Hunter Hereford Ranch (Landscapes of Loss)

#1: Barn/Out buildings


Hunter-Hereford Ranch: Barn/Out Buildings


The Hunter Hereford Ranch is named for William and Eileen Hunter who purchased the property in 1944. They ran what became known as a “hobby ranch.” These were ranches owned by individuals who had established a successful career and were now looking to invest in their retirement. The Hunters did not rely on their Hereford ranch for income, but enjoyed the pursuits of owning a working cattle ranch. The Hunters owned 520 acres, purchasing adjacent ranches and properties. They quickly began construction on architect-designed structures, which included a barn and house.

The cattle were supplied by Earl and Gerritt Hardeman, known nationally for their purebred Hereford cows. The Hunter ranch ran purebred stock until 1955 when it switched to a commercial operation. Originally the Hardemans were solely responsible for stocking the Hunter ranch. After William Hunter’s early death in 1951, Eileen continued to own the ranch until 1957 when she sold it to Grand Teton National Park under a life estate. Management of the cattle operations fell to their year-round caretaker John Anderson. When Eileen Hunter died in 1985, the Park took over ownership and management of all the buildings. In 1992 several buildings were removed. The large ranch residence now serves as a dining hall at the Teton Science Schools’ Kelly Campus. Staff and guest cabins are now located at the Climber’s Ranch.


#2: Williams Homestead


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The Hunter Hereford Ranch was original known as the homestead of James Williams. Williams filed a homestead claim on the 160-acre property in 1908. He continued to expand his land holdings and cultivated oats and alfalfa after he acquired water rights to nearby irrigation ditches. In 1931 Williams sold his property to Preston Redmond whose family owned and ranched the land until the Hunters purchased it in 1944.

This homestead house features a hipped roof, a rare architectural feature that forms the original, central portion of the home. The main portion was built in 1908 by James Williams. The hipped roof, a laid stone foundation and a brick chimney demonstrate Williams’ clear understanding of building construction techniques. It is clear from these elements that this homestead cabin was meant to be permanent. Usually original homestead cabins were small, squat and hastily built. They were almost always replaced later when better materials and time were available. The hipped roof, use of permanent materials and experienced building construction tells a different story.  The north and east wings were constructed in 1945 when the Hunters began to make changes to the homestead.


#3: Barn


Hunter-Hereford Ranch: Barn


Designed by architect Eber Piers from Ogden, Utah, this barn was built in 1947. The Hunters wanted a barn that would reflect the local vernacular architecture, and this barn was loosely designed to match the Hardeman barn in Wilson. The materials and general feeling were also loosely based on the barns on nearby Mormon Row. While this barn was supposed to reflect those of the homesteading era in the early 1900s, the proportions are those of a modern structure. The use of log coursing for the first floor was used intentionally to match natural materials used by the homesteaders. The poured concrete foundation, however, is a feature found in more permanent structures. (Previously, barns might have had a simple dry laid stone foundation with dirt or wooden floors.)

The barn’s impressive ‘gambrel’ roof supports a very large hayloft, encompassing one and a half stories of the structure. A highly articulated truss system supports the roof, going far beyond the technological limitations of the barns at Mormon Row. This barn is also unusual in its interior features as well. Electricity and plumbing are elements that weren’t found in most houses at the time. In addition, there was an interior stairwell that provided access to the hayloft, rather than a ladder. The hayloft opens to two separate doors, another unusual element. This allows for the creation of three separate doorways on the east elevation: one on the ground level with a sliding track, a second directly above this on another sliding track and the third which opens on hinges directly under the eaves. The extremely large hayloft actually had a dual purpose. Dances were regularly held on this level, and the interior stairwell was meant to allow easier access to the second floor for these community events.


#4: Barn door


Hunter-Hereford Ranch: Barn Door


This door is located on the east elevation of the barn and was used during the summer months. The solid door, which is currently closing the entrance to the barn, would have been taken off the sliding hinges to allow it to slide into place. A matching set of doors was located on the west elevation; today, however, just the solid door remains. This setup would have provided the barn with a source of fresh air since the tight log coursing and board and batten siding under the eaves would have prevented a steady flow of air. All barns, especially those housing cattle, require a good amount of ventilation in order to maintain a healthy environment for the animals. Two large ventilators are also located on the roof, to provide air for the building, especially for the hayloft.

The design of the barn relays a lot of information that separates it from others in the valley. This is a structure built with the intent to impress the neighbors, while at the same time attempting to appear understated. The entire structure was built at one time, rather than in parts as would have normally been dictated by a limited cash flow. The Hunters did not have those problems, and their higher economic status enabled them to afford such an impressive center piece for their operations. The barns on Mormon Row have a much less dominating presence on the land, mostly due to their varied construction technology and time frames. Nonetheless, the Hunter barn is a very important, early example of a different type of ranch built for a different purpose.


#5: Barn window


Hunter-Hereford Ranch: Barn Window


The barn at the Hunter Ranch was unusual in the amount of windows incorporated into the design. The purpose was to provide the interior with the maximum amount of light – it also provided the building with many more areas of ventilation than was normally the case. The windows are unusual in their use of iron muntins (also called “glazing or sash bars”); iron would generally not have been a material unavailable to the homesteaders of this era. The use of permanent materials like iron and concrete and the addition of plumbing and electricity meant that this was considered a modern structure. Despite the use of log coursing and board and batten siding, the sheer size of the structure and number of windows separates this barn from its vernacular counterparts.

These unusual elements help to tell a different type of story of a different type of rancher. The Hunter Ranch was one of the very first hobby ranches built in the valley and this particular building is a classic representation of a ranch built for an extended retirement “vacation” – one of the few examples left in the valley.


#6: Boarded Homestead Window


Hunter-Hereford Ranch: Boarded Homestead Window


This window is located on the original 1908 homestead house, which became the foreman’s residence when the Hunters purchased the property in 1944. While the building is closed up for protection against the elements, it was once central to the working and agricultural portion of the ranch. Built by James Williams, it served continuously as a residence until Grand Teton National Park acquired the property after Eileen Hunter died in 1985 and her life estate ended. It was later occupied by John Anderson and his family for the duration of the Hunter ownership.

In 1969, The Wild Country used the Hunter Hereford Ranch as a movie set. The film crew made minor and easily reversible changes to the building facades that would be visible in certain shots. These changes, which were never been removed by the Hunters or the National Park Service, can still be seen on the buildings. The north elevation of the barn, hay shed, chicken coop and small barn were converted to appear as more romanticized versions of what western buildings were thought to be. The hay shed in particular was modified. The north elevation of this structure was enclosed with clapboard siding with Greek Revival architectural elements around the windows. This was done in order to give the appearance of a church, despite there being no church on the property. Wooden planking covers the north elevation of these buildings, hiding their original wooden shingles. (The barn’s north elevation was covered with the same planking but that has been removed.)


From Our Archives:




Garrit Hardeman standing outdoors in front of Hereford Ranch Barn. Barn built by Colonel Mosley of Los Angeles. The H Bar R brand belonged to Fernie and Dorothy Hubbard. (Photographer: Guy Bush)


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