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Larry's Lunch Stations

Yellowstone Hotels & Lodges:
Norris Lunch Station & Norris Hotel

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 Map of Norris Area - 1912 Haynes Guide



 Variously known as the Norris Lunch Station, Norris Hotel, and Larry's Lunch Station, there were five different facilities at Norrois between 1883 and 1916. In 1883 the Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. (YPIC) established tent hotels at various locations throughout Yellowstone Park, including the Norris Geyser Basin.  This circa1893 photograph (courtesy Pat Perry of Delmar, NY) shows the tent lunch station that was located across the Gibbon River from the Norris Soldier Station. The current road passes through the old site and a scenic pull-out now faces Gibbon Meadows.
The first Norris Hotel was built in 1886-87 by the Yellowstone Park Association (YPA). It was located in the woods across from the soldier station. The new hotel opened up in the spring of 1887, even though construction was apparently incomplete. A workman started a fire in an unfinished chimney that set the hotel ablaze on July 14. The Livingston Enterprise reported that there were many guests in the hotel, but that all were saved. A bit of furniture was rescued, but all else was lost. Afterwards tents were set-up for guest use.
[F.J. Haynes photo of the 1st Norris Hotel, probably early 1887. Courtesy YNP Archives, YELL 345]

Another view of the 1st Norris Hotel, early 1887.  It may have been taken by F. Jay Haynes during his winter ski trip through the park with famed polar explorer Lt. Schwatka in January of 1887.
[Courtesy YNP Archives, YELL 50792]
  By the end of 1887 a temporary wooden hotel was completed with 20 sleeping rooms. It was long and narrow, built with 1" board siding.  Acting Supt. Capt. Moses described it as "cold and open, with no appliance for heating beyond a sheet iron stove in the common hall." Fire again caused havoc in 1892 and this building burned down. Much of the silverware, bedding and furniture was saved this time.
[1890 view of second Norris Hotel/Lunch Station]
View of the lunch station, probably early 1890s. After the 2nd hotel burned in 1892, another tent operation was established. In 1893 Larry Mathews, who had previously operated lunch stations at Trout Creek and West Thumb, took over the operation. It became known as Larry's Lunch Station, serving visitors a welcome lunch and hearty entertainment. He managed the station until a new Norris Hotel opened in 1901.
[Photo courtesy Gallatin Historical Society, Bozeman, Mt.]

(Visit my Bio's page on Larry Mathews)
 Larry Mathews (sometimes spelled Larry Matthews) was quite a colorful Irishman who managed establishments in Yellowstone from 1888 to 1904. Trout Creek became the first Larry's Lunch Station in 1888. That tent operation was established along Trout Creek in Hayden Valley. It served the crowd coming over the Mary Mountain road from the Lower Geyser Basin to visit Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. When the new road over Craig Pass from Old Faithful to West Thumb opened in 1892, Larry moved his business to Thumb to service the new route. Thumb was about the half-way point between Old Faithful and Lake Hotel and served as the required lunch stop. When the second hotel at Norris burned down in May of 1892, Larry moved to Norris the following season to establish his third lunch station.
[Undated photo of Trout Creek Larry with his young daughter, circa1893-94 at what appears to be the Norris station.
Thanks to Pat Perry of Delmar, NY for this photo]

A new lunch station and hotel opened in 1901 on the Porcelain Terrace at Norris. It contained about 25 rooms and continued to service the lunch crowd passing through. About this time, Larry Mathews moved to Old Faithful and managed the old "Shack Hotel." As with the Fountain Hotel, decreased travel times in 1917 due to motorized buses, eliminated the necessity of the lunch station. It closed after the 1916 season and was razed in 1928. There are no longer any lunch or overnight facilities at Norris.
["Norris Lunch Station", Haynes Postcard No. 154]

Below: Click on image to view 1901 photo from the Annual YNP Supt's Report

Left: 1901 view from Interior Annual Report
Right:  ca1905 view of Norris Hotel
From the 1901 Dept. of Interior Annual Report:
"A new and very comfortable little hotel has been constructed at the Norris Geyser Basin. It has been built on a far better site than that occupied by the old lunch station, which was some distance from the geyser basin – entirely too far for the majority of tourists to walk. The new hotel is so conveniently located that the tourists can now sit on its broad and sheltered veranda, after having their luncheon, and while awaiting the arrival of their coaches, they will be greatly interested in watching the playing of the geysers in the distance below them; or if they prefer to do so, they can stroll leisurely through the basin and await the arrival of their coaches at the Monarch geyser, where comfortable seats and a shelter have been provided. This hotel has been greatly needed for a long time, and will be frequently patronized by people who can not afford the time to go entirely around the park, and also by many who wish to go out of the park by the Monida route."

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