Essential Friends + Gateways: Preserving Wonderland, The Yellowstone Park Foundation

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Great Fountain Geyser, Deby Dixon photo.

“The Haynes Studios have experienced photographers, prepared at all times to photograph stage parties, groups and individuals at the chief points of interest in the Park. The photographs are made on the finest paper and are put in artistic folders, making very desirable souvenirs.” — Haynes Official Guide, Yellowstone National, 1914

Photographs capture a place in time, one that might remain untouched for our lifetimes, or which is altered by the passage of time along with natural and human events. The rich photographic history of Yellowstone National Park frames the early explorations that led to the park’s designation, the hardships and adventures of early parkgoers, and more recent settings reflective of both the park’s growth and that of our changing recreational habits.

A broad swath of that history can be seen at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana, where approximately 90,000 photographic prints and negatives have been collected.

While relatively few visitors see and enjoy those collections, that’s about to change. Through the good work of the Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF), a few of those images will be on display daily to park visitors in the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop. This beautiful log structure dates to 1927, when Jack Ellis Haynes received permission to build the structure for his photographic and postcard business.

More recently, the building has been used for a variety of purposes, including staff housing and storage. The Yellowstone Park Foundation, through a $4 million campaign, has been refurbishing the shop to make way for exhibits celebrating both the work of Frank and Jack Haynes as well as some of the many photographs currently stored in the Heritage and Research Center.

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The photo shop building received a front porch addition after being moved to its permanent location at the Old Faithful complex. Tom Porter photo via Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Part of the job required a redesign of the building’s interior, which was done with an eye toward restoring its historic character as well as making it environmentally sustainable, enough so to land a LEED certification. Such a designation would make the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop the only LEED-certified historic building in the National Park System outside of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California.

The photo shop, which is reopening this summer, is just one unique aspect of the Old Faithful Area Historic District. Other remarkable buildings there include the Old Faithful Inn, of course, as well as its companion Old Faithful Lodge, the Lower Hamilton Store, the Nez Perce Creek Wayside, and the Howard Eaton Trail.

YPF’s efforts to see the photo shop restored and reopened for visitors’ enjoyment is just one aspect of the organization’s efforts in the historic district. The non-profit also has underwritten the rehabilitation of the Lower Hamilton Store’s “Million Dollar Room,” an office whose walls are covered with canceled checks stemming from Hamilton Store transactions totaling nearly $2 million. The room once was the office of Charles A. Hamilton, who played a significant role in the development of concessions in Yellowstone.

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The interior of the Haynes Photo Shop was completely redesigned and upgraded to become the second LEED-certified historic building in the National Park System. Tom Porter photo via Yellowstone Park Foundation.

These are just some recent examples of how the Yellowstone Park Foundation has come to the rescue of park resources. In the past the organization created a half-million-dollar fund to help park staff preserve several million rare items in its museum collection, items such as a Thomas Moran sketch journal, one-of-a-kind maps, biological specimens, and prehistoric tools found in the park. And, of course, it also played a key role in underwriting the Old Faithful Visitors Education Center with a $15 million campaign.

As federal budget dollars become more and more scarce, the determined and dedicated efforts of the Yellowstone Park Foundation become ever so vital to the park’s future.

Coming Sunday: West Yellowstone, Montana, A Gateway Town Worth Hanging Around