MISSOULA — Jim McDonald was just another ranch kid visiting Yellowstone National Park with his family in the 1950s.
Like most of the tens of millions of tourists in Yellowstone over the years, the McDonalds of Cascade placed Old Faithful geyser near the top of their list of attractions and, afterward, their memories. But for young Jim, there was also the Crow’s Nest.
A series of catwalks and stairs led to a perch in the rafters of Old Faithful Inn, where a four-piece orchestra played. The story goes that Robert Reamer, the inn’s architect more than a half-century earlier, had built it to fulfill a childhood fantasy for a tree house.
“Before the earthquake in ’59 you could go to the top of it,” McDonald said last week. “That’s one of the things I remember is climbing up those stairs.”
Look where he’s climbed to now.
McDonald was the principal historic architect for a $26 million restoration of Old Faithful Inn, a project that entailed five winters of work from 2004-2009.
“It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime projects, working with a major architect, Robert Reamer, and working with his building and trying to bring back some of the things that he put into these structures that really made part of what Yellowstone’s all about,” McDonald said. “Besides the geysers and things, you have these great rustic buildings, like Old Faithful Inn.”
Jim McDonald is a Principal Architect and Partner in A&E Architects, P.C.