The National Park Inn

National Park Inn June, 2017
Front porch of the National Park Inn at Longmire. June, 2017.

NPS/A. Spillane Photo

Sitting on the front porch of the National Park Inn, staring up at Mount Rainier, you could almost imagine that you were back in the early 1900s. It feels like few things have altered since then, but this simple, rustic building conceals the many changes of its history. The Inn we see today was not the first or even second building constructed in Longmire for hotel lodging.
Black and white image of Longmire Springs Hotel built by the Longmire family in the 1890s.
Longmire Springs Hotel with Mount Rainier in the background circa 1910s.

NPS Photo

James Longmire built the first accommodations across the street, about where the Trail of Shadows is now, as a health resort. His guest cabins were open for business by 1889, and with help from his family, James added a simple, rustic, two-story hotel. Over the years, his son, Elcaine, added on to the hotel as well as built bath houses, barns and more. He called the expanded hotel the Longmire Springs Hotel but kept the informal, family atmosphere.
Black and white image of the north side of the first National Park Inn.
The first National Park Inn built in 1906 lasted until 1926 when it burned down.

NPS Image

Because the Longmires built on land they patented as a mining claim, the newly formed park management could say little about how the hotel looked or was run. Over the years, there were arguments about appearances and operations so the park offered to buy the land and buildings in 1902. The Longmires refused. To introduce competition, the park leased land across the road from the Longmires to the Tacoma & Eastern Railroad Company so they could build a new hotel, the National Park Inn. The new, second, and more elegant hotel opened in 1906.
After Elcaine Longmire’s death, the Longmire family leased their land and buildings to the Longmire Springs Hotel Company starting in 1916. This company constructed a number of new buildings, including the two-story Inn Annex in the meadow across the road from the National Park Inn. That same year in 1916, the Rainier National Park Company (RNPC) formed, began construction on the Paradise Inn, and started buying buildings in Longmire. The RNPC soon purchased the Longmire Springs Hotel, the Inn Annex and the National Park Inn. They moved the Inn Annex across the road so it sat east of the National Park Inn and clubhouse, and dismantled the old Longmire Springs Hotel.
First National Park Inn built by Tacoma & Eastern Railroad Company.
The first National Park Inn (right) and Annex (left) in the early 1920s.

NPS Photo

The National Park Inn and Annex were run as one hotel until 1926 when the original National Park Inn burned down, leaving the clubhouse and Annex. The Annex soon became known as the National Park Inn. Other changes were happening too. After lab tests confirmed the mineral springs were not medicinal, the RNPC stopped advertising the Longmire hotel as a health resort. The National Park Service eventually bought out the Longmires in 1939. Today, when strolling through the area, little remains of their health resort except the stonework around a few springs and the reconstructed cabin where Elcaine Longmire’s cabin once stood. All that remains of the hotels is the Annex, now the National Park Inn, which started life across the road. The clubhouse, the oldest building in Longmire, is now the gift shop next to the National Park Inn. Visiting Longmire today, it’s sometimes hard to imagine the many changes that have happened here.
For more information on services, attractions and hiking trails at Longmire, click here.

Resources:
Wonderland: An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park by Theodore Catton. May 1996.
Archaeology and History in the Nisqually River Corridor by Greg C. Burtchard Jacqueline Y. Cheung Eric B. Gleason. July 2008.