History

 
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Stepping into the historic Union Pacific Dining Lodge is like stepping back in time. Built in 1925, the structure remains nearly identical to what hundreds of train passengers and diners would have seen every day. The natural logs and native rhyolite stone capture the true rustic spirit of West Yellowstone.

When the first Union Pacific train arrived in 1907, it arrived in a forest, void of human settlement. There were a few adventurous entrepreneurs who heard of the train’s anticipated arrival and made plans to have businesses to accommodate tourists for the following year. By 1908, the Union Pacific had built a temporary depot and several pioneer businesses had sprung up, including two general stores, a hotel, and a stagecoach company. The Union Pacific also built its first “beanery” for the West Yellowstone depot in 1908. The word “beanery” was commonly used in those days and referred to cheap eateries, especially railroad eating houses. The first beanery was a simple, wooden structure that did little to impress incoming guests.

By 1909, the Union Pacific had built a more substantial depot, which still stands today. Over the following years, several more buildings were added to what is now the Oregon Shortline Historic District. Tourists continued flooding into town via the Union Pacific Railroad and by the 1920’s, the early structures were no longer adequate. In 1922, a baggage building was erected to move baggage storage from the depot and allow for more restrooms and changing rooms. The same year, a rest pavilion was built next to the beanery to accommodate the overflow of diners waiting for tables. Even with the addition of a rest pavilion, the Union Pacific realized a new dining hall needed to be built.

In 1925, the Union Pacific hired architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood to design a new beanery that would not only feed hundreds of patrons at once, but also leave them with a lasting impression. Underwood was known for his incorporation of natural and native elements into his designs. This style, commonly known as National Park Service rustic, was common in and around national parks starting in the late nineteenth and throughout the early half of the twentieth century. The natural elements of the architecture allowed the buildings to blend in with their surroundings.

Underwood used rhyolite from nearby quarries and local timber for the new Dining Lodge. The inside consists of a large, open room lined with rhyolite stones and a roof supported by timber beams. At the far end of the hall is a massive, arrowhead-shaped fireplace, also made of rhyolite. Windows that stretch nearly the height of the building are located all along the south of the building, part of the north wall, and on either side of the fireplace at the west end, allowing for natural sunlight and views of the outdoors. The room was built to seat up to 350 diners at once. Fearing this still would not be enough, the former rest pavilion was rotated 90 degrees, enclosed, and attached to the east end of the new structure to serve as a waiting area.

In 1960, the Union Pacific ended passenger service into West Yellowstone due to years of decline in travel by rail. At this time, the Dining Lodge was no longer needed and closed. In 1966, when West Yellowstone was officially incorporated the Union Pacific deeded their abandoned structures to the Town of West Yellowstone. Since then, the building has been used for a variety of purposes, including housing the Public Library from 1981 until 2007. Today, it is used as an event center, serving as a venue for weddings, gatherings, celebrations, and more. The main room, known as the Mammoth Room, and the former waiting area, known as the Firehole Room, have been mostly untouched since 1925 and continue to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.

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