October 19, 2009
The Old Faithful Historic District
Almost three million people visit the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone each year. They come to witness eruptions of the world-famous Old Faithful Geyser, and to marvel at the earth’s largest concentration of active geysers located in the surrounding Upper Geyser Basin.
While many people are drawn to the unique hydrothermal features, relatively few know about the area’s rich human history. The Old Faithful Historic District not only has beautiful historic buildings, but is also a living link to fascinating stories from Yellowstone’s past:
The Old Faithful Inn was designed by Robert C. Reamer, who wanted the asymmetry of the building to reflect the chaos of nature. Built during the winter of 1903-04, the enormous wood structure with its soaring lobby ceiling is considered a masterpiece of rustic architecture. Today, it is one of the very few remaining log hotels in the United States, and is a National Historic Landmark.
The Old Faithful Lodge is the often-overlooked sister of the Old Faithful Inn, and its history predates the Inn. In Yellowstone’s early days, before hotels were built, tent camps were erected throughout the Park by private outfitters. The “Old Faithful Camp” served visitors at this site from 1898 to 1916, after which it evolved into the Lodge. The structure you see today was completed in 1928, and offers casual dining and cabin-style accommodations.
The “Lower Hamilton Store” is the oldest structure in the Old Faithful area still in use. Built in 1897, the general store is currently operated by Delaware North. The knotty pine porch is popular among visitors as a photo subject and as a resting place with scenic views of Geyser Hill.
The Old Faithful Swimming Pool provided a warm water experience for visitors from 1915 until it was demolished in 1951. Located beside the Firehole River across from Geyser Hill, the pool obtained water from Solitary Spring. Withdrawing water steadily from this spring changed its behavior, and it’s known now as Solitary Geyser.
In addition to offering great views of area geysers, the Observation Point Trail provides vantage points from which to survey effects of the 1988 wildfires. The burned areas surround the Old Faithful Historic District and remind visitors of a September day in 1988 when firefighters stood poised to defend the Old Faithful Inn from a fast-moving wall of fire. As huge embers blew onto the roof, firefighters drenched the building with hundreds of gallons of water. Although some area structures were lost, the firefighters’ monumental effort ultimately saved the Inn.