Mountain Architecture: An Alternative Design Proposal
for the
Wy'East Day Lodge, Mount Hood Oregon

by Thomas P. Deering, Jr.


Yellowstone National Park

The impetus that brought about the establishment of Yellowstone as the world's first National Park (on March 1, 1872) was the protection of the natural "curiosities" and "wonders" for which it had become widely known, from acquisition by private speculators anticipating "the demands which tourists would make to see them." (32) Interest in Yellowstone National Park was intense, especially among the railroad companies "who hoped that Yellowstone would become a popular vacation mecca like Niagara Falls or Saratoga Springs with resulting profit to the only transportation line serving it." (33)

While the railroads were not allowed to operate within the confines of the park it was they who supplied the transportation to its perimeter. Eventually, through a bailout of the ailing Yellowstone Park Improvement Company, The Northern Pacific Railroad became the line responsible for the park's internal transportation and lodging concessions. The Northern Pacific had been involved in the promotion of the park's image since before its inception, but it was not until 1886, when it became the sole owner of the Yellowstone Park Improvement Company's replacement, the Yellowstone Park Association, that it was able to assert a direct influence over building decisions.

Old Faithful Inn

Several major hotels were built within Yellowstone National Park prior to 1900: the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (1883), the Lake Hotel (1889), and the Fountain Hotel (1891). These, along with numerous smaller lodging concessions, were the basis of multiple-day Grand Tours which began and ended at any one of the several railheads near the park. By the turn of the century the hotels themselves began to turn a profit and, in 1902, the Northern Pacific hired a young architect, Robert C. Reamer, to design a hotel for one of the park's more popular scenic attractions, the Old Faithful Geyser. A serious need for a "first-class hotel" near the geyser had been lamented by many of the wealthier tourists who at the time "either had to make the rough ten-mile trip from the Fountain Hotel or spend the night in one of a succession of disreputable lodges that were erected near the geyser." (34)

Reamer's design for the Old Faithful Inn marked a significant conceptual change of direction for hotels of monumental scale confronting a wilderness environment. He chose to adopt the Rustic style identified with the Adirondack Great Camps to emphasize the Inn's compatibility with the unique and compelling natural surroundings. The Old Faithful Inn was to complement the site, it was not intended as simply an end or destination in itself.

Old Faithful Inn was the largest public structure by far to be built in the rustic idiom. Although Reamer's reasons for turning to the Adirondack Rustic have not been specifically outlined, numerous published examples of rustic buildings had appeared by 1902 and some were undoubtedly familiar to him. It is not unlikely that to him those buildings truly appeared to be a product of the forest. The literal and illusory connection to nature was inherent, deeming the style ideally suited for an unassuming building intended to become a part of the forested park setting.

Figure 2.41: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1902. (Postcard, c.1907, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle)   Figure 2.42: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1902. Main Lobby. (Campbell, "Grand Hotels in the National Parks," p. 34)

The success of the Old Faithful Inn is largely attributable to its ability to keep the guests in constant contact with nature. It did not isolate them from the outside environment but served as a continual reminder of the rustic and wild National Park they had come so far to see. For example, the siting was such that upon arrival by coach or stage, (private cars were not allowed into the park until 1915) the guests were presented a direct view of the geyser from the porte-cochere (Figure 2.41).

Emphasis was to have been placed on viewing the geyser without the protection of the Inn's interior. Neither the guestrooms nor the Inn's lobby faced the geyser, thus, to experience the once-an-hour eruption, one was compelled to venture outside, beyond the intervening barriers of the building envelope. To further emphasize this, two exterior observation areas were designed as integral to the structure. The most popular formed the roof of the porte-cochere and the other was a thirteen by seventy-two foot railed platform along the Inn's ridge line (Figure 2.43). Access to this upper platform was by way of a labyrinth of open stairways winding their way up the inside of the lobby's eighty-five foot high interior. Reaching the platform required a significant climb, but was probably well worth the effort.

Figure 2.43: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1902. Main entry with porte-cochere and viewing platform addition. (Muench, Along Yellowstone and Grand Teton Trails, p. 46)   Figure 2.44: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1902, 1913, 1927. (McMillon, The Old Lodges and Hotels of our National Parks, p. 46)

Following the precedent of the Adirondack Camps, the original 1902 Inn was a singular structure "suggesting the romantic notion of a frontiersman's cabin enlarged to gigantic proportions." (35) Huge logs, originally left unpeeled, were assembled into an elaborate framework of columns, trusses, and brackets to enclose the sixty-four-foot square lobby (Figure 2.42). The enormous open space of the lobby is dominated by a proportionately massive stone fireplace; fourteen feet on each of its four sides and containing eight fireplace openings. Some five-hundred tons of local rhyolite was required for its construction.

Two additions, built in 1913 and 1927 (both by Reamer), do not share the rustic opulence of the original structure. However, the overall character of the pile has not been compromised. The entrance and lobby, both built in 1902, generate the deepest and most lasting impressions and, while the guestroom interiors of the most recent wing can be best described as anonymous "motel modern", the exteriors of both wings complement well the main portion's rustic intent.(36)

A 1959 earthquake significantly weakened the structure, forcing the closure of the upper reaches of the lobby, but the lower three balconies remained safe enough to be left open to guests.

Despite the damage, recent restoration efforts have assured preservation of the structure which introduced the Rustic Style into the National Parks. No other public building of its size was so lavishly rustic. The influence that Reamer's Old Faithful Inn had over building construction and design throughout the park system was substantial, both because of its adoption of the rustic style and its emphasis on the harmony between the building's form and its setting.

The Canyon Hotel

Figure 2.45: The Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1910-11. (Limerick, America's Grand Resort Hotels, p. 136)

Robert C. Reamer's other hotel at Yellowstone was very different from the Old Faithful Inn. Built near Yellowstone's Grand Canyon during the winter of 1910-11, the form of the Canyon Hotel was much more refined (Figure 2.45). It "recalled the work of members of Chicago's Prairie School or the wooden bungalows of West Coast architects like Charles and Henry Green." (37) Exquisite craftsmanship and careful joinery were found throughout. Sawn timbers stood in place of peeled logs and the fixtures, handrails and brackets of twisted branches were nowhere to be seen. The interiors showed a decided emphasis on the horizontal, a radical departure from the soaring lobby of the Old Faithful Inn.

Figure 2.46: The Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1910-11. Main lounge as seen from the sun parlor. (Limerick, America's Grand Resort Hotels, p. 136)   Figure 2.47: The Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone National Park. Robert C. Reamer, 1910-11. Stairway and musicians' stage at entrance end of main lounge. (Limerick, America's Grand Resort Hotels, p. 136)

The Canyon Hotel was also different from most other resort hotels in that Reamer decided to condense the many rooms normally dedicated to various independent social activities into one large lounge (Figure 2.46). cascading stairway, lead from the entrance lobby, past an intermediate landing suitable for use as a musician's stage, down to the lowest level, providing a dramatic introduction to one end of the lounge (Figure 2.47). The other end of the room, by contrast, "was almost entirely glazed and acted as a sun parlor." (38)

The large guestroom wings contained the dining room and service areas, with the lounge wing projecting perpendicularly from the center. A broad hipped roof, dotted with hipped dormers, covered the entire structure.

The powerful 1959 earthquake which damaged the Old Faithful Inn was not as forgiving to the Canyon Hotel. The structure suffered extensive damage eventually spelling its demise. Within the year, the decision was made to tear down the hotel rather than try to restore it although there is some indication that the motivation was due more to economics than safety, and the earthquake only provided a ready excuse to eliminate an unprofitable business venture.(39)

As one of the earliest western park hotels with a lodge-like atmosphere, the Canyon Hotel served Yellowstone National Park well in its earlier years. It was, in Reamer's words, "beautifully placed on its hillside site," and was built, "in keeping with the place where it stands." (40) With tourist visitation to the National Parks today reaching unforseen levels, hotels such as the Canyon are missed on the one hand for their accommodations, but more importantly for their inimitable and irreplaceable character.

Glacier National Park

As a National Park, Glacier owes its existence to the zealousness of one man, Louis W. Hill, and his railroad, the Great Northern. He recognized that by creating a park out of "some of the most moving and sublime scenery in America," the benefits to his railroad could be enormous.(41) But in contrast to his father, James J. Hill, his interest in Glacier National Park was not just to profit the Great Northern but also to conserve its natural splendors. The four major hotels eventually constructed to serve the park's visitors all saw the influence of the younger Hill's hand and reflect his attitude towards a sympathetic mountain aesthetic.

Glacier Park Lodge

The first of the four hotels erected by Hill, Glacier Park Lodge was actually built outside the park boundary but within walking distance of the Great Northern Railway terminus, on land purchased from the Blackfeet Indians. The main lodge opened in 1913, three years after establishment of the park, with a connecting one-hundred-eleven room annex in service a year later (Figure 2.48). The dining room, sixty-one of its own guestrooms, and the impressive lobby allowed the main section of the complex to be self sufficient during the first winter.

Figure 2.48: Glacier Park Lodge, and Annex, Glacier National Park. S. L. Bartlett, (42) 1912-15. The hotel is also called "the Big Trees Lodge". ("The Call of The Mountains," p. 11)

To many guests the most lasting impression of a visit to the lodge is of the great "forest" lobby (Figure 2.49). Louis Hill had seen the Forestry Building in Portland, Oregon a year earlier and asked a Chicago architect S. L. Bartlett to pattern the lodge at Glacier after it (Figure 2.50).(42) The similarity between the two buildings is striking, the Glacier Park Lodge emulates the Forestry Building with surprisingly few modifications.

Figure 2.49: Glacier Park Lodge, Glacier National Park. S. L. Bartlett,(42) 1912-15. The great "forest" lobby. (Limerick, America's Grand Resort Hotels, p. 138)   Figure 2.50: Forestry Building, Lewis and Clark Exposition, Portland, Oregon. Ion Lewis and A. E. Doyle of Whidden and Lewis, 1902. Interior "Nave" with colonnade of Doric tree-trunk columns. (Vaughan, Space Style and Structure, p. 318)

Figure 2.51: Forestry Building, Lewis and Clark Exposition, Portland, Oregon. Ion Lewis and A. E. Doyle of Whidden and Lewis, 1902. (Vaughan, Space Style and Structure, p. 318)   Figure 2.52: Forestry Building, Lewis and Clark Exposition, Portland, Oregon. Ion Lewis and A. E. Doyle of Whidden and Lewis, 1902. Sketch by Doyle: "View of end." (Vaughan, Space Style and Structure, p. 316)

"By far the most interesting and unique" building of Portland's 1905 Lewis and Clark exposition, the Forestry Building was touted to be "The Worlds Largest Log Cabin" and even a "Cathedral" by its promoters.(43) While it was a log cabin in construction and many of its details, the underlying intents were drawn from antiquity. The design was symmetrical, "basilica" in plan, and included two matching "transepts" at each end (Figures 2.51 and 2.52).(44) The skylighted "Nave" was rimmed by a colonnade of Doric columns executed in wood; each a massive, unpeeled, Douglas fir tree trunk several feet in diameter (Figure 2.50). Designed principally by Ion Lewis and his apprentice, A. E. Doyle of the Portland architectural firm, Whidden and Lewis, it was the only deviation at the exposition from the classical style considered proper for that genre of exhibitions at the turn of the century.

Figure 2.53: Glacier Park Lodge, Glacier National Park. S. L. Bartlett,(42) 1912-15. The hotel is also called "the Big Trees Lodge". ("The Call of The Mountains," p. 25)

The Forestry Building transplanted well to Glacier National Park. The massive log-cabin type construction of the body of the building was given over to more conventional methods, but the symmetrical basilica plan was retained (Figure 2.53). Ionic capitals appeared on the Doric columns but otherwise the Glacier Park Lodge lobby is nearly an exact replica of the Forestry Building. In fact the trees required for the columns had to be imported from the Pacific Northwest as none sufficiently large were available from within the park.

Lake McDonald Lodge

Figure 2.54: Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park. Cutter and Malgram, 1913-14. (McMillon, The Old Lodges and Hotels of our National Parks, p. 38g)

Also based on the Portland Forestry Building but smaller and more intimate than the Glacier Park Hotel, is the lodge at Lake McDonald. It was built on the site of the Snyder Hotel, the first hotel on the Glacier Park area (Figure 2.54). Lake McDonald itself is the largest and most accessible lake in the park and has been subject to commercial development since the 1880s. It supported many small resorts, especially after the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1891.

The Snyder hotel was built in 1895, sold to J. E. Lewis in 1906, who later substantially enlarged it during the winter of 1913-14. Lewis employed the Spokane firm of Cutter and Malmgram to prepare the design which he renamed the Lewis Hotel.(45) Louis Hill took over its operation in 1930 and gave it its present name.

Construction of the Lewis' hotel followed closely that of the Glacier Park Lodge but there is no indication that the similarity of the two designs was intentional. The Lake McDonald Lodge may have simply relied upon the same source for its inspiration. The architects also drew from a broader vocabulary, as stylistic reference to the Swiss alpine chalet are present, yet carefully restrained, giving it a comfortable, less formal appearance.

The Lodge's intimacy is unique among the Glacier Park hotels. Even rising a full three stories, the lobby gives a sense of containment and comfort not found in the monumentality of the other structures. The feeling is more that of a private hunting lodge.(46)

In contrast to the lobby, whose focus is directed inwardly, the diningroom and verandahs consciously extend their views in the opposite direction, towards the lake and distant peaks. Lake McDonald Lodge offers the visitor both the protection and isolation of an intimate retreat and the opportunity to experience the spectacular, unobstructed views of the surrounding park.

Many Glacier Hotel

Figure 2.55: Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, 1915-17. "The showplace of the Rockies along Swiftcurrent lake." ("The Call of The Mountains," p. II-19)

Described by Hill as "the Showplace of the Rockies" upon its completion in 1915, Many Glacier Hotel is surrounded by some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the park (Figure 2.55). Including the 1917 annex, the hotel hugs 900 feet of shore along Swiftcurrent Lake, the longest of four glacially carved lakes extending from the hotel to Swiftcurrent pass.(47)

The largest of Hill's hotels, Many Glacier is the most remote, or at least was at the time of construction. The nearest railhead was fifty miles distant and the road which had been laid to the site was graded but as yet unsurfaced. Transporting the construction machinery and materials, including those required for the temporary saw mill, planing mill and kiln, nearly destroyed the road. In addition, the huge timbers imported from Oregon and Washington had to be skidded the full length of the road from East Glacier.

As with the other Glacier Park hotels, Many Glacier features an open, airy, full length lobby rising through all four stories to a truss supported roof. The main fireplace is simple but unusual, consisting of a large, square, raised hearth, centered in the west end of the lobby with a copper hood and flue suspended above it.

Figure 2.56: Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, 1915-17. Main entry with Mount Wilbur in the background. ("The Call of The Mountains," p. II-22)   Figure 2.57: Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, 1915-17. View from Swiftcurrent lake. (McMillon, The Old Lodges and Hotels of our National Parks, p. 38i)

A modified alpine style now dominates the hotel since the original Indian motifs have been completely eliminated. Although the scale and immense rambling form are hardly in the manner of a Swiss chalet, the broad gable-hipped roof and carved window trim are appropriately derivative (Figure 2.56), as are the tiers of balconies and the stone understory visible from the lake (Figure 2.57). On the interior, the association with the Swiss alpine has been carried so far that "shields of Swiss cantons decorate the doors of the rooms and the staff dresses in lederhosen and dirndls" (48) The Many Glacier hotel is befitting of its alp-like setting in all aspects of its design--its plastic yet continuous and cohesive form, its grand scale, and its conscious cultural derivations.

Prince-of-Wales Hotel

This hotel is the last of the series built by Louis Hill (Figure 2.58). It is not located in Glacier park proper but in Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park. The two parks together combine to form the million-acre Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Figure 2.58: Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, 1926-27. Cover of "The Call of The Mountains: Vacations in Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park," published by the Great Northern Railroad.   Figure 2.59: Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, 1926-27. View south towards the U. S. and Glacier National Park. (Scharff, Canada's Mountain National Parks, p. 37).

The Prince-of-Wales hotel, named after the future Edward VII, sits resolutely on a 100 foot promontory overlooking Waterton Lake, commanding a southerly view toward the international border and the broken topped peaks of the continental divide.(49) (Figure 2.59)

Figure 2.60: Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, 1926-27. (McMillon, The Old Lodges and Hotels of our National Parks, p. 38i)

Hill's preliminary plans for the hotel called for a 200 room lodge similar in design to the Many Glacier hotel, but indecision and the ravaging effects of winter weather during the construction period lead to numerous and substantial design changes. The outcome of Hill's haphazard planning is a successful farrago of styles: the Swiss alpine chalet, whose more literal interpretation than is seen at the Many Glacier Hotel is reflected in the oversized brackets and illusion of projecting upper stories; the Stick and Queen Anne styles, responsible for the hotel's tower, modest tracery, and possibly the steep, slightly flared roof; and, finally, the fact that it stands on Canadian soil may have lead Hill to adopt the flat gabled dormers characteristic of the Chateau style designs at Banff (Figure 2.60).

Little is remnant of the original scheme paralleling the Many Glacier design, with the possible exception of the over-all vertical configuration: a smoothly rusticated ground level with several (seven instead of five) floors of guest rooms above. The interior also shows more refinement than the other hotels in the park by its use of wallpaper and sawn square columns and meticulous attention to finish detail.

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Master of Architecture Thesis
(M. Arch - University of Washington - 1986)

Extensive copying of this thesis is allowable only for scholarly purposes,
consistent with "fair use" as described in the U.S. Copyright Law.
Any other reproduction for any purpose or by any means
shall not be allowed without my written permission.

Copyright 1986 © Thomas P. Deering, Jr.