Historic districts, historic structures, and cultural landscapes built between 50 and 150 years ago are cultural resources that tell the story of how people managed, enjoyed, and traveled through the world’s first national park.
The park’s front country consists of developments that were historically constructed around Yellowstone’s natural features. A figure-eight system of roads provided access to these developed areas and features. Much of the front country contains buildings (e.g., lodges, cabins, employee quarters, ranger stations), roads and bridges, trails, and cultural landscape features and patterns (e.g., overlook structures, vegetation patterns, viewsheds) that are considered historic properties or contribute to the character of a historic district. Historic districts can be comprised of a variety of buildings, sites, structures, and/or objects listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Yellowstone’s backcountry cabins are part of a large network of patrol or snowshoe cabins, based on a geographically strategic patrol operation established during the military administration of the park (1886–1918), and expanded through the National Park Service’s leadership (1918–present). They continue to be used today.
The legal requirement to protect and understand the importance of these resources affects how the park is managed today. So far, 843 structures including roads, bridges, utility structures, and grave markers are listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 600 of these structures are buildings. The park is in the process of evaluating properties for National Register of Historic Places eligibility, including 173 structures on the List of Classified Structures, approximately 127 buildings constructed during the NPS Mission 66 period (1945–1972), and 124 trails. To date, seven (25%) of the park’s cultural landscapes have been inventoried and evaluated for their historical significance.
Unlike other park resources, historic structures and cultural landscapes require cyclic maintenance such as in-kind replacement of roofs and pavement. Alterations are often required to bring historic structures up to safety codes such as strengthening a building so it withstands seismic events. Preserving a historic structure or cultural landscape requires minimizing the rate at which historic fabric is lost and ensuring additions and alterations are compatible with historic character.
National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) possess exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States. The National Park Service is required to exercise a higher standard of care when considering undertakings that may directly or adversely affect NHLs. Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark District is located within Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District and continues to be the headquarters for Yellowstone National Park. Historic buildings, structures (Roosevelt Arch, Powerhouse), and sites (parade grounds, cemetery) contribute to the significance of this district.
Yellowstone is also home to five NHLs that are nationally influential examples of park “rustic” architecture—the Old Faithful Inn, the Northeast Entrance Station, and the Norris, Madison, and Fishing Bridge museums.
Last updated: August 14, 2023