Beaver Creek Administration Area

For the last century, the Beaver Creek Administration area has been housing the administrative officials tasked with managing the federally protected lands in Jackson Hole. When the Teton National Forest was created in 1908, two small log buildings were constructed to house the forest rangers and their office space. The Stewart Ranger Station remained unchanged until Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929. The lands underneath the Stewart Ranger Station then transferred to National Park Service management, and the buildings were retained to house the new Park administration. Renamed the Beaver Creek Ranger Station, the site would continue to grow over the next few decades.

When Grand Teton National Park was formed in 1929, the National Park Service had been established for 13 years. It had created a series of standardized plans for developing and maintaining administration areas for their protected lands. They were constructed with an interest in preserving the character of the natural setting, with the intention of keeping the buildings secluded. The plans also called for a separation of visitor services and administration. It was thought that seeing the “behind the scenes” operation would detract from the visitor experience. Originally the old Elbo Dude Ranch housed the early administration offices, just south of Jenny Lake. From here, park officials were able to survey the landscape on the very eastern boundary of the newly formed Park, and they settled on the already-established Forest Service buildings for their headquarters. The Elbo Dude Ranch, being located directly on one of the main roads in the valley, made the site undesirable, but some of the sleeping cabins were maintained for employee housing until 1970 when the remaining buildings were removed.

Over the next decade, the National Park Service would construct several more buildings in the Administration area. Housing, storage facilities, and various outbuildings were constructed as part of the New Deal programs established by President Roosevelt. Both the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were involved in the building project. Plans were closely followed for both the landscape and architectural designs. Curvilinear roads and natural construction materials were used to ensure the buildings would blend in with the landscape. Use of materials often found on-site, like lodgepole pine trees and river stones, contributed to the “natural feel” of the buildings. The use of dark brown paint on the logs and green rolled asphalt roofing ensured that the entire site would blend in with the natural color palette.

Due to the use of standardized plans, a style of architecture unique to the National Park Service emerged. Known today as “National Park Service Rustic,” the style is easily identifiable. Also called “exaggerated rustic” or “pioneer log construction,” this style blended elements of early log cabin construction adapted to a much larger scale. The use of log and stones purposefully creates a sense that the building was formed directly from the surrounding landscape. An absence of decorative elements or superfluous materials furthered the design principle, helping insure that these man-made structures were visually subordinate to the natural environment. As the movement continued, increasingly stylized designs emerged, focusing more on the monumental rather than natural. Examples such as the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park are considered the epitome of the style (also called Adirondack on the East Coast).

Between 1934 and 1941, Beaver Creek #10 (the old Forest Service buildings would undergo several renovations that included uniting both log portions into a single building, with a new central roof. Additions on both the east and west elevations, with new porches, would render the building unrecognizable from its original construction in 1908. It was used as the primary Park administration building until 1958 when the new Park Headquarters were constructed in Moose. Beaver Creek #10 continued to be used for office space until 2004. Today, Beaver Creek #10 remains unused but the remainder of the Beaver Creek area continues to house park employees. It is one of the oldest examples of early administration architecture in the valley. The Beaver Creek area continues to house park administration and employees, serving the same purpose for which it was built.

Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach