of photographing hotels around he country. I’ve been through many old negatives so that I can start to accumulate a series that I intend to add to by traveling and revisiting these sites. I plan to add structures that I find interesting. 

I made some large format negatives of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado. 

Here’s one image of that structure I made in 1984. Stephen King came up with the idea for his book “The Shinning” while staying here back in the 70’s. The hotel was used in the TV series version.

 A model of the Timberline Lodge in Oregon was used for the original version, along with a model of the Hotel Ahwahnee interiors in Yosemite.

Here are some photos of the Redstone Inn at Redstone Colorado. These photos were made in 2013. This was a dormitory for coal miners in the area and later was turned into an Inn.

The Clock Tower

I recall climbing up into the tower when I was a child.  There was a small square bedroom beneath it.


Dining Room

A somewhat creepy hallway

Red rock mountains of the Crystal River Valley

Here’s a hotel that no longer exists outside Buena Vista Colorado. We shot movies of the place around 1952 or so. I plan to scan a frame to include along with other hotels that no longer exist. I believe it was torn down a year or two after we were there. It had been vacant since the turn of the 20th century.  This was the Princess Hotel and Hot Springs. There is a modern hotel there now.

Another similar Hotel in Colorado called the  Ramona Cascade in Santa Fe County, Colorado.  Photo attributed  to William Henry Jackson based on the photonegative's inclusion in the History Colorado William Henry Jackson Collection.  Dated 1899 - 1900.

This jewel in Astoria has quite a history.  More to come.

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