Historic Yellowstone


From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: The Grand Hotels, Lake Hotel, Canyon Hotel, Hebgen Earthquake.

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Table of Contents
About This Site

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

With President Arthur's visit to the Park and the completion of the Northern Pacific extension to the Park, there came a need for hotels. Although there had been facilities generously described as "hotels" in the park since 1871. Thus, in 1883, the first of the grand hotels, the National Hotel, opened in Mammoth Hot Springs. In 1886, with financial backing from the Northern Pacific, the Yellowstone Association was formed. It purchased the National renaming it as the "Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel." It undertook to construct additional hotels.

Lake Hotel, Detroit Publishing Company, 1905

The oldest existing hotel in the Park is the Lake Hotel which opened in 1891. The building was originally a rather plain yellow and black structure. It was remodeled in 1904 and 1905 by the addtion of the front porchs with 50 foot columns, 15 balconies visible on the third floor in the above postcard, and additional windows. Further renovations were made over the years, culminating with a complete renovation in the 1980's restoring the hotel to its former glory.

Dining Room Lake Hotel

Menus reflected the more upscale visitors staying in the hotel. A 1908 menu provided (Spelling as in original):


Tomatoe Bouillon Sago
Potage a'la Maryland

Dressed Lettuce Sweet Gherkins
Corn relish

Baked Lake Trout a'la bordeleise
pomme Louise

Boiled Brisket of Beef Fresh Horseradish Sauce
Boufalon Potatoes
Lamb kidneys saute a'la Rachel
Chocolate Cream Fritters
Almond Sauce

Roast Prime Ribs of Beef au Jus
Roast Leg of Pork with Apple Sauce

Mashed Potatoes Boiled New Potatoes
Carrotes a'la Vichy French Green Peas

Spanish Salade

Pumpkin Pie Apple Pie Sago Pudding Cream Sauce
Apricot Sherbert Assorted Cakes
Imperiant Turkish Figs

Eastern Cheese Toasted Biscuits
Coffee, Cocoa, Tea, Milk

Another of the grand hotels, but no longer in existence was the Canyon Hotel which went through several incarnations.

The Old Canyon Hotel.

The hotel depicted above was constructed in 1890, but was replaced by the "new" Canyon Hotel constructed in 1910 and 1911 shown in the next view.

The "new" Canyon Hotel, postcard by Jack E. Haynes

The centerpiece of the Canyon Hotel was its lounge which was evocative of elements of the Prairie Style of archtecture. From the reception desk one descended a broad shallow set of stairs past a musicians' stand into the lounge.

Canyon Hotel Lounge, approx. 1920, as seen from staircase.

Canyon Hotel Lounge, approx. 1920, looking towards staircase.

At 11:37 p.m. on the evening of August 17, 1959, for the entertainment of approximately 600 visitors to the Park, a beauty contest was being held at the recreation center at Old Faithful. The newly crowned winner was being escorted down the aisle. Fifteen miles north of West Yellowstone and west of the Park at Hebgen Lake campgrounds were full. At that moment a 7.5 magnatude earthquake centered at Hebgen Lake struck, sweeping a twenty-foot tidal wave over the dam into the Madison Canyon below. Down stream half of a 7,600 foot mountain gave way, causing an estimated 80 million tons of rocks to roar into the canyon at speeds of 174 miles per hour permanently entombing an unknown number of campers beneath the landslide, their bodies never recovered. Sixty miles downstream the sleeping town of Ennis, Montana, was ordered evacuated out of fear that the Hebgen Dam would collapse. However, the landslide blocked the onrushing waters and formed a new lake, Earthquake Lake, saving Ennis. Over the next few hours four aftershocks, with magnitudes ranging from 5.8 to 6.5 shook the Yellowstone area. According to the Billings Gazette, August 19, "panic-stricken guests poured out of Old Faithful Inn, many of them climbing into their cars and fleeing from the park in terror." The Inn, itself, was in fact evacuated due to broken water pipes and damage to the massive lobby chimney. But by the next day the west wing was reopened although the lobby and east wing remained closed.

How far the fleeing guests would have gotten was problematical. Northward from Old Faithful the Grand Loop Road was closed due to slides in Firehole Canyon and Golden Gate Canyon. Additionally, the road between Madison Junction and Canyon was closed. Nevertheless, although the Park Administration Building was evacuated and the Park was administered from a tent, the Park attractions remained open. The Park reported some 16,000 entries over the next two days. The damage to the Old Faithful Lodge limited use of upper balconies and damaged the chimney. Later inspection of the Canyon Hotel reflected that its foundations had been damaged and that it was probably uneconomic to repair. Accordingly, the Canyon Hotel was ordered razed. Before its destruction could be completed, in 1960 the remains caught fire and burned.

Next Page, Old Faithful Inn, Canyon Lodge, Robert C. Reamer. continued.