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Site Development

The construction of Jackson Lake Lodge was a major undertaking that resulted not only in the Central Lodge and its surrounding guest cottages, but also in employee housing and a recreation center, new roads, a corral, a post-office, and a service station. Additionally, all water, sewer, and electrical power had to be newly installed, as the old Jackson Lake Lodge and other nearby tourist operations were too small to warrant their own services.

 The National Park Service was responsible for providing water, sewer, and electrical, while the general contractor, Morrison-Knudsen, directed the construction of all of the buildings. Jackson Lake Lodge was one of the smaller projects that Morrison-Knudsen worked on, as they were primarily known for large-scale work such as Three Mile Falls Dam in Oregon, the Hoover Dam, and the Interstate Highway System. No doubt, their involvement gave the company great familarity in working with concrete, the primary building material of the Central Lodge.

old lodge in back
A view during construction from on top of the main lodge looking east over the guest lodges being built. The large building in the back of the lot to the right is the original Jackson Lake Lodge still standing. (image source: Jackson Hole Historical Society)
The Central Lodge, guest cottages, and employee housing were constructed between May 25, 1953 and the Lodge’s dedication on June 11, 1955. Site clearing and excavation were the first steps in preparing the site. Soil tests performed on Moose Hill, where the Central Lodge would be located, resulted in the discovery of volcanic ash. This meant that concrete-filled piles had to be placed throughout the hilltop in order to properly support the steel and concrete building to be constructed above. A concrete batch plant was built onsite to produce all of the concrete for the project, and several acres of wood were used to construct both formwork and buildings. All of the buildings besides the Central Lodge were of timber frame construction.

Cement Plant
Above: The cement plant on site during construction. The  view is looking southwest with the Employee Dining Room to the left side of the image (image source: Jackson Hole Historical Society)

Right: This detail of the exterior concrete shows Shadowood as it looks today. The varying widths of the plywood boards used to leave the woodgrain impression can be seen spanning one of the panels. The original finish was acid stained in three layers of bark colors that simulated a weathered wood finish.
Right:1950s advertisement for Kemiko acid stains featuring Jackson Lake Lodge

Site Plan
An early rendering of the proposed Jackson Lake Lodge hotel and conference center complex. (image source: Rockefeller Archives)

Having a batch plant onsite meant that the concrete for the Central Lodge could be controlled very carefully and transported to wherever it was needed within a short period of time. The entire building was cast-in-place, which facilitated the creation of the Shadowood exterior finish. Strips of sand-blasted plywood were placed within the formwork as a lining material. When the concrete was poured, its exterior surface hardened with the impression of the woodgrain. After the concrete had cured, the architect, Gilbert Stanley Underwood, directed the application of three layers of acid stains in bark colors to simulate the appearance of wood. Acid stains are a solution of metallic salts, hydrochloric acid, and water. The color is created through a reaction between the metallic salts and the calcium hydroxide in the surface of the concrete, resulting in an integral, translucent finish. Acid stains have been used since the early 20th century to color concrete.  Underwood used them throughout his career, most notably at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, and at Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho. His novel use of acide ctained cast-in-place concrete at Jackson Lake Lodge as 'Shadowood' signified a throughly new and modern expression for accommodations in the National Park Services. 

construction forms
This photograph of the construction of the Central Lodge illustrates the enormous amount of formwork and scaffolding required to construct such a large building. A batch plant was assembled onsite to produce the concrete, which was then transported to the casting location in buckets suspended from cranes. (image source: Jackson Hole Historical Society)
The original Shadowood finish has remained in fairly good condition over the last 60 years. The original acid stain was covered only recently, when the entire Lodge was re-finished with a new coat of stain in a reddish-brown color, circa 2000. Areas of the original concrete finish before re-coating were discovered  in an enclosed space above the Blue Heron Bar, which was constructed in 1988. The durability and complex appearance of these orginal finishes argues for their restoration.