Old Faithful Inn History
page 2
Click for larger image.
   For the face of the great stone chimney, Reamer
designed a large clock, to be built on site by the
blacksmith. He also placed a treehouse-type
enclosure near the top of the tall lobby--a whimsical
touch that complemented his forest theme. Steps in
the staircases were fashioned from half logs with
flat sides up. Reamer also selected an assortment
of curved, arched, and twisted thick branches to be
used throughout the lobby and in many other parts
of the Inn for ornamentation in rails, supports, and
along stairways. The odd shapes of these deformed
branches were the result of infections and
infestations of bacteria as well as other natural
   A total of 140 guest rooms were originally built,
able to hold 316 guests. Steam radiators were
installed to keep overnight guests warm, and the
Old Faithful Inn was one of the first hotels in America
to use electric lighting (supplied by a steam
generator). Reamer fashioned white candlestick
light fixtures to be placed throughout the
building--fixtures which are still in use today. Stairs
rose to an observation deck on the roof of the Inn,
where an electric searchlight was added to light Old
Faithful during evening eruptions and occasionally
point out nearby wildlife. (In the mid 20th century this
searchlight and a later one were removed--and out
of concern for visitor  safety, the observation deck
was placed off limits to the public.)
   Although much of the material used for the Inn
was obtained locally, some things were imported,
including the steam heating system mentioned
above, shingles, door locks, window glass, wiring,
plumbing, and furnishings. Architect Reamer
worked closely with Mrs. Childs in selecting the
furnishings, and they maintained a good working
relationship throughout the project. An Arts and
Crafts motif was used, with an assortment of

Mission Style furniture
and Native American woven
rugs. The final effect was to be fashionably rustic, yet
comfortable enough for upscale early tourists.
The lobby of the Old Faithful Inn as it appeared to its
earliest visitors.                    (1905  Detroit Publishing)
        (Click on images throughout to enlarge.)
Click for larger image.
The view new arrivals would have as they approached
the Old Faithful Inn. The original roof was painted red,
as shown in this postcard.         (1905 Detroit
Click for larger image.
Shown above is the Old Faithful Inn's original front
entrance, located just to the right of the hanging lamp,
and situated under the sheltered porte cochere
(carriage entrance). This postcard was published by
Detroit Publishing and copyright 1909.
"This is a lovely Inn. I am having a fine trip. Must hurry
to breakfast.   Yours sincerely Miss W."
Dated Aug. 22, 1909
From the beginning, the Old Faithful Inn was a
popular favorite. Reamer faced the Inn deliberately
away from Old Faithful so that the first view guests
would see as their coach pulled up to the front of the
Inn and under the porte cochere, or carriage
entrance, was a direct view of the famous geyser.
They entered through thick red doors (red being a
universal sign of welcome), complete with caged
peep hole and heavy iron latch and hinges--all
made on site by the blacksmith, George W. Colpitts
of Livingston.
   A 1904 traveler described his arrival as follows:  
"Entering the quaint old doorway, each person was
greeted by the manager, Larry Matthews [sic], with
an Irish welcome in the best Tipperary, 'I am glad to
see you!  Walk right in!  Make yourself at home!' "  
This charming Irishman--the first manager of the
Old Faithful Inn--was a seasoned and popular host,
having had experience as manager of the old Shack
Hotel, as well as lunch stations at Trout Creek and
Norris. Larry Mathews was regarded by historian
Aubrey L. Haines as "the incomparable peer" of all
Yellowstone manager/hosts. (He retired from his
manager position and all Yellowstone service after
the opening season at the Inn, apparently in a
dispute over pay.)
   At mealtime, guests in those early years ate
together (appropriately dressed) in the rustic
log-walled Old Faithful Inn dining room. A dinner bell
atop the Inn alerted those venturing among the
geysers and hot springs when it was time to return
and make themselves presentable for dinner
The dining hall was brightened with large
windows, an open fireplace, and Reamer's electric
candle light fixtures. Guests sat on rustic chairs at
tables set with brightly polished silverware and
china of a blue willow pattern.
   As guests ate, a group of musicians played for
them on a small balcony extending from the lobby
and overlooking the dining room. After dinner, these
musicians climbed to areas such as the "crow's
nest" near the top of the high-pitched ceiling of the
lobby. There they played as guests danced on the
main floor far below. During the "Army" years when
Yellowstone was protected by the military, soldiers
unselfishly volunteered to dance with any willing
unescorted ladies.
Click for larger view.
Fireplace and Stairway, Old Faithful Inn  (Detroit
Publishing, copyright 1909).
Click for larger image.
(left) Early view of the original Old Faithful Inn dining room
before later renovations replaced the wall on both sides of the
fireplace with doorways leading into an added extension.

                                                 (Haynes postcard)
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