Among the first hotels to be built in Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone Lake Hotel has endured where others from the same period (the Fountain Hotel, several Norris hotels, Mammoth’s National and Cottage Hotels) have not.
Since its completion in 1891 visitors as well as Park authorities have held Lake in high esteem. Consider, for instance, what the 1898 Haynes Guide has to say about the Hotel:
This spacious and elegantly appointed hotel tends greatly toward making Yellowstone Lake the resort, par excellence, of the Park. Here everything is so arranged that guests can spend the entire season, if they so desire, making short, easy trips of sightseeing or explorations to all points of the great reserve.
High praise. However, since that estimation, Yellowstone Lake Hotel has undergone several important changes, most importantly in 1903. Architect Robert C. Reamer, responsible for the design of the Old Faithful Inn, was called in to revamp the hotel, inside and out. Reamer is responsible for many of the exterior’s hallmarks: gables, Ionic columns, its sunny canary yellow walls and white trim. He also opened up the dining room, kitchen and lobby. Interestingly, Reamer also removed chimneys and fireplaces from the Hotel. The colonial-style exterior additions resulted in the use of the ban Lake Colonial Hotel in this period.
Further expansions occurred in 1928: 1) a two-story West wing went in, expanding both lodging accommodations and the dining room and 2) a solarium or “Sun Room,” which is today an eminently popular and relaxing space.
Since its inception, the hotel has undergone a few renovations. One renovation, begun in 1979 and finished by 1991, downsized the hotel a bit, but restored some of its luster. Enough luster, in fact, that in 1991 (coincidentally, Lake Hotel’s centennial) the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Most recently, the Yellowstone Lake Hotel has undergone a substantive renovation, which ended in June 2014, in time for the hotel’s 125th anniversary in 2016. 153 rooms, including the presidential suite, were renovated, along with the reservation/bell desk, lobby, Sun Room, dining room, bar, deli and numerous corridors. New furnishings were added. Four more suites were built. Doors and windows were restored and/or replaced. Most interestingly, an impressively ornate fireplace was restored, after being covered for decades.
In contrast to the Old Faithful Inn, the Yellowstone Lake Hotel would not be out of place in say Europe, where resorts (traditionally) marked their presence in the landscape with their elegant difference, couched by some alpine lake or nestled among mountains. It invites you to admire the beauty of Lake Yellowstone and its surrounding scenery, of course, but it also invites you to recline in the Sun Room, perhaps with a glass of water steeped with citrus or a drink from the restored bar. It invites you to eat well in its spacious dining room. It invites you to relax in its rooms—in fact, every room, from the standards to the presidential suite, come with plush terry bathrobes.
It’s a long way from the rustic feel of the Old Faithful Inn, and worlds away from the untrammeled nature of Yellowstone, but the Yellowstone Lake Hotel offers a richly historic experience for visitors: resorting in the wilderness.