With the advent of rail travel to West Yellowstone the railroad realized that they were going to need workers to take care of the passenger’s needs. They also knew that they would only need this help during “the season” as the trains did not run during the winter.
In order to house their employees the rail company, during the early 1900s, housed their employees in bunk cars located on the sidings near the main lines.
It soon became evident that more suitable housing was going to be needed for their employees. This meant that the railroad would either have to construct new buildings or make use of some of their existing structures. That possibility was realized in 1925 with the opening of the new Dining Lodge. This left the “Beanery” vacant and available to be used for a different purpose.
The “Beanery”, which was built in 1911, had replaced a 1908 dining hall. The 1908 building was a one-story tar-paper sided structure which measured about 24’ x 130’. There are no known photos of that building.
The 1911 “Beanery” was a long, low, one-story,yellow building.. Meals served there cost 75 cents! To accommodate the ever increasing number of passengers, a wing was added to the building in 1922. The wing measured 40’x 62’.
In 1925 when the restaurant facilities were moved to the new Dining Lodge the old “Beanery was converted to employee housing. It became a dormitory to house employees. Once the Men’s Dorm was constructed, this building became known as the Women’s Dorm. The exterior of the former “Beanery” received a face lift. It now featured stone pillars at the corners and rustic bark slabs for the walls. These changes to the exterior insured that it would now “fit in” with the look of the new Dining Lodge.
1927 saw the construction of a building that was to be the Men’s Dormitory. It was constructed to match the style of the new Dining Lodge. The building, as were the others, was designed by Mr. Underwood who had designed the Dining Lodge. This building stood the test of time and is now home to the West Yellowstone Medical Clinic.
Once rail service to West Yellowstone was discontinued, the Women’s Dorm stood unused for many years. In July of 1980 the structure burned and was not replaced. The area where it stood is now an open, grassy area.
As with all things, some stand the test of time while others do not. It is nice to see that some of the original railroad structures are being put to good use today in modern day West Yellowstone. It also gives you the opportunity to try and imagine what West Yellowstone might have looked like those many years ago.
Photo and information courtesy of the Museum of the Yellowstone.
AUTHOR: SUSIE KNAPP