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Discover the Old Faithful Inn, which features some of the best National Park Serivce Rustic architecture in the country.

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Old Faithful Inn, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2012, dates back to 1904.


A U.S. National Historic Landmark, the Old Faithful Inn has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2012. This iconic holiday destination is located in the heart of Yellowstone National Park, specifically next to its legendary Old Faithful geyser. Its decades of service have created a considerable reputation that has left the Inn regarded as one of the finest hotels in the whole United States. The hotel itself was originally constructed upon the grounds of the former Upper Geyser Basin Hotel, which had collapsed during the 1890s. Its initial owner had been Jay Cooke, a prominent railroad tycoon who had long entertained the idea of preserving the area that now constitutes Yellowstone National Park. Cooke himself had played an integral role in establishing the park during the Gilded Age, and subsequently helped protect the site by promoting tourism for several decades thereafter. In addition to creating popular passenger lines nearby that could more easily ferry interested visitors to Yellowstone National Park, he also created a few hotels collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Interior. Per the business license he had acquired from the federal government, Cooke had to build one of those structures near Old Faithful.

Cooke’s team at the Northern Pacific Railroad subsequently debuted the Upper Geyser Basin Hotel in 1883, and was thus obligated to construct a replacement when the former was destroyed a decade later. The National Pacific Railroad specifically began the process of reconstructing another hotel at the site through its operating company, the Yellowstone Park Association, in 1902. After considering several designs, the Yellowstone Park Association decided to hire a young, talented architect named Robert C. Reamer. Reamer had impressed the organization’s selection committee with his proposition to design the structure in a fashion reminiscent to the rustic holiday retreats of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. What Reamer had managed to build was nothing short of spectacular, as the brilliant seven-story structure featured some of the finest woodwork ever seen in a building of its kind. Both its interior and exterior appearance was also defined by lodgepole pine, which Reamer had acquired from mills scattered throughout the area. Beautiful log scissor trusses supported the hotel’s beautiful roof, while a massive stone fireplace greeted guests within its stunning lobby.

Opening in 1904, the newly created “Old Faithful Inn” immediately became one of Yellowstone’s most popular attractions. In fact, the hotel was soon hosting many influential people over the following decades, including U.S. Presidents like Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. (Two earlier presidents, Chester A. Arthur and Theodore Roosevelt, had camped at the site back long before the Old Faithful Inn opened.) But as the Old Faithful Inn grew in popularity, so too did its size. The hotel was continuously expanded upon over the course of the next 40 years, with Reamer returning to serve as an architectural supervisor each time. Among the new facilities added at the hotel were two new wings that offered over 250 guestrooms that debuted during the 1910s and 1920s. Reamer also helped preside over the debut of the Old Faithful Inn’s original iteration of the famed Bear Pit Lounge in 1936. It was even Reamer who suggested that the Bear Pit feature its iconic series of humorous bear carvings that are now immortalized in etched glass. One of the most historic sites places in Yellowstone National Park today, the Old Faithful Inn still radiates the same rustic charm that Richard C. Reamer originally created a century ago.

  • About the Location +

    Located primarily in northwestern Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is arguably America’s most famous natural landmark. It is also its largest, forming a rough rectangular shape that measures more than 3,400 square miles in size. Within its massive borders are a wealth of ravines, rivers, forests, and other natural wonders that have mesmerized countless guests for decades. Those beautiful geographic features are also representative to the environment present inside the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Indeed, Yellowstone National Park is the home to numerous animal species, including several distinctive ones like bighorn sheep, mule deer, and grizzly bears. The Yellowstone Park bison herd is even the most historic in the whole United States, having been saved from near extinction throughout the 20th century. Just as impressive is the fact that the national park hosts hundreds more unique plant life, such as gorgeous Whitebark pine and Douglas firs. But while the area has few endemic florae, it still has several like the Yellowstone sand verbena, the Yellowstone sulfur wild buckwheat, and Ross’s bentgrass. Much of Yellowstone National Park is also centered on what scientists have called the “Yellowstone Caldera,” an enormous, cauldron-shaped basin that extends for 45 miles in length. The caldera itself formed over the last two million years, following the periodic eruptions of an even larger “supervolcano” that lay deeper below the Earth’s crust. Despite the volcano’s current dormancy, significant tectonic activity still occurs throughout the area today. In fact, the behavior is the source for the park’s extensive network of some 300 geysers, the most iconic of which is known as “Old Faithful.”

    The history of human interaction with the region dates back millennia, with recently discovered archeological sites uncovering artifacts around 11,000 years in age. Those objects indicated that various bands of Native Americans had visited frequently, using the area to hunt and trade for generations. However, the first American of European descent to travel through the region was explorer John Colter. A former member of the historic Lewis & Clark Expedition, Colter initially came across the future site of Yellowstone National Park while journeying alongside a band of fur trappers during the early 19th century. Upon his return east in 1809, he began sharing stories of the area’s inherent beauty. While many thought his tales were heavily exaggerated, some—like Jim Brigder and Osborne Russell—nonetheless decided to investigate the site for themselves. But the first extensively detailed exploration transpired in the wake of the American Civil War, when the Cook—Fulsom—Peterson Expedition successfully charted segments of Yellowstone Lake and the Yellowstone River in 1869. Its accomplishments subsequently inspired two more trips over the next two years, which were known as the “Washburn—Langford—Doane” and the “Hayden” expeditions, respectively. Both parties surveyed the region in great detail and collected dozens of specimens for scientific study. Two members of the Hayden Expedition—Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson—even produced paintings and photographs of the local landscape, which helped disseminate its natural beauty to many Americans for the first time on a large scale.

    The expeditions galvanized many to try and protect the region from industrialized development, including railroad tycoon Jay Cooke, Montana Governor Thomas Francis Meager, and geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden—the leader of the earlier Hayden Expedition. Federal support moved quickly, with U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant singing legislation that transformed the area into Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Now America’s first national park, visitation to the region intensified rapidly. Railroads helped augment this travel, as many began establishing popular passenger lines (and hotels) nearby. Nevertheless, the management of the park proved to be more challenging than expected. The first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, Nathaniel P. Langford, had little financial backing from the federal government, leaving him incapable of setting up an organizational apparatus to oversee the park’s supervision. As such, Yellowstone National Park was subject to rampant conservation threats for decades. Even the introduction of a talented gamekeeper named Harry Yount—often regarded as the nation’s first national park ranger—could not prevent poaching and other acts of vandalism. Then, in 1886, the U.S. Army assumed control over the site, which implemented an effective administrative system that reversed the earlier damage that had been done. The structure proved to be so efficient that the National Park Service adopted it when the agency finally assumed responsibility for the park following its own creation in 1916. Yellowstone National Park has since remained one of America’s cherished location, continuing to host millions of enthusiastic cultural heritage travelers year after year.

  • About the Architecture +

    When the Upper Geyser Basin Hotel collapsed in 1894, the Northern Pacific Railway began pursuing plans to build a replacement. As an official concessionaire of Yellowstone National Park, the federal government obligated the company to build the new building in the same spot as the previous one. However, the Northern Pacific Railroad endeavored to construct an even greater structure and began reviewing blueprints to turn that dream into a reality. It subsequently assigned its subsidiaries, the Yellowstone Park Association, to oversee the project’s execution. The president of the Yellowstone Park Association, Harry W. Childs, then began reviewing prospective designs and initially considered working with renowned architect A.W. Spaulding. However, Spaulding’s Queen Anne Revival vision for the new hotel was replaced with an even more ambitious design crafted by a young architect named Robert C. Reamer. Based in San Diego, Reamer had worked extensively designing structures throughout the city’s famous Gaslamp Quarter. Perhaps the most stunning architectural drafts that he had authored were on behalf of the Hotel del Coronado, located just a few minutes away from the metropolis. Childs had become aware of Reamer’s work through mutual friends and ultimately invited him to submit his own blueprints to the National Pacific Railroad for its prospective hotel.

    Reamer finally gave Childs his design in 1902, which called for the creation of a rustic, multistory edifice that mirrored the grand wilderness retreats of New York’s Adirondack region. Impressed, Childs commissioned Reamer to begin work immediately. He proceeded to construct a magnificent structure of tall, gabled logs topped with a gorgeous, deeply pitched roof. (This section of the hotel is known today among contemporary guests as the “Old House.”) Standing seven stories in height, the building contained a central lobby, as well as a healthy complement of guestrooms. To support the building’s weight, Reamer made brilliant use of load-bearing exteriors walls and an interior framework of gigantic log poles. The rest of the structure was set up to resemble a series of twisting curved branches that were meant to accentuate the area’s rustic environment. Perhaps the most distinctive architectural features were located inside the lobby, which Reamer made to resemble a hunting lodge. A magnificent, 16-foot fireplace anchored the space, which contained a wealth of beautiful rhyolite rock. The stonework continued up to the rest of the wall, giving the building an even greater bucolic character. Two balconies filled the upper portions of the room, too, with one—the Crow’s Nest—designed to hold musicians and other types of performers.

    Debuting as the “Old Faithful Inn” two years later, Reamer’s work at the hotel had cost $140,000 to complete. (Another $25,000 had been spent to fully furnish the building.) Most of the building materials had been gathered within the park, too, notably wood and stone. Nevertheless, the Old Faithful Inn quickly became one of the most illustrious destinations in the western United States, inspiring hundreds of guests to come visit every month. To accommodate the surging popularity, Old Faithful Inn was enlarged considerably over the next few decades. Reamer returned each time to help supervise the building’s physical expansion, beginning with the creation of the West Wing in 1913. A corresponding East Wing appeared in 1927, which, when combined with the West Wing, produced 250 more accommodations for the Old Faithful Inn. Despite their size, Reamer designed them to be more simplistic in appearance, so to better highlight the majesty of the Inn’s original structure. Among the last projects that Reamer managed was the development of the Bear Pit Lounge next to the lobby. Reamer specifically began constructing the area to serve as an upscale dining establishment in 1936. Filled with ornate wood paneling, the venue demonstrated his unique alpine aesthetics. Reamer even commissioned artist Walter Oehrle to create a series of whimsical nature paintings as a way to reinforce the Lounge’s frontier-like character.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States (1881 – 1885)
    Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1909)
    Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States (1921 – 1923)
    Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States (1923 – 1929)
    Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Yellowstone (1936)