Beautiful certificate # 98 from the Yellowstone Park Association
in 1891. This historic document has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of Yellowstone Park with Old Faithful spouting. This item is hand signed by the Company’s President ( Charles Gibson ) and Secretary and is
over 118 years old.
Since the establishment of Yellowstone National Park there have been concession interests in the park. As early as 1871, a private "hotel" was operated in the park, and a boat concession was operated 1874-1876. While the different administrations have been responsible for the management of the park, individual concessionaires have been responsible for providing the visitor a diversity of resource related to their visit. These have included transportation through the park, lodging and camping opportunities, and a host of other such services. In the initial years following the establishment of the park concessionaires began establishing facilities and services however it was under the military administration that these services became formalized in agreement with the Department of Interior.
Among those associated with Yellowstone National Park was the Yellowstone Park Company. The Yellowstone Park Company roots date back to the 1880's and it association with the Northern Pacific Railroad. Though the organization of this concession has resulted in a number of associated company names (such as Yellowstone Park Transportation Company, Yellowstone Park Camping company, Yellowstone Park Hotel Company, Yellowstone Park Lodge and Camps Company) they fall under the umbrella of the Yellowstone Park Company.
Yellowstone Park Company continued to operate in Yellowstone National Park until the United States Government purchased all associated property of the company and their lease to operate was terminated in 1980.
The Yellowstone Park Association was established in 1886. Charles Gibson, Nelson Thrall, and John Bullitt formed this new company with financial backing from the Northern Pacific RR. They bought out the National Hotel, and assumed control over the Firehole Hotel and other Yellowstone Park Improvement properties.
Lake Hotel, the oldest of Yellowstone's surviving grand hotels, was built near the outlet of Yellowstone Lake by the Northern Pacific Railroad as one of several hostelries, each a day's journey (by stage) apart along the Grand Loop Road. Construction began in the spring of 1889 using locally obtained lumber and foundation rock, and the hotel opened in 1891. It initially had a rather unremarkable flat front, with two gables, and was painted yellow with black trim around the windows. By 1899, the manager of the Yellowstone Park Association complained that the hotel was losing business.
Lake Hotel's fortunes changed with the 1904-1905 renovations by Robert Reamer, architect of the Old Faithful Inn. Some of those changes can be seen in this postcard, dated 1906. Reamer redesigned the exterior in a then-popular neoclassical style. He extended the gabled roof lines in three places, graced by prominent 50-foot ionic columns. Fifteen false balconies were added to those on the third floor, and more decorative windows and moldings helped give an elegant touch to the once-plain hotel. It was now a premier resort of its day.
Over the years Reamer made additional renovations to the interior and exterior, including an extended porte cochere in front of the central entrance, with cement walkways replacing the wooden porch floors.
By the 1970s the hotel was falling into disrepair, and rerouting of the Grand Loop Road meant visitors would now arrive at the very plain back of the hotel. The future of Lake Hotel was in doubt. But during the 1980s, the hotel was carefully restored to is former elegance, and by the 1991 centennial, Lake Hotel was one again a showplace on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.
In Yellowstone's early years, great railroads like the Northern Pacific saw profits in promoting package "coupon" tours of the park. For about $40, an early twentieth-century tourist could purchase a 5-day tour. Arriving by rail at the northern Gardiner entrance, "couponers" were taken by horse-drawn stagecoaches to Mammoth Hot Springs to spend the night at the National Hotel, and from there on to other park hotels, finally to return to Mammoth. Originally the first stop after Mammoth was the Fountain Hotel, which stood near the present Fountain Paint Pots area of Yellowstone. After their first night at Fountain, guests were taken to the Upper Geyser Basin, location of Old Faithful, Beehive, Castle, Grand, and many more of the park's outstanding geysers and thermal features. The party returned to Fountain Hotel for a second night, and made one more stop at the Upper Geyser Basin the next day on their way to Lake Hotel.
Many of these generally upscale "couponers" expressed a desire to spend more time in the Upper Geyser Basin, and requested overnight accommodations there. In 1885 a large, rambling, plain-frame hotel dubbed the "Shack" was built, remaining until 1894. It was said that guests got splinters from the unfinished walls and that the building shook with each step. Preferring couponers to return to Fountain Hotel for a second night, the touring company discouraged patrons from all-night stopovers at the Upper Geyser Basin, allowing it only if everyone in the coaching party agreed to the stay at extra expense.
But the well-heeled guests included many who were accustomed to luxurious European resorts or America's Catskills, Sarasota Springs, and other upscale vacation retreats. They expected more. In response to this demand, and thanks to a recently passed park regulation allowing construction of buildings within an eighth of a mile of natural attractions, Harry Childs, part owner of the Yellowstone Park Association, with financial loans from the Northern Pacific Railroad, contacted 29-year-old Seattle architect Robert Reamer in 1902 to design and build the Old Faithful Inn as a first-class hotel in the Upper Geyser Basin.
Construction of the Old Faithful Inn was to begin in late summer 1903 and scheduled to be completed by opening of the tourist season in June 1904, requiring most work to be done during Yellowstone's severe winter. The former site of the Shack was chosen for the new hotel--a site just a little west of the large pine tree under which President Arthur had camped in 1883. Young architect Robert Reamer, called "the kid" by Childs, supervised nearly everything done and designed nearly everything used. In the end, construction costs have been estimated at between $120,000 and $200,000, with one recent source placing actual costs at $140,000, with about $25,000 additional for furnishings. The Inn would be built on time for its June opening, and it would become a model of "park architecture"--an influence reflected in many of our national parks' grand hotels.