National Historic Landmark Designation
In April 2015, Lake Yellowstone Hotel was named a National Historic Landmark, joining some 2,500 other sites across the country. The designation is presented to sites that possess the highest level of historic significance. Although there are some 90,000 places on the National Register of Historic Places, less than three percent of those sites are designated landmarks. The Colonial Revival-style hotel is also part of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Known for its Colonial Revival architectural features such as large extended gables supported by 50-foot Ionic columns, Lake Yellowstone completed a two-year, $28-million renovation in 2014. The renovation placed an emphasis on sustainability — the hotel earned Green Seal certification — as well as authentically retaining the historic character of the hotel. The renovation included major structural enhancements as well as renovations to public areas, lobby, Sun Room, dining room, rooms and suites, corridors, hotel offices, delicatessen and registration area, along with the addition of a concierge desk, business center and bar.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel opened in 1891, 19 years after Yellowstone National Park became the world’s first national park. The hotel took two years to build at a cost of $46,000, and it was originally a simple three-story clapboard structure with 80 guest rooms.
In 1903 and 1904 famed architect Robert Reamer oversaw a $60,000 renovation and expansion project that increased the hotel’s room count to 210 and added dormer windows on the roof, false balconies to windows and decorative oval windows.
In 1919 a port cochere was added to the front of the hotel to accommodate automobiles which were allowed into the park beginning in 1915. In 1922 and 1923 Reamer oversaw the addition of the hotel’s East Wing featuring 113 rooms and 59 bathrooms. In 1923 the tile fireplace and drinking fountain were constructed. One of the hotel’s most dramatic developments occurred in 1928 when the Sun Room – called the “Reamer Lounge” by some people — was built facing Yellowstone Lake.
The Lake Yellowstone Hotel closed for extended periods three times in its history — 1918-19 during World War I, in 1932 during the Great Depression and 1942-46 during World War II. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s the concession operators at the time neglected the hotel and other park buildings. As a result, the National Park Service in 1979 purchased all assets in the park that belonged to the former Yellowstone Park Company, canceled the concessioner’s contract and issued a new contract to TWA Services.
TWA Services — eventually known as TW Recreational Service — spent $12.5 million over the next 10 years upgrading guest areas, back-of-the-house facilities, fire and safety systems, the foundation and other structural components. In 1995 Xanterra Parks and Resorts — then called Amfac Parks & Resorts — acquired TW Recreational Services.