On September 19, 1930 Tony Grace sold his Danny Ranch to the Snake River Land Company. Grand Teton National Park had recently been created in 1929, and the Land Company had been in talks with the National Park Service over the future of the Danny Ranch. Early National Park Service policy held little value in cultural resources, and managed their lands only for the natural resources. They were of the opinion that all Snake River Land Company purchases around Jenny Lake should be removed in order to return the lake to its original, natural setting. The Snake River Land Company largely agreed with these policies, it had formed with a similar purpose to prevent commercial ventures and subdivisions from ruining the scenic beauty of the valley.
The homesteaders and ranchers had worked hard to prove up on their parcels and spent a lot of time and money investing in their buildings and their livestock. To see their buildings and hard work razed in the wake of a Land Company purchase was difficult. Many held out, but many felt pressured to act now and take the monetary incentive or be removed without compensation. Tony Grace of the Danny Ranch was one of these individuals; he held out for a year but ultimately worried that an eventual expansion of Grand Teton National Park would leave him with nothing. Initially the plan was to remove all of the Danny Ranch buildings and to move them to the Triangle X Ranch.
However, the Snake River Land Company was fielding complaints by tourists at the Teton Lodge in Moran who claimed that their lodgings were too far away from the National Park (at this point Grand Teton National Park only included the Teton Range, and the small lakes at their base. Jackson Lake was excluded). Rockefeller and his committee realized the need to keep the Danny Ranch operable to not only offer lodging close to the National Park, but also to support the ever-growing tourist numbers. After the sale of the Danny Ranch, and Tony Grace’s departure in 1931, the ranch sat empty and unused for five years. Finally in 1937, the National Park Service acquiesced the proposed use of additional tourist accommodations at the old Danny Ranch. Despite their policy that favored removing all buildings, the Park Service realized it was better to make use of the existing structures rather than relocating at the expense of both financial and natural resources elsewhere in the valley.
In the summer of 1937, the Jenny Lake Ranch was opened under the auspices of the Grand Teton Lodge and Transportation Company (which also managed the Teton Lodge) after necessary repairs were completed. A small kitchen with an electric stove replaced the woodstove that had previously been used for cooking, and a gravity-fed plumbing system was installed throughout the ranch. It was a rudimentary system, with a pump and trenches dug from String Lake. Despite the running water, electricity was still considered a modern comfort. Guests used lanterns for light and were encouraged to spend their days outside hiking, riding or fishing. Activities remained the same as they did with Grace’s ownership, however, the feeling of community between guests and staff was now gone. Guests reserved individual cabins and the ranch was run by an absentee company, rather than by those who called the property home.
The ranch was expanded to 65 guests and its popularity grew with the more affluent tourists. There was now talk about converting the ranch into a more exclusive resort. These plans were put on hold during World War II, and the ranch was closed. One momentous event occurred during the war years, when the ranch was empty. In 1943 the Jackson Hole National Monument was created, and the Jenny Lake Ranch was now surrounded by federal land. The ranch had been part of the 35,000 acres that the Snake River Land Company had purchased with the intention of donating it to an expansion of Grand Teton National Park.
After World War II ended, the Grand Teton Lodge and Transportation Company declined to continue operations at Jenny Lake Ranch and the Teton Lodge at Moran. The Jackson Hole Preserve, Inc. (formerly Snake River Land Company) purchased the interests of the Grand Teton Lodge and Transportation Company to run the Jenny Lake Lodge and the Teton Lodge at Moran. Due to the Jenny Lake Ranch’s disuse for the last several years, deferred maintenance on the cabins had taken a toll. The more than 25 buildings needed several repairs and updates to meet the expectations of the modern tourist. However, the Jackson Hole Preserve was willing to fund the renovations and by 1949 the renamed Jenny Lake Lodge was considered the premiere lodging option in the valley.
A few short years later, in 1955, Jenny Lake Lodge had been all but abandoned in favor of the large, glass and concrete epitome of modern architecture that was Jackson Lake Lodge. With the new architect-designed resort replacing the old ramshackle Teton Lodge, the Jenny Lake Lodge was seen as superfluous and maintenance was once again neglected. The old trench and gravity-fed water system had failed, and the lack of clean water and necessary sewage system seemed an insurmountable hurdle. With the construction of the Colter Bay facilities in the 1960s, came the order to close and demolish the Jenny Lake Lodge. However, that same year several Secretary of the Interior officials met at Jenny Lake Lodge and became came to value the place and its enduring history. They overturned the decision the Grand Teton National Park officials had made, and ordered that not only should the small lodge be saved, but enlarged and modernized.
In 1958, a gala banquet was held to celebrate the re-opening of Jenny Lake Lodge as the premiere lodging resort of the valley–fulfilling a vision many long espoused. Jenny Lake’s historic log cabins and rustic feel clearly separated it from the sweeping glass-encased views of the Jackson Lake Lodge. The traditional craftsmanship and homesteading history brought a warmth to the buildings that was unmistakable, despite the architect-designed renovations. A large well and water system had finally been installed. Tony Grace was an honored banquet guest at the event, and he brought with him the original guest book for the Danny Ranch as a gift. While the old Danny Ranch had seen a rough few decades, especially since Grace’s departure, it was now assuming its full potential. Today, the Jenny Lake Lodge continues to operate as an “elegant, private” resort at the foot of the Tetons.
Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach