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Jackson Lake Lodge Site History

Moran original

The current Jackson Lake Lodge was completed in 1956 and has been operating continuously as a hotel and conference center since that time; however, despite its success as a tourist destination the Lodge complex, as it is known today, almost didn’t exist.

Only ten years earlier, in 1946, the original Jackson Lake Lodge was on a path to demolition and the entire site was to be cleared of all tourist accommodations. The battle between the conservation of natural resources, homesteads and ranches, and tourist concessions was well-known to the Jackson Hole Valley, having been a source of on-going disputes between the Federal government and local residents since the 1890s. With the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, ranchers and smaller tourist companies increasingly opposed the designation of private lands as public resources.

The Snake River Land Company, a private company created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was established to prevent unchecked commercialism from spreading. The lands acquired by the Company was eventually turned over to the Federal government for public protection as a national park. In 1943, President Roosevelt signed an executive order making the area a National Monument and by 1950 the Grand Teton National Park had been established. By this time, some of the Park’s strongest opponents had become its biggest supporters, as an increase in visitors began to stimulate local economies. 

Ground Breaking

The ground-breaking ceremony took place on May 25, 1953. Here, some of the attendees stand on the site of the new hotel, overlooking Jackson Lake and the Cathedral Group of the Grand Teton mountains. Standing second from the left (in the checkered jacket) is Harold P. Fabian, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Grand Teton Lodge & Transportation Company. Without his persistence and direction, Jackson Lake Lodge would likely never have been built. (image source: Jackson Hole Historical Society)

Right: A consolidated base map drawn by Underwood's architectural firm dated December of 1953, shows the location of the original Jackson Lake Lodge (lower left with arrow) in relationship to the new main lodge and guest cabins.

This photograph shows the tourist accommodations available at Moran that, along with Jenny Lake Lodge and the Square G Ranch, were completely reconfigured as part of the Jackson Lake Lodge development progressed. Jenny Lake was expanded and rehabilitated, while the buildings at the Square G were demolished. All of the buildings at Moran were originally going to be combined with cottages at the old Jackson Lake Lodge, but instead made up a new development nearby at Colter Bay. (image source: Rockefeller Archives)

The site where Jackson Lake Lodge currently sits had been home to the original Jackson Lake Lodge which consisted of a small group of cabins. Operated as a hotel and restaurant since about 1920, it was near a favorite place of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.:  the hill overlooking Jackson Lake and the Teton Range. Rockefeller purchased much of the surrounding land with the aim of preserving the natural beauty of the landscape; however, he had little interest in taking over the management and operation of the old Jackson Lake Lodge or that of nearby concessions at Colter Bay and Jenny Lake Lodge. 

Original Lodge
A last look at the old Jackson Lake Lodge and accompanying guest cabins (now demolished). Originally called The Amoretti Inn, the old Jackson Lake Lodge was built in 1922 and included a large, central building that primarily held a dining room, and groups of cabins for travelers stopping on their way to Yellowstone National Park. The old Lodge was used all throughout construction of the new Lodge, housing workmen as well as tourists. (image source: Rockefeller Archives)
Horace Albright, Superintendent of the National Park Service, and Harold P. Fabian, Rockefeller’s former manager of the Snake River Land Company, were convinced that providing some form of tourist accommodation would help make Grand Teton National Park, the park they had worked hard to preserve and create, a destination and not just a place to pass through on the way to Yellowstone. In 1940, they persuaded John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s son Laurance to help organize Jackson Hole Preserve, Inc., which in turn founded the Grand Teton Lodge and Transportation Company that would manage and operate all concessions within the newly created Grand Teton National Park. Although it would take another ten years for the Jackson Lake Lodge development to take shape, by the time the Lodge complex was completed there was no question that the decision to provide tourist accommodations in Jackson Hole Valley was the right one. As Laurance Rockefeller stated at the dedication of the Lodge in 1955, “How I wish father could be here tonight. For to him probably more than any other person does the country owe the preservation of this great scenic area".

base plan