Renewing Historic Resources in Yellowstone National Park

By Hennebery Eddy

national park condition assessment
The Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. Building (1925)

Yellowstone National Park is renowned for its geysers, wildlife, and striking natural beauty — and it is home to almost 900 cultural resources, including numerous buildings with historical significance. For the past decade, Hennebery Eddy’s Historic Resources Group has been working with National Park Service officials and YNP concessioner Xanterra to preserve historically significant structures that are essential to the Yellowstone National Park experience. On March 1, 2022, Yellowstone National Park celebrates its 150th birthday.

The preservation work we do is meant to renew these historic resources with a focus on long-term, sustainable stewardship. Several of the historic utility structures, dormitories, and residences within the park continue to serve their original purpose. Other buildings have been repurposed to accommodate diverse and evolving needs. Rehabilitation efforts to provide structural, code, and systems upgrades, in addition to preservation of deteriorated character-defining building elements, are critical to the longevity and viability of the buildings.

One notable preservation effort in progress is the comprehensive condition assessments of two Yellowstone Park Transportation Company Buildings in Gardiner. Our Historic Resources Group assessed a 61,000-square-foot transportation building and 80,000-square-foot storage facility. Constructed in 1925, these Art Moderne concrete structures are a marked departure from the predominant Rustic Style found in the park and are a direct response to the modern age of the automobile. The buildings historically and currently serve as concessioner offices, operations, storage, and a vehicle service center. Historic Structure Reports and treatment recommendations were closely aligned with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and helped guide park officials in decision making.

The preservation work we do is meant to renew these historic resources with a focus on long-term, sustainable stewardship.

Our assessment work for the National Park  Service also includes 17 nationally significant buildings that comprise half of the structures in the Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark District and Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District. In the early years of the park, poaching and exploitation of natural resources were rampant until the U.S. Army was discharged to Mammoth Hot Springs in the 1880s to protect YNP’s resources and wildlife. During the next 20 years, the Army constructed multiple structures that became known as Fort Yellowstone. Today, this campus of buildings integral to the Park’s early survival serves as Yellowstone National Park headquarters and houses park officials and concessioner staff. Assessing these historic structures allows us to identify appropriate treatment alternatives for rehabilitation and long-term maintenance compatible with their historic character.

Other preservation efforts include work on the Nichols House, a single-family residence built in 1903 in Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Canyon Registration Building, constructed in the mid-1960s as part of the National Park Service’s “Mission 66” modernization initiative. These rehabilitations will each include roof replacements, address structural deficiencies, and repair exterior materials. We are also working with the park concessioners Yellowstone Park Service Stations on two dormitory upgrades at their Fishing Bridge and Canyon locations. These single-level, concrete structures, built in the late 1950s and ’60s respectively, are overdue for much-needed upgrades to house seasonal workers.

Yellowstone National Park is located less than 50 miles from our Bozeman office and often serves as a backdrop for our commute to work. It’s hard not to be inspired by the park’s raw natural beauty, its vast and rugged terrain, and incredible wildlife ecosystem. This inspiration challenges us to be better and to take responsibility for preserving our natural resources. We design using systems that keep our planet healthy and align with the conservation principles of the National Park Service. We cherish this breathtaking place and are humbled in our role in preserving these important pieces of history in our country’s first national park for future generations to enjoy.