Gushing geysers! Murky mud pots! Steaming sapphire pools! Thriving thermophiles! I’ve got a creeping case of volcanic hydrothermal overload! Isn’t there anything else in Yellowstone to see?
Why, yes, actually, there is. For something totally different, try a 45–minute guided tour of the Old Faithful Inn.
|Old Faithful Inn|
That’s what I did recently. I had wanted to take the tour of the 108–year old hotel since last summer, and so when our Saturday hiking plans disintegrated I figured that was as good a day as any to play tourist for the morning.
|The Crows Nest and tree house are tucked into the top of the lobby|
Not the oldest hotel still in use in the park (the Yellowstone Lake Hotel holds that distinction) nevertheless the Old Faithful Inn is the original real deal of classic national park architecture. Started in mid–1903, a crew of 50 laborers worked continuously through the bitterly cold Yellowstone winter in order to finish the hotel by early summer, and it has been hosting guests since June 1, 1904.
|Lodgepole steps lead up to third floor rooms|
|The third floor atrium is a fine place to ponder the classic park architecture|
Designed and built by architect Robert Reamer to blend with the landscape and bring the outdoors within, the interior of the Old Faithful Inn is constructed almost entirely of locally obtained lodgepole pine. Since these trees reach maturity at a height of around 75 feet, the ceiling of the lobby reaches to just over 76 feet, lending a sense of skyward spaciousness found in the mature pine forests of Yellowstone.
The electric light fixtures are all original from Reamer’s design. Many of the indoor plumbing fixtures are also original or well-executed replicas. If you are lucky enough you might be able to book a room with an en suite bath, but more likely you will have only a pedestal sink and will find your other “shared facilities” a short trot down the hall.
|The tree house peeks at visitors in upper left|
The foundation and massive 500–ton chimney are constructed of locally quarried volcanic rhyolite, an appropriate building rock for such a hotel built on thermal ground warm enough for guests to occasionally find the “cold” water to be a more comfortable temperature.
Reamer cleverly installed a “tree house” near the top of the lobby, complementing his forest theme, but it has not been accessible since the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake that actually twisted the fireplace off plumb about an inch or so. Additionally, this “Crow’s Nest” is not up to current fire code standards in that there is no fire escape. Interestingly, the Old Faithful Inn was spared destruction during the fires of 1988.
For many years after the earthquake only one fireplace was able to be utilized. Renovations to retrofit the chimney/fireplace up to current seismic standards were completed this summer, and on August 17, 2012 (the 53rd anniversary of the earthquake) all four fireplaces were lit and a warm fire burned in each.