A Little Bit of Architecture: The Phone Booth at McGraw Ranch

Composed primarily of stunning wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park is not particularly known for its historical architecture. A few outstanding public buildings have survived - a visitor center designed by the team of Frank Lloyd Wright's students, the William Allen White cabin, and several others. But unlike some other large western parks—Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier—Rocky contains relatively few historically significant public structures.

There are some, though. One such, a bit of whimsical attention to detail, is the old privy that served those who lived on the McGraw Ranch, now the site of the park's research facility. Who had the time on his or her hands to create this amazing amalgam of Victorian Stick architecture and western rustic, we may never know.

It is thought that the structure was built circa 1884. Euphemistically called "the phone booth," because it later served as one, the two-holer was repaired as part of the work that preserved and rehabilitated the ranch for research use.

Locally there are a number of examples of the style, called Rocky Mountain Stick architecture by some. Like its larger analogues, such as Mary's Lake Lodge in Estes Park, Grand Lake Lodge on the western side of the park, and the Mark Twain home in Connecticut, this humble example of stick style features an abundance of ornamental posts, wall-surface stick work, and decorated gables.

The "phone booth" is a tiny example of western rustic and Victorian stick architecture, both of which flourished in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when many of the great western inns and lodges were built.

This little haven may be the least of all historical structures, but it is certainly not the least interesting.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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