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Larry's Lunch Stations
Larry's Lunch Stations

Yellowstone Hotels & Lodges:
Larry's Lunch Stations

Copyright 2009 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
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Click Here for 1916 Map of Yellowstone Park 

Trout Creek Lunch Station


 Larry Mathews (also Larry Matthews) was an entertaining Irishman who managed establishments in Yellowstone from 1888 to 1904. Trout Creek became the first Larry's Lunch Station in 1888.  Larry moved his business to West Thumb in 1891 to service the new route between Old Faithful and Lake Hotel. Larry moved to Norris in 1893 after a fire destroyed the second Norris Hotel in 1892.  All of these lunch stations were owned by the Yellowstone Park Asso. (YPA), but became known as "Larry's Lunch Stations" due to his colorful and vibrant personality. Larry is shown herre with his daughter "Lizzie," who was born in 1891.
Photo Courtesy Burton Holmes Travelogues]

See my Bio's Page for more info on "Larry."
 This color sketch of the Trout Creek Lunch Station is one of the few known images of that early operation in Yellowstone. The operation began in 1888 by YPA under the management of Larry Mathews. The Trout Creek Station, located in Hayden Valley, was the halfway point between the Fountain Hotel and Yellowstone Lake and Grand Canyon, and offered travelers a break in their journey to have lunch and freshen up a bit. This was the main route of travelers visiting Canyon and Lake until 1892 when a new road was built over Craig Pass from Old Faithful to West Thumb. That year YPA and Mathews moved the operation to West Thumb to provide lunch services along the new road.
[Photo courtesy of YNP Archives, #YELL 109730]

West Thumb Lunch Station

The Yellowstone Park Association (YPA) was granted a lease in 1886 to operate boats on Yellowstone Lake, but did not exercise that option until 1891. At that time a new road was being built over Craig Pass from Old Faithful to West Thumb. Ferry service would eliminate the tedious and dusty ride from the Thumb Lunch Station to the Lake Hotel. E.C. Waters, who had been manager of the National Hotel, accepted the offer to manage the ferry service. The Zillah, a 40-ton steamship, began running that route in 1891 and was licensed to carry 125 passengers. Waters would pay the stagecoach drivers fifty cents for each passenger convinced to take the ferry.  Larry Mathews managed the tent lunch station in 1892 after the Trout Creek station closed. Larry moved to Norris the following year.
[Photo Courtesy Bob Berry Collection]

See also my Hotels Page on West Thumb

 The Cheery Irishman
A writer for the
Burton Homes Travelogues noted in the mid-1890's: "What traveler does not remember Larry Matthews and his canvas palace? Who can forget his cheery welcome when lifting the ladies from the coach . . . And who can forget the honest Irish face of landlord Larry Matthews? His ready wit is remarkable. Every day he is expected to be funny from 11 to 2 o'clock, during which hours he must not only delight the inbound tourists, but carefully avoid repeating himself in the presence of those outward bound who lunch here the second time . . . We never know what we are eating at Larry's busy table d' hote. He never gives us time to think about the food. He is able to make the people laugh so much and eat so little that the company should meet all his demands for an increase in salary."
Over the years, though, he became a bit haughty when it came to dealing with the independent 'sagebrushers', who traveled through the park on their own, and not with the established transportation companies. He could be become rude or unpleasant with them and try to overcharge them for his services. Aubrey Haines, in his "Yellowstone Place Names", observed that ". . . Larry became over conscious of his importance and less often polite and courteous; also he was more likely to yell at such people . . ."

Norris Lunch Station
[See also my Hotels Page on Norris]

 Larry established a new "Larry’s Lunch  Station" at Norris Geyser Basin in 1893 after the second hotel there burned down in 1892.  He entertained guests there in tent facilities until YPA  opened a new Norris Hotel in 1901.  There were actually five facilities at Norris between 1883 and 1916.  A tent hotel  was opened up first by the Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. in 1883, but was replaced by a hotel built in 1886.  That hotel burned down during the first summer and was replaced by another cheaply-built wood hotel/lunch station. It lasted until May of 1892 when it also burned down. Tents were setup nearby for temporary  lodgings.  and were taken over by Larry Mathews in 1893.
[Photo Courtesy Pat Perry, Delmar, NY]
 The Norris Lunch Station was located southwest of the Gibbon River, across from the Norris Ranger Station (current Museum of the NP Ranger).  A small bridge eventually crossed the river around this spot (shown above). The currently road passes through the middle of the old site and a large wildlife viewing pull-out now lines the river. The view to the right shows passengers making the "leap" from the carriage to Larry's porch.
[Photo Courtesy Burton Holmes Travelogues]
 Dining Tent at Larry's Lunch Station at Norris. Larry is standing at the rear with his daughter.
[Photo Courtesy Burton Holmes Travelogues]
  Larry's Lunch Station at Norris, circa1898
[Photo Courtesy Burton Holmes Travelogues]

Furnish Imaginary Adventures for
“Larry’s Tenderfoot Guests

Newspaper Article Nov. 9, 1898;
Colorado Transcript

Among the stories which Horace C. Du Val brought back from, his trip to the Pacific coast was one about "Larry," the proprietor of the luncheon station at Norris, in the Yellowstone Park, which everybody will appreciate who knows the witty Irishman, and few people have made the trip in tie last few years to whom he is unknown. "The park is full of bears, cinnamon and silver tips," said Mr. Du Val, "and the after-dinner hour at the hotels is always spent by the guests in watching the big clumsy brutes come lumbering out of the woods to feed at the refuse heaps. Larry's is only a luncheon station, a big tent, at which tourists stop in the middle of their day's journey for rest and refreshment. All Larry's supplies come from the hotels, and one day, a short time before our visit, the luncheon hour had almost arrived, and the bread wagon from the hotel had not made its appearance. There was not a slice of bread in the tent. Larry is proud of the reputation of his table; something has to be done, and done at once. Already he hears the rumbling of the wheels and the hoofbeats of the horses that tell him that his guests are at hand. An inspiration comes to him. He hastily summons his entire force, waiters, cooks, scullions, and all and imparts a few words of instructions. As the coaches draw up at the front of the tent out dashes Larry at the other end, shouting at the top of his lungs, out comes the table and kitchen force at his heels, waving tablecloths, napkins, anything at hand, and scattering in all directions. “There he goes!” yells Larry. “Head him off, kill the murtherin’ beast! O, the thafe of the world. There he is behind the corn, now we’ll run him down by the fence!” and away they all go dashing about in all directions, the amazed guests still sitting in the coaches and wondering what it is all about. One by one Larry’s people return. Larry at their head – hot, crestfallen. “Och, whatever shall I do,” says Larry, “the thievin’ devils; sorra crumb of bread, barrin’ crackers, have I got in the place, the brutes have stolen the whole of it.” The guests assemble around him with words of comfort, but it is long before Larry will be pacified. He’ll have the life of the whole tribe, whether the government protects them or not. Sure, how can he set a decent table if the black marauders steal it all? Little by little the guests calm him down. They “like crackers,” they wouldn’t “eat any bread if they had it.” Larry had gained his point, and material had been furnished for an adventure of no ordinary kind, and many members of the party will doubtless entertain their friends with the story of how the bears stole their bread at Larry’s.

Larry Moves On . . .

F.J. Haynes photo showing the first Shack Hotel at Old Faithful in the winter of 1887. The building was destroyed by fire in 1894 and a cheaply-built replacement was erected for the following season.  After the 3rd Norris Hotel was built in 1901, replacing his tent camp, Larry Mathews managed the second Shack Hotel from 1901-1903.
[Photo Courtesy YNP Archives #127883]
The Old Faithful Inn opened in 1904 and Larry Mathews became the first manager. Reportedly a disagreement with YPA over wages resulteding in Larry leaving the park for good after the 1904 season.
[Detroit Photographic Co. Postcard #8807, "Old Faithful Inn, Upper Geyser Basin"]

[See also my Hotels Page on Old Faithful]

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