Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District

Members of the cavalry ride horses in front of a sturdy stone building
Albright Visitor Center, part of the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District and Fort Yellowstone Historic Landmark District, housed the first “information office” (visitor center).

NPS

 

The Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District includes Fort Yellowstone, where 35 structures remain from the 1890s and early 1900s when the US Army administered the park. Significant conservation policies were developed here that led to the origin of the National Park Service. The Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District has statewide significance as the administrative and concession headquarters of the largest national park in Wyoming. Fort Yellowstone is also listed as a National Historic Landmark District, the highest designation.

 
Three children in winter clothes stand in front of a two-story log cabin
The mail carrier’s house, built in 1895, at an unknown date.

NPS

Mail Carrier’s Cabin, 1800s

The origins of the building at the edge of Fort Yellowstone that became known as the mail carrier’s house are a matter of debate, but it is significant as the only 1800s log structure still standing in Mammoth Hot Springs. Its rustic style is more typical of construction of the area and time than are the buildings put up by the US Army for Fort Yellowstone. It was probably built in the mid-1890s, and over the years it has provided quarters for mail carriers as well as employees of concessions and the National Park Service.

History

When mail delivery was not yet provided in rural areas, mail carriers delivered the mail from railroad distribution points to post offices, where people traveled, often from many miles away, to pick up their mail, their only link to the rest of the world. In the 1800s, a mail carrier was contracted to transport mail from the railroad station in Livingston, Montana, to Mammoth Hot Springs and then to Cooke City, Montana, before returning to Livingston, a trip of several days’ duration.

 
A two-story log cabin with porch and elk skull below the roof peak
The mail carrier's house, show in 2009.

NPS

The cabin was either built by or later sold to an early park concession, the Yellowstone Park Association. A lean-to with a shed roof was built onto the back of the two-room structure in about 1903 to serve as a kitchen and dining area. In the 1930s, a mudroom and bathroom were added to the north side of the building, bringing the total square footage to 512. In the early 2000s, removal of the insulation added to the walls and ceilings in the 1930s exposed a layer of newspapers beneath, announcing the 1903 flight of the Wright Brothers at Kittyhawk.

In 1972, the building, then owned by a park concessioner, was “in a state of general deterioration.” Historic structure experts recommended that the vacant house be demolished because they doubted that it “could serve any useful function” that would justify the “great cost” of restoration. However, the house was listed on the National Register in 1982. Despite the building’s poor condition, it continued to house park staff for another two decades.

 
Two rock bears flank an entrance to building with several stairs
The two 3-ton bears at the post office entrance were added in 1941 and commissioned by the Federal Works Agency to enhance federal buildings with artwork. Gladys Caldwell Fisher sculpted the cubs from Indiana limestone based on her observations of grizzly bears at one of the feeding grounds.

NPS

Mammoth Post Office, 1938

Yellowstone’s main post office was one of 1,007 post offices constructed from 1935 to 1938 “with a view to relieving countrywide unemployment.” Using standardized plans developed from guidelines provided by the Treasury Department, these post offices were built in sizes and styles that reflect transitions in architectural design and the context of the communities in which the offices were located. The Yellowstone Post Office is a concrete building with a hipped roof in the French Renaissance Moderne style, compatible with the Art Moderne style ornament on the nearby Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, which was partially rebuilt in 1936. The post office lobby has walls of travertine from a quarry outside the park’s north entrance.

Current Status

The Yellowstone post office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 with 11 other Wyoming post offices built from 1908 to 1939. The buildings were said to “record the evolution of both the political/economic philosophies and the design philosophies of the federal government” during a period when building design was used “to provide a symbol of the monumental presence of the federal government in its post offices.”

 
Two horses attached to a wagon beneath an arch made of stone
The Roosevelt Arch, pictured here on a Haynes postcard.

NPS / Haynes

Roosevelt Arch, 1903

The road (five miles in length) from the park’s boundary at Gardiner, Montana, to its headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, was built in 1884. The arch constructed over the road became known as Roosevelt Arch because President Theodore Roosevelt, who happened to be vacationing in the park, spoke at the ceremony to lay the cornerstone in 1903. The plaque on the arch is inscribed with a phrase from the legislation that established Yellowstone National Park: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Today it would be considered inappropriate to embellish the park’s landscape with such a conspicuous, non-functional structure, but Roosevelt Arch continues to serve as a historical marker for a time when cultural values called for a monumental entrance to Yellowstone.

The Roosevelt Arch is in the North Entrance Road Historic District and is part of the Fort Yellowstone Historic Landmark District. The structure was conceived by US Engineer Hiram Chittenden; Robert Reamer may have contributed to the design, and architect N.J. Ness also worked on it.

 

Last updated: June 15, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381

Contact Us