Old Yellowstone: Mammoth Hotel

Of every hotel in Yellowstone National Park, Mammoth has undergone the most changes over time, in both shape and name.

In fact, the many names of the hotel over the years illustrate the changes in focus at the site:

• National Hotel (1883-1904) • Mammoth Hotel (1904-36) • Mammoth Springs Hotel and Cottages (1939-65) • Mammoth Motor Inn (1966-77) • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins (1977-Present)

Mammoth Hotel - museum # YELL 13742; Postcard by Bloom Brothers Co; No date

It was the first “grand hotel” to be built within Yellowstone National Park. The construction process also marked one of the most interesting incidents in Yellowstone’s early history: the collapse of the “Yellowstone Park Improvement Company,” which (according to Paul Schullery in Searching for Yellowstone) all but vied to control the Park by renting whole square mile tracts throughout Yellowstone, hoping to extract rent, timber, and other gains. But according to Schullery, in building the National Hotel, they overexerted themselves. From Searching for Yellowstone:

The public, politicians, and scientists protested [the YPIC’s demands], but the outcry did not stop the YPIC from constructing the first of the several huge hotels that would eventually appear in the park. This was the National Hotel at Mammoth, four stories high and more than 400 feet long. Laborers worked through the winter of 1882-83, using local lumber (the stumps are still visible on the lower slopes of Terrace Mountain to the southwest) and living on game from the park. They completed enough of the giant building for the hotel to open for the summer. But when the YPIC could not pay them, the builders staged a sit-in (still living on park game) in an unsuccessful attempt to force their employer to pay their back wages. Instead the YPIC went bankrupt, and the National Hotel ended up in the hands of the [Northern Pacific Railroad].

Indeed, for a while, the National Hotel was one of the “big four” in Yellowstone, along with Lake Hotel, the Old Faithful Inn, and Canyon Hotel.

But it was also the first “grand Yellowstone hotel” to go. It was dramatically scaled back between 1911-13, with crews removing the fourth floor and flattening the roof (as you can see in the postcard above). A North Wing was added right of the main building. In 1936, most of the old National was torn down, with the exception of the North Wing, which was integrated into the new building. Some of the original hotel foundations went into the new dining room built across the way.

mammoth hot springs hotel map room

By then, of course, the railroad and stagecoach culture had given way to motorists. A new complex of cabins, designed by Robert Reamer, was built between 1937-38. Reamer also designed the 15-wood map that currently graces the Map Room (shown above). Subsequently, the hotel became Mammoth Springs Hotel & Cottages. And with the advent of Mission 66 in the late 50s, going on, it became known as the Mammoth Motor Inn. Today, of course, it’s known as the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.

Today, visiting Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins is much the same as visiting it in 1966—or 1939 even. The Dining Room is still separate from the main hotel building, but it’s just a short walk away.

About Courtney Ward-Reichard

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