Editor’s note: This story originally aired on June 27th, 2014.
Yellowstone Park is celebrating completion of a two year, $29 million renovation of its oldest lodge: Lake Hotel. Now all of the Lake Hotel’s redecorated rooms are ready for guest now. Penny Preston reports people worked through two bitter winters to complete the project.
In 1889, 27 years before there was a National Park Service, construction began on Lake Hotel. It is Yellowstone’s oldest. Two years ago, reconstruction started.
“The old hotel had been touched pretty harshly over the years.
That’s reconstruction Architect Dennis Johnson. He says it was a challenge to return the hotel to the colonial revival period architecture. With yellow clapboard siding, and 50-foot columns, the grand structure reflects the tastes of wealthy visitors from the East in the late 1800s…not the rustic Old Faithful style. Yet, Old Faithful Architect Robert Reamer added these, and other decorations: including the sun room, a porte chochere, a tiled fireplace and a new wing.
The recent reconstruction took place through two winters with temperatures as cold as 36 below.
And, oh yes, there were earthquakes.
“There were some earthquakes. There was a pretty good one here this spring, uh from the Norris Earthquake that did reach down here and did a little bit of damage.”
Earthquakes were the primary reason for the reconstruction. Reconstruction Superintendent Patrick Marble says they worked hard to make sure it can withstand more in the future.
“You can see the columns in this room and a lot of those columns we had to put structural steel in. So we literally ended up supporting massive sections of the building that was built in 1891, a huge historical landmark.”
The Park recently celebrated the final phase of the reconstruction. Phase two remodeled more than half the hotels rooms…from peeling wallpaper and problem plumbing, to a luxury room with the view.
Concessionaire Xanterra paid for the hotel rehab. Park Superintendant Dan Wenk noted historic preservation is one of the challenges the Park faces…
“These great old historic structures take a lot of maintenance. They take a lot of care.”
In his congratulatory speech, Wenk announced new protections in the works for the 123-year-old structure.
“The hotel just passed the first hurdle for the designation of a National Historic Landmark…the highest level of significance and protection under the National Historic Preservation Act.”
Even as the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the completion of the latest facelift, Wenk looked forward to the challenges of the next milestone: 2016.
“2016 marks the anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service.”
Wenk noted Yellowstone is much older, and will celebrate its 144th anniversary in 2016.
“But 2016 is an opportunity for the nation to look at the Parks and to understand what kind of stewardship these great places are going to take to have them be great resource preservation.”
From Yellowstone National Park, I’m Penny Preston, reporting for Wyoming Public Radio.