Take A Walking Tour Through Menor’s Ferry Historic District

A visit to Menor’s Ferry Historic District opens a window on Jackson Hole life as it existed in the late 1880’s.  Site of a once vibrant commercial enterprise, this piece of touchable history witnessed the spark of conservation which led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park and protection of Jackson Hole.  Some visitors leave touched with the inspiration that the struggle for conservation continues even today.

Menor1

William D. Menor arrived in the valley known as Jackson Hole in 1894.  Settling on the bank of the Snake River, he found farming to be a difficult way to make a living.  He put to work to design and construct a ferry which became a vital river crossing for early settlers to the valley.  A simple platform was set on two pontoons.  A cable system was stretched across the river that kept the craft from floating down river yet let it move sideways, powered by the current, to the opposite river bank.  Early fees charged were 25¢ for a rider and horse and 50¢ for a wagon and team of horses.  Menor built a bridge for winter crossings and dismantling it each spring.

menor 2

Menor sold out to Maude Noble in 1918.  She doubled the fares, hoping to earn a living from the growing number of tourists traveling to the valley.  Nobel charged $1 for local autos and $2 for out of state vehicles.  She moved her three room cabin to the property shortly after purchasing the business and took up permanent residence.  She continued to ferry an increasing number of visitors and even opened a store called the Ferry Ranch Store.

As Jackson Hole continued to develop, concerns turned to conversations until one evening in 1923, a group of local residents met with Horace Albright, then superintendent of Yellowstone National Park.  The meeting place was Maude Noble’s cabin and the conversation centered around how to protect the “Old West” character of the valley.   Albright was an ardent conservationist who had witnessed the Owens River completely diverted for supply Los Angeles with water.  He understood the issues.

menor3

In 1926, Superintendent Albright met John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and aroused his interest in saving the valley.  Rockefeller described the Tetons as “quite the grandest and most spectacular mountains I have ever seen.”  The seed was planted for a lengthy struggle.

Mr. Rockefeller’s Snake River Land Company began to acquire property in the valley.  Meanwhile, Congress established Grand Teton National Park in 1929 – just the Teton Range and some of the glacial lakes at the foot of the mountains.  In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Jackson Hole National Monument consisting of federal lands in the valley.  In 1949, Rockefeller donated over 32,000 acres and combined with the National Monument, Congress established the present Park in 1950.

menor 4

Bill Menor’s three room cabin stands as a living display of his early commercial enterprise.  A replica of his ferry is on display and occasionally operates, ferrying visitors across the Snake River.  The Transportation Shed houses a collection of early wagons and coaches representing frontier transportation.  The Chapel of the Transfiguration sits on land donated by Maude Noble and is still operated by St. Johns Episcopal Church in Jackson.  And finally, Maude Noble’s Cabin still stands as an iconic reminder of the decade’s long struggle for conservation of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range.  On display are wonderful photographs of early life in Jackson Hole and correspondences between Mr. Rockefeller and Congress.

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Be sure to take time during your visit to tour Menor’s Ferry Historic Center, one of the Park’s best pieces of touchable history.  Perhaps you will touched with a thought that the struggle for conservation continues today.  Through understanding comes appreciation and through appreciation comes protection.

Take advantage of Grand Teton Lodge Company’s Give and Getaway Program on September 22-23, 2009 and enjoy a private interpretive tour of the Menor’s Ferry Historic District along with the opportunity to participate in the removal of a mile of fence line to improve wildlife migration in Grand Teton National Park.  For more information on this program please call 800-628-9988.  Rates start at $120 per room at Jackson Lake Lodge.

From Don’s Corner
All images were taken by Don Wells

GTLC Fun Facts II

Grand Teton Lodge Company was started by the Rockefeller family.

Our employees represent all 50 states  and may have worked for us for decades.  Our longest employee worked for us 52 years on a seasonal basis each summer!

The US/Russia Peace Talks of 1989 were held at Jackson Lake Lodge.

We make nearly 30 gallons of homemade ice cream every day.

The Ranch House Restaurant was developed at Colter Bay to honor the many original dude ranches of the Jackson Hole area where our log cabins originally came from prior to being relocated to Colter Bay.

We have a private meal-site on the banks of the Snake River just under the Snake River Overlook where Ansel Adams took his famous photo of Grand Teton National Park.  Join us for dinner throughout the week and then float a 10 mile section of the river with our guides.

Our staff created the artwork and details for our kid’s coloring book called the Wildwalk Passport…ask for one at the Front Desk.

Between all our operations we employ nearly 1,000 people each summer…approximately 49% of which are returning employees.

Colter Bay Marina is the only location on Jackson Lake where boat slips can be reserved….get your name in now…there is currently a 15 year waiting list!

We hope you enjoy learning a few fun facts about our operations.  If you know of more we’d welcome learning of them, so feel free to make a comment!

Jackson Lake Lodge Walking Tour

I’ve recently noticed a bronze plaque that stands right outside the portico of Jackson Lake Lodge.  It celebrates the buildings claim to being a historic buliding.  It got me thinking about how little I know about the history of my new home as I am an employee of Jackson Lake Lodge.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a Historic Walking tour of the Lodge that didn’t require me to meet at a certain time or place, instead I just had to pick up a guide at the Activities Desk and get to walking. 

The tour begins right inside the front door in the lower lobby.  The phone booths, Arts for the Parks paintings and the staircase are some of the highlights of this space.  But my favorite tidbit was about the Indian Dress behind the Front Desk.  Did you know that it is an original dress that was used for parade or pow-wow purposes? Apparently, at one time it hung in the Stockade Bar, until it was stolen by some wranglers who cut it in half.  You can see where they stitched it back together right across the bust line.    Indian Dress

 From here we head upstairs to the Upper Lobby.  Of course the first thing you notice about this room is the amazing view!  The windows are 36 feet high and 60 feet wide and look out over Willow Flats, Jackson Lake, the Dam and the Tetons themselves.   

windows

When you finally stop looking at the view, the tour takes you into the Mural Dining Room where you are able to check out the Rendezvous Murals.  Carl Roters painted the two murals at the request of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. not long after the hotel opened.  It took him two years to paint the ten panels that span two walls and make two complete murals. All together they total nearly 80 feet and they depict the events and people who participated in the 1837 Rendezvous.

murals

 The next stop on the tour is the Pioneer Grill.  This place is great as it feels like something you would find in an old movie.  I feel like I should have a poodle skirt on as I order my huckleberry shake and sit in the swivel stools at the counter. 

 Pioneer Grill Server

Apparently this room is the same as it was back at the opening of the building in 1955.  Snaking throughout the room is one large, continuous counter and it is rumored to be the longest in the US.  Even if you don’t stop for a bite or drink, definitely check out the pictures on the wall and the items over the kitchen!

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 After my little snack, I then headed back out to the lobby where I checked out the giant fireplaces (seriously I would be able to walk into them unhindered!), the old Stockade Bar (now a gift shop) and the Peace Table.  Interesting fact about this table is that it was an old door that they took off the hinges and made into a table to host the 1989 Baker-Shevardnadze peace talks between Russia and the US.  Talk about a doorway to peace!  peaceOn my way back to the Main Lobby I went down the “Historic Hallway.”  This display is pretty cool because there are all sorts of old photographs and documents about the history of the park and area.  Definitely something to check out!  

Finding myself back in the lobby, I actually take the time to check out the other displays.  There are several islands with Indian artifacts, as well as a stuffed grizzly bear and trumpeter swan.  I never realized how large these two species are!    I also took the time to look up at the ‘wooden’ beams above, which aren’t actually wood but reinforced concrete that were stained to look like wood.  You couldn’t tell by looking at this building, but it is made almost completely of concrete!

 

 The last stop inside the building is at the Blue Heron Lounge.  This bar was one of the few additions to the building when it replaced the Stockade Bar.  Here is the place to go if you want a drink and to take in a great view!   The decorations in here are quite cool too and include various Indian artifacts like headdresses and moccasins.  You’ll also find the only television at Jackson Lake Lodge and a painting called “The Trapper’s Bride” by Charles Banks Wilson. 
 
From here there are several outdoor activities you can do ~

Lunch tree

 You can head up Lunch Tree Hill and check out the view that is said to have inspired a legacy or…

You could head out to the corrals to check out some of the vintage buses.

I did a bit of both and would definitely recommend doing this tour yourself as I learned so much about this remarkable place!

From Melissa’s Corner

A Walking History of Colter Bay Village

 
A Colter Bay Cabin
A Colter Bay Cabin

An historic walk through Colter Bay Village with Grand Teton Lodge Company Historian Mary McKinney is a fascinating walk back through time.  Listen how the valley began to develop and dude ranches dotted the landscape.  Hear how John D. Rockefeller Jr’s vision and generosity assisted in preserving this wonderful landscape.  Compare the differences of how these early dude cabins were constructed and with what unusual materials.  Laugh at how our housekeeping cabins were once “Chic Sales”.      

Colter Bay Village actually represents an eclectic collection of cabins from various sites around Jackson Hole. The cabins at Colter Bay serve as a window into the past, giving guests the chance to experience a bit of history during their stay. Though the cabins have been modified to accommodate plumbing and electrical needs, they have been restored and maintained to reflect as close a representation of their original construction as is possible. Many of the cabins were constructed in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but some date back to the late 1800’s. 

As tourism in Jackson Hole began to flourish in the early 1900’s, accommodations began to sprout up all over the valley. The result of this influx of tourists was the beginning of dude ranches in Jackson Hole.   A typical dude ranch was composed of a central building surrounded by many smaller guest cabins.   The largest of these resorts was the Teton Lodges at Moran, located at the site of the old town of Moran below Jackson Lake Dam. 

As one of the driving forces behind conserving Jackson Hole, John D. Rockefeller Jr. had bought thousands of acres of property with the intent of donating it as part of a national park. When Grand Teton National Park was expanded in 1950 with Rockefeller’s donation of 34,000 acres, it became apparent that guest accommodations in the park were inadequate. With funding from Rockefeller, the park service began to develop new visitor facilities and remove older resorts as they wanted to restore much of the park to its natural state. After the completion of the new Jackson Lake Lodge in 1955, the Colter Bay visitor site went into development. Cabins were transplanted to Colter Bay from the Teton Lodges at Moran, the old Jackson Lake Lodge resort, and the Square G Ranch (located near Jenny Lake) among others. In 1957 the cabins at Colter Bay Village were opened to the public. Over the years many of the other dude ranches and resorts closed or were donated to the park, and Colter Bay Village grew with the addition of the cabins from these various sites. 

Craftmanship of a Unique Cabin
Craftmanship of a Unique Cabin

Today there is no trace to be found of many resort sites that now makeup Colter Bay Village. All the cabins from the old Jackson Lake Lodge that were not transplanted were destroyed. After picking up much of the town of Moran and transporting it to Colter Bay, the remaining structures were demolished in 1957. Only the post office still survives, transported to present-day Moran near the park’s east entrance.

Mary McKinney
Mary McKinney

Ms. McKinney’s interpretive historic walk is complementary and is scheduled each Tuesday and Friday afternoon at 5pm.  Meet Mary for a wonderfully delightful afternoon at the Colter Bay Village Cabins Guest Lounge.
 

 

From Don’s Corner -Adapted from “A Brief History of Colter Bay Village” by Mary McKinney (GTLC Historian)

54 Years of Jackson Lake Lodge Memories

A Treasured Guest ~ Susan Bishop
A Treasured Guest ~ Susan Bishop

At nine months old, Susan Bishop made her first trip to Grand Teton National Park. The family traveled from Casper, Wyoming on Fourth of July weekend. “My earliest memory of the Park was my mother bathing me in a washtub and me feeding the squirrels,” laughed Bishop. More than sixty years later, Bishop has made an annual trip to return to this special place every Fourth of July weekend.

In the late forties and early fifties the family would stay at the once active Kimmel Kabins, by Cottonwood Creek south of Jenny Lake. “We heard they were building Jackson Lake Lodge,” said Bishop. “We were driving down the road and actually saw it under construction and the next year we stayed here.”

The family would get two cabins and because they were set a bit away, it felt like their private escape. They would continue to stay at Jackson Lake Lodge, because of the facilities. “You can stay at the whole complex and get whatever you need. That was another nice thing when Jackson Lake Lodge came into the park. There were no real eating places in the park. When we stayed over in the Kimmel Kabins, in addition to not having plumbing, they didn’t have any place to really eat so you had to drive into Jackson almost every night for a meal.”

The magnificent view from the cabins also draws Bishop back. “Colter Bay is very nice, Jenny Lake is very nice, but none of them can you wake up in the morning and see the mountains like this. This morning I woke up early and it’s like a whole nature study to see how the atmosphere changes in two or three hours and you can do that all from your own bed.”

After so many years, Bishop’s most memorable spot remains Leigh Lake. “I’m actually named for Leigh Lake. My middle name is Leigh,” said Bishop. “My parents also honeymooned there so it’s always been a big part of our family.”

Bishop remembers wading into Leigh Lake and String Lake as a child, trying to catch tadpoles in hopes that they would grow into frogs. “I think we only got one frog out of it,” laughed Bishop.

“When my dad was alive we always would go fishing,” said Bishop. The trip was built around lake fishing and the family would go with the same guide. “Since he passed away we don’t do that activity any longer. With my husband we always look forward to playing a round of golf at the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club and we always try to hike around Leigh Lake.

“The brilliance of the Lodge was the way it was situated,” said Bishop. “That you walk up the stairway and you see this magnificent panorama of the Tetons. That has been constant and every year when you come it’s like a ‘Gee whiz, awe’ type of thing, no matter how many years we have been coming.”

There have been a few changes since the Lodge opened in 1955. “When the Lodge was first built, there was quite a large bar and it was where the gift shop was now. It had very much of a western theme. People wore cowboy clothes and came in their boots and jeans. In the dining room we saw them paint the murals. I think where the bar is now used to be a meeting room or something like that. The counters have always remained the same in the Pioneer. This year they remodeled the cabins and that has been a tremendous improvement.

Bishop adds that the demographic of visitors to the Park has changed. “It used to be more of a regional type destination and you’d come up and see a lot of people from your home town of Casper and around and now it’s becoming much more of an international grouping.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the family unit vacationing here. “It sorts of renews your faith in the family, because you see them having fun and being together.

Another constant is the amount of electronic communication. “There’s no TV’s, no radios and originally there were no telephones in the rooms. It’s really a nice time to say I’m away from all of that.” 

“For our family the reason we come is tradition. My grandparents were pioneers in Wyoming and they vacationed up here. We have pictures of my father as a young man bringing his mother and sisters up here. It has been a tradition for our family to come up. One reason is because of the proximity. When my parents were growing up, a drive was a big deal; a 200 mile driving trip was a very big deal. It was always a nice, affordable getaway for the family for years. For me, it’s a matter of coming to rejuvenate, to get back in touch with my roots and bring out good memories.” Bishop even spent part of the summer of 1972 working in the gift shop. 

 “Our family is very much into historic preservation as well as nature preservation. I think what is so important is as we grow as a country is that we realize there are very few opportunities to keep our country beautiful, almost every time we come to the park I think of the brilliance of the Rockefeller family for seeing this sight and saying this should be kept pristine so that all generations present and future can enjoy it. That mentally in our lives is so important and I think it is so important that we as each generation make that happen and continue to keep it, because there are never going to be more mountains like this and the pleasures and the people that come and see this landscape—it’s tremendous and once you’ve been here it stays apart of you. I think that’s true of all the national parks. That’s one of the wonderful things about our country. That we have set these sites aside and said ok lets keep them that way and I strongly hope our government keeps that mentality.”

The family plans to continue staying at Jackson Lake Lodge after 54 years. “My husband and I were just talking, ‘Should we make reservations for next year?’ and I said ‘Yes, we should.’ It’s a tradition we will try and continue and keep going as long as we possibly can.”

From Katie’s Corner

Lunch Tree Hill: A View that Inspired a Vision

View From Lunch Tree Hill
View From Lunch Tree Hill

 

It started with a view. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. hiked to the top of a small knoll and gazed out upon the sea of willows and towering mountain range stretched across the valley. Elk and moose grazed down below. Clouds drifted by, some bringing thunderstorms, others breezing along.

There, Rockefeller ate lunch and took in the astounding environment around him. It dawned on Mr. Rockefeller to purchase the land with the intention of donating it to the U.S. Government so this view could be shared with everyone. His 25 year quest to preserve the land had begun.

 

Grand Tetons
Looking Out at the Mountain Range

 

 

Rockefeller’s first visit to Jackson Hole was in 1926. His wife and three sons stayed at the Amoretti Inn and fell in love with the natural beauty of Jackson Hole. By 1929, the mountain peaks and the lakes near the base of the Grand Tetons were established as a national park (the boundaries of the park were later expanded in 1950 to include much of the adjacent valley floor). More visitors continued to travel through Jackson Hole and it was clear that larger accommodations were needed. Rockefeller selected a site near his favorite lunch spot, now called Lunch Tree Hill, and construction began for Jackson Lake Lodge in March of 1953.

 

A Nod to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
A Tribute to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

 

 

Today, over 2.6 million visitors come to Grand Teton National Park each year. Guests from all over the world trek up the paved path off the front terrace of Jackson Lake Lodge to Rockefeller’s favorite lunch spot. The Lodge continues to provide, activities, lodging, dining, shopping and other services for travelers. 

“Our goal is to enhance guest experience in the park,” said Bob O’Neil, Grand Teton Lodge Company Director of  Human Resources. “It’s really all about the park. How we keep it up to date and modern, but  still preserve the Rockefeller’s vision.”
 
Over 50 years later that vision remains, as the natural splendor of Grand Teton National Park is shared from one generation to the next.

 

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

*Join our interpretive specialist on a short, complimentary, interpretive walk up Lunch Tree Hill. Turn back the hands of time to 1926 and walk in the footsteps of John D. Rockefeller Jr. View the exact vistas, in the cool crisp morning air, that inspired Mr. Rockefeller’s decades long passion to preserve this mountain range known as the Grand Tetons. Learn of the important historical struggle for preservation of this unique geological mountain range, view wildlife below in Willow Flats, and take advantage of great photo opportunities in the early morning light. The walk begins at 7:15am on Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday mornings.

Introducing… Our Historian

Historian Mary McKinney at Colter Bay Village
Historian Mary McKinney at Colter Bay Village

 

“This is my 31st summer coming to the Tetons and I realize the more I know, the more there is to learn,” says Mary McKinney, GTLC Historian. She is endlessly fascinated by this unique place that carries so much history. “The flowers, animals, mountain names, trails, ranches…it’s like peeling an onion and getting to the core of things, one layer after another layer.”

As a child, McKinney was enthralled with stories of the past. She was particularly captivated with Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to travel on the Oregon Trail. The history of the Settler’s coming out west lured McKinney to seek a degree in history.

“My poor children thought they were raised crawling along the Oregon Trail,” McKinney laughs, as she recalls the numerous trips to the sites.

In 1979, McKinney began visiting the Tetons, as her daughters worked summers here. Initially the family was taking camping trips through National Parks in the west and by 1986 there were five McKinney’s working at the Lodge.

“It’s a beautiful place with a manageable size; you feel you can actually get to know it” states McKinney.  “It simply seems like the most beautiful place on Earth to my family.” So beautiful, all four of her daughters were married in the Park.

McKinney began as GTLC historian by gradually learning about the settlers’ cabins at Colter Bay Village, the ranches where they originate, and some of the architectural history of Jackson Hole. She studied a bit about Jenny Lake Lodge, which was founded by a western cowboy and a romantic story. The Lodge was originally named Danny Ranch, after the cowboy’s love.

Sharing her wisdom with the public, McKinney leads history talks on three properties. The Jackson Lake Lodge tour focuses on history and artwork, from the eight wildlife paintings by Carl Rungius that hang in the second floor lobby to photographs of the early days of Jackson Hole. Jenny Lake Lodge highlights the diverse history of Jenny, the name change and how it nearly shut down at one point only to re-emerge with elegance. Colter Bay Village brings the 166 settlers’ cabins to life, with a rich history on these rustic homesteads that date as far back as the 1890’s.

A wealth of resources are available on the history of Jackson Hole including GTLC and Jackson Hole Historical Society archives, the University of Wyoming, and the Rockefeller archives in New York. While McKinney gathers information from these archives, she reveals that her best resource is simply talking to people. Guests will share their experiences and their parents’ experiences and a bit of otherwise unknown history is shared with the world. “When people are acknowledged for their stories, they feel a sense of ownership of a place and they want to come back again.”

McKinney embarks on the lengthy, annual drive from Georgia to Wyoming, as the Tetons draw her back year after year.

“At the end of a walk around the cabins, very frequently someone will say, ‘they all looked alike before and now none of them look alike. I’ll never make that mistake again.’ They see the individuality of the cabins,” says McKinney, as she expresses why she keeps returning to the Park each year. “When people appreciate this place it’s thrilling to me; when they realize it’s not just your ordinary hotel grouping, but a special place with special stories.”