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Old Faithful Snow Lodge

Yellowstone Hotels & Lodges:
Old Faithful Camper Cabins & Old Faithful Snow Lodge

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
information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

Click Here for 1909 Map of Old Faithful Area - Campbell's Guide
Click Here for 1937 Map of Old Faithful Area - Haynes Guide
Click Here for 1942 Map of Old Faithful Area - Haynes Guide

Old Faithful Camper Cabins

With its beginnings in the early 1920s, the Old Faithful Camper Cabins seemed to have been an off-shoot of the nearby public auto camp that had opened in 1920 by the National Park Service. Hundreds of housekeeping-type cabins were built to house the hordes of visitors to Yellowstone. Most of these cabins probably provided a bare minimum of services and facilties and guests generally had to provide, or perhaps rent blankets, sheets, and towels.  Eventually a 2-story cabin office with an upstairs girls dorm was built, along with a large log cafeteria, comfort stations, and other conveniences.  The operation was run by the YP Camps Company until 1928 when the YP Lodges & Camps Co. took over.  (See the OF Lodge page for information on the Camps Company operation.)  By the 1930s there were 400 cabins associated with the operation.  The Cabin Office burned down in 1955 (see below) was was replaced by a new L-shaped two-story lodge that eventually became known as the OF Snow Lodge.  The Cafeteria was razed in the early 1980s.

[Map Courtesy Xanterra Engineering Files. Click to Enlarge]

Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of recognizable photographs from the Old Faithful Campers Cabins operation. However this plat map from 1952 should give a good idea of the huge extent of the operation and the location of the primary buildings in that particular area. As a main reference point, in the lower center section appears the still-existing 
Hamilton General Store, also known as the "Upper Store," currently operated by the Delaware North Company. Straight above the store is the approximate location of the current and former Snow Lodge.  To the right of the store is the Camper Cabins Office, a 2-story building with lobby, registration area, and a women's employee dorm upstairs. To the right of the Office was the log Cafeteria that served thousands of meals to the campers and other guests.  Farther to the right of the Cafeteria and off the map was Old Faithful Geyser.

[Photo Courtesy YNP Archives #03286]

 In this aerial photo from 1968 one can see the changes that transpired after the 1955 fire that destroyed the Cabin Office and Dormitory.  That space is basically empty now and across the road stands the new Camper Cabins Office that became known as the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in the early 1970s.  Aside from the removal of cabins for the new office, most of the surrounding cabins still existed.  Notice that the old road (removed around 1971) passed right in front of the Old Faithful Inn and the Cafeteria. One could park and view Old Faithful without even getting out of the car.
    Undated view of the Old Faithful Cafeteria, probably 1960s, from the files of The Cafeteria, built in the early 1920s, was torn down and burned sometime in the early 1980s and the surrounding area returned to a natural state.

Headlines from the Wednesday, June 26, 1955 edition of the Idaho Falls Post Register newspaper describing the fire carnage that destroyed the Old Faithful Camper Cabins Office.  The paper noted that, "A spectacular early Wednesday morning fire razed the Old Faithful girls domitory and office, sending 35 pajama-clad girls scampering for safety in the cold night air .  .  . Shortly after the fire was discovered at 3 a.m. some 35 girls living in the dormitory were hurried out of the burning building. They escaped in ony their nightclothes and huddled near by watching the flames consume all their belongings.  Origin of the fire was not immediately determined but it is presumed it started in the laundry in the girls dormitory."  Luckily no one was hurt and many of the "homeless girls" were taken by cars to West Yellowstone for housing.  The article said that the office also housed an automatic laundry, showers for the guests, and stored blankets and other equipment for the cabin units.  With the 4th of July weekend right around the corner, it definitely put a crimp in the ability of the Camper Cabins operation to adequately serve their guests.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge

 After the 1955 fire destroyed the OF Camper Cabins office, construction began on new facilities the following year and were completed in time for the opening of the 1957 season.  This new, rather unimposing building served as registration office, dining room, lounge, and lobby for the Camper Cabin guests.  The second story was used for employee housing.  In the winter of 1971-72, the Yellowstone Park Company opened the building for use during the winter for snomobilers and other winter guests.  Bombedier snowcoaches that could carry 10-12 guests operated from park entrances at Mammoth, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch near the southern entrance.  Guests stayed in the 30 upstairs dorm rooms, with a capacity of about 90 persons.  Cross-country ski tours were available along with day trips to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  Advertising covered newspapers across the country and the name Old Faithful Snow Lodge came into being. The operation was a success and by the winter of 1973-74 twenty-four nearby cabin units with private baths were winterized and put into service for winter guests.  Buffet-style dining was available in the "Snowshoe Room" and guests could warm themselves in the lobby around the free-standing fireplace or have a cocktail in the lounge. 

 After the 1955 fire this A-frame building was built across from the Snow Lodge on the site of the old Camper Cabins office.  Opening in 1957, it housed laundry facilities and showers for the cabin guests.  In 1973 it became availble for use during the winter season to provide snack bar food service to winter visitors and acquired the moniker Four Seasons Snack Shop.  In the early 1980s the laundromat was removed and the business was converted over to a fast food type of operation.  The building was torn down around 1998 as part of the construction of the new Snow Lodge.

 As time went on, the old Snow Lodge became unable to meet the needs of the increasing number of winter guests.  It was torn down in 1998 and a new "Snow Lodge," designed by A&E Architect of Billings, Montana, was built in two phases, the first segment opening for the winter season of 1998-99.  There were initially 52 guest rooms, restaurant and lounge, 2-story lobby fireplace, hardwood floors, heavy recycled timber contruction in the lobby, and exterior log columns.  The second phase of construction opened for use about a year later with 48 additional guest rooms.  The "new" Snow Lodge remains in operation from about early May-October and mid-December to early March and is operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

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