Old Faithful Inn; Jim Peaco; June 2013

The largest log cabin constructed building in the world exists in Yellowstone National Park.  The Old Faithful Inn was built in 1903; it is nine stories tall.

Railroads were instrumental to tourism in the national parks at the turn of the 20th century when vacationing by car was just a dream.  Glacier National Park is a prime example of the partnership and influence of that relationship. The Great Northern Railroad built several lodges and nine backcountry chalets to accommodate visitors that arrived by no other than the Empire Builder route of the Great Northern Railway.  The historic Many Glacier Hotel architecturally was built to reflect the Alps of Europe.  The Great Northern Railway promoted Glacier National Park as the Swiss Alps of America.

The Union Pacific Railroad was involved with the national park movement also.  The Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim of the Canyon exemplifies what is called “parkitecture.”  Using local materials as much as possible, the idea is to have the structure blend into the natural environment and reflect the rustic nature of the park.  The accommodations often reflect the ambiance of the bygone era, with cabins on the rims lacking televisions in the rooms.

The El Tovar hotel on the South Rim is another example of the rustic approach.  Built in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railroad.  Incidentally, The Fred Harvey Company was a national park concessionaire for many years, and there is a museum about the company in Leavenworth, Kansas.  In addition, the “Harvey’s” at Union Station is named after Fred Harvey and the company’s influence on the country.

The Ahwahnee Hotel is also on the National Register of Historic Places.  Opened in 1927, The Ahwahnee hotel was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood (who also designed the Zion Lodge, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Grand Canyon Lodge). It is considered a masterpiece of “parkitecture”).

For detailed information about these and other national park lodges, check out Great Lodges of the West by Christine Barnes and National Parks: The American Experience by Alfred Runte.

We have additional resources in our eCommunity offerings if you would like to know more about these parks and railroads:

Glacier: Crown of the Continent

Welcome to Grand Canyon National Park

Railroads: Magic, Mystery, and Mystique

Steve is a former National Park Ranger and has great experience with our National Parks. He will be giving us so much more armchair traveling to look forward to. If you have any questions, you can reach him at soakes@kckpl.org