|Rhyolite Fireplace with Clock - Old Faithful Inn
|2012 Renovation of the Chimney/Fireplace and Kitchen Area
|(left) Primary support beams of lodgepole pine lean directly onto the massive 500-ton
stone fireplace, built of volcanic rhyolite quarried about five miles from the construction
site. Robert Reamer designed the imposing clock and had it built by his blacksmith
George Colpitts, of Livingston, MT. Though the face of the clock might at first look
somewhat modern, it maintains its original 1903-1904 appearance. Some think the
large pendulum, however, may never have been been functional. At various times in
the past, mechanisms have caused it to swing. In recent times prior to 2000, the large
hands were driven by an ordinary-size clock located in a box behind them. This
smaller clock had its own pendulum, and was wound regularly by brave staff of the Inn
who volunteered to climb onto a metal platform to reach it. In summer 2000, an
attempt was made to renovate the clock so it would be pendulum driven and run on its
own power, but problems arouse again in later years. During the chimney/fireplace
renovation of 2012, the clock was once again to be restored by a New York
|At left is a closeup of one of the four large hearths as well as one of the smaller
corner hearths. Most of the eight hearths were blocked as a result of the August
1959 earthquake. The four largest hearths became operational once again after
renovations in 2012. A few years prior to that, creative minds gave the large
hearth at left new life as a storage area for firewood. The fireplaces are lined with
brick bearing the name "Evens & Howard of St. Louis."
|1959 Earthquake Damage and Renovation of the Chimney/Fireplace and kitchen area in the Spring and Summer of 2012
The August 1959 Yellowstone earthquake, also known as the Hebgen Lake earthquake, caused extensive damage to the chimney/fireplace of the Old Faithful Inn,
blocking all but one of the four main fireplaces and also causing damage to the chimney on the exterior of the building. On April 1, 2012, work began on the final step of
the Inn's restoration, including the restoration of the massive chimney/fireplace, retrofitting to current seismic standards. The obstructing brick was pulled out of the
chimney and four steel flues were installed. The huge stones of the chimney were pressure washed for the first time since the Inn was built. Visitors in May and early
June 2012 saw a phantom "chimney" shrouded in cloudy, semitransparent plastic stretching from floor to ceiling. Later in the summer when the plastic was removed,
visitors saw the rebuilt chimney without its distinctive clock, which had been removed and sent to Rochester, NY to be rebuilt by a clockmaker, with plans to reinstall it in
October 2012. On August 17, 2012, the 53rd anniversary of the earthquake, all four fireplaces were lit and fire burned in each.
Also in the summer of 2012 nearly 50 feet of pine cribbing was once again added around the chimney flues that rise above the rear exterior roof of the Inn, restoring the
original pre-1959 earthquake appearance. In addition, in late September 2012, the Inn's eight flagpoles were temporarily removed for repairs.
Unseen to the average visitor, major renovations were made in the spring of 2012 to the Old Faithful Inn's kitchen storage, central kitchen, and employee dining servery,
with an eye toward upgrading to code while meeting present demands and preparing for the future. These renovations also took into consideration the sensitive nature
of installing a modern kitchen in a historic structure and incorporating green features such as recycling and reuse of existing building components. The project team
included members from A&E Architects, H-C Design & Consulting, and Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
With the changes of 2012, the Old Faithful Inn completed its four-phase renovation project which began in 2004.
For photos and recommended reading, see
1. Jason Bacaj, Staff Writer, "Restorations to shore up Old Faithful Inn's structural integrity," Bozeman Daily Chronicle, June 10, 2012,
2. Nina Fitzgerald, "Old Faithful From The Inn Side ," Watching for Rocks: Travels of a Sharp-Eyed Geologist Blog),
3. Donna Boss, "Old Faithful Inn's kitchen renovation at Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.," FES Magazine, Dec 23, 2012, http://www.fesmag.com/.
|These photos, taken pre-2012 renovation, show the Inn's fireplace clock.
The dial, pendulum, and large suspended weights (see the photo at the
top of the page) are original to the 1904 inn. The clockworks have
changed over the years. The triangle in the center of the dial is from an
attempt to repair the clock in the 2000s. Previous to that, a smaller
windup pendulum mechanism moved the hands. Bellpersons
volunteered to walk on the iron scaffolding at left to wind the clock. (One
morning in the 1980s, the writer of this page, while staying at the Inn,
witnessed a bellhop walk onto the scaffolding and wind the clock
As an aside, note the Roman number IIII is used on the dial, as is the
tradition for clock dials, rather than IV. It is not an error or oversight. There
are various theories for the origin of this practice.