|Old Faithful Inn Renovations: An Update from Fall 2006
Have carpeted areas been returned to the
In an attempt to recreate the feel and look of the
Inn's lobby as it was in 1904, carpets are placed
about here and there: in front of the fireplace, by
the front door, along the registration area and
dining room entrance, etc. Made of a tightly woven
material (probably wool) with almost a native
Indian pattern, they do impart a warmth that is
very reminiscent of the Inn's early years. However,
the current installation looks temporary as the
carpets are just tacked down with nails that can
easily be seen. They are not laid flush with the
level of the wood, as I have seen done elsewhere
(banks, restaurants, etc.), but are simply lying on
top of the new flooring.
Old House Rooms
According to the head of housekeeping and from my own observation of
several rooms, nothing has changed in rooms 1 through 246. It is the opinion
of many, including carpenters that were repairing the west lobby interior wall,
that most work so far has been directed to the foundation, roof, and exterior,
but is now beginning to shift toward the interior. If all goes as planned the Old
House rooms will have new carpeting, new sinks and faucets, new lighting,
new furnishings, and new window treatment when the renovation project is
completed in spring 2008. No one believes the rooms will be any more
soundproof or that all the creaks and groans will be totally eliminated.
Perhaps that's a good thing. We don't want the old Inn to lose all of her
charm! What appear to be new heating radiators are installed in the hallways
of both the east and west wings, the new restrooms near the Pony Express
snack shop, and within the newly enlarged snack shop itself. They are nice
replicas of the ones they replace, right down to the gurgling, hissing, and
banging. I still wonder what happened to the lobby's large three-vent gas
heater that I watched, as a young boy in the 1950's, slowly rotate above the
stone water fountain. It was removed about a year ago, probably never to be
returned. There are now large, shiny, new women's and men's restrooms in
the west wing hallway, just past a newly constructed Pony Express snack shop
exit. At first I was baffled as to how such a large restroom area was created,
but after a little studying I realized what had been done. The shower facilities
have been removed. As far as I can tell all ground floor, west wing, Old House
guests desiring to wash off the dust of their daily adventure must go up the
small, whimsical flight of stairs next to room 5 on the front side, to the second
floor shower/tub accommodations. Evidently, the designers and architects felt
a new large public restroom is more important than the comfort and
convenience of the Inn's paying guests. I hope I am wrong about this, and that
what I observed is not a permanent situation. The east wing restrooms and
shower/tub facilities have not been changed.
New west wing men's restroom near
Pony Express snack shop.
Replacement lobby hardwood flooring
|Answers to some FAQs about the Inn's Renovation
text and photos by Garrett Kent
Has the temporary covering over the front walkways been
Yes. All the plywood paneling, plastic sheeting, and scaffolding has
been removed. In fact, from the front of the Inn the only obvious
giveaway that this is a work in progress is the large sign listing the
architects and various contractors that are involved in the multimillion
What areas of the Inn are still undergoing renovation?
I observed what appeared to be a huge underground electrical service
vault being constructed on the backside of the Inn, behind the Bear Pit
Lounge. This involved many workers, cement trucks, and various
equipment. Also, as stated earlier, the lobby's second floor interior
west wall was being reshingled. I was told that repairs on the large
lobby fireplace chimney are still being done, but saw no signs of work.
There was evidence of fresh concrete work being done around the
base of the large pillars on the front side of the east wing. Much
equipment and supplies including lumber, wiring, concrete, metal
flashing, etc., were stored in a fenced-in area behind the west wing
service entry, probably in preparation for the next phase of
construction that was to begin as soon as the last guest checked out
on October 10.
In closing, it is obvious that the bulk of the work performed so far has been
directed at strengthening the roof and foundation: most of it undetectable
but sorely needed. As the job progresses this fall and winter more interior
problems will be addressed. Many have been critical of the slow pace of the
work. Indeed, I was told that the present general contractor, Swank
Enterprises, is being replaced because of this. I am as anxious as the next
guy to see the Inn not as a construction site, but with that soft inviting glow
welcoming travelers to her inspiring lobby and providing that wonderful
amazing first impression that I experienced many years ago. However, I want
the work to be performed safely, correctly, and skillfully. The Inn deserves
the best. The Old Faithful Inn probably feels that she has been chosen to be
on the popular television show "Extreme Makeover"! Many things have been
done or are planned for her, but ultimately most of the changes will be subtle
or even unseen. When completed, the renovations will, it is hoped, reveal
the Inn as she looked in her youth, but with a new backbone of steel
reinforced concrete that will help her endure another hundred years of
Yellowstone's harsh environment.
New entrance (above) and exit (right) to
the Pony Express snack shop.
Ornate lobby staircase (above) now
engulfed by Pony Express snack shop.
How many flag poles now stand atop the Old Faithful Inn?
A total of eight poles are erected at the peak of the newly shingled main lobby roof. Four flags were flying: Old Glory
and the Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho state flags.
Has the Pony Express snack shop been made smaller to accommodate the new restrooms?
The Pony Express snack shop, with its delicious huckleberry ice cream, now engulfs the entire staircase that leads to
private service areas downstairs. The snack shop main entrance is now located directly to the right of the original
stone drinking fountain, and an exit door has been cut through to the west wing hallway, just left of the new women's
restroom. Overall, the snack shop is now much bigger by at least 300 to 500 square feet.
Have any of the offices behind the registration desk been converted back to guest rooms?
The consensus regarding the converting of office space in the first floor hallway back to guest rooms is that it will not
happen. The registration manager conveyed to me that the current office space is woefully inadequate and will
definitely not be relinquished.
Are the long pipes of the sprinkler system still exposed in the interior lobby ceiling?
The large black pipes that are part of the fire sprinkler system are no longer visible in the lobby, but are still totally
exposed in the dining room. I don't mind these pipes: I see them as the saviors of the Inn. These conduits of water
were installed shortly before the fires of 1988 and are credited with snuffing out the embers that fell on the roof of the
Old Faithful Inn.
Does the new lobby flooring change the atmosphere?
The new hardwood flooring that covers the entire lobby and flows down two steps and a ramp into the dining room, is
lighter in color than the original. I was not alone in thinking that this blond wood is not as cozy as the much darker
original flooring. It seems too contemporary to me, but I was assured by a carpenter visiting the Inn that this new light
wood will darken with age. Let's hope!
Is more than one fireplace being used now?
No. In fact, none of the eight hearths are presently in use. The work on the roof and chimney is still progressing and it
is hoped that all eight of the openings will be functional by spring 2008. An interesting note: it is now believed the tiny
corner fireplaces may actually be fire starting boxes. Kindling was placed in the small openings and stoked to red hot
coals, whereupon a shovel was used to transfer the coals to one or more of the large fireplaces, igniting the logs into
a roaring inferno.
Thanks to Garrett Kent for this report on the progress of the Old Faithful Inn's restoration. Garrett stayed at the Inn
in late September and early October 2006, and took the time to write down these observations. He has been a
regular observer of the park and the Old Faithful Inn for the past 50 years, and remembers exploring the Inn with his
brother as a child just hours before the deadly earthquake of August 1959 shook the area, causing serious structural
damage to the Inn: damage that is only now being properly corrected in the course of these extensive renovations. To
add to his own observations, Garrett spoke with a cross section of workers and park staff familiar with the planning
and progress of the Inn's renovations, and has sent this report along with accompanying photos.
[Note that in early summer 2012 pine cribbing
was added around the flue pipe seen extending
from the roof in this picture, thus returning the
exterior closer to the original appearance.]