History and Artwork at Jackson Lake Lodge

Learn and explore the vast history of Grand Teton National Park, from Native Americans to present day. See how that history is reflected in the various pieces of artwork in Jackson Lake Lodge.


The original Jackson Lake Lodge. Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum.


Congress established Grand Teton National Park in 1929. The original park only protected the high peaks and some of the valley lakes. Development continued in the valley, but some sought protection and expansion of the park. In 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared additional land in the valley to be Jackson Hole National Monument. In 1949, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated the land he purchased to the government to be included in the national park. Finally, in 1950, Congress combined the original park, the national monument, and the Rockefeller lands to establish present-day Grand Teton National Park. In 1972, Congress established the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, which connects Yellowstone and Grand Teton, to honor Rockefeller's philanthropy and commitment to the National Park System.


The Jackson Lake Lodge had originally been located in the nearby homesteader-settled town of Moran. Ben Sheffield first opened the Teton Lodge in 1903. It was run by the Teton Lodge Company, which became the Grand Teton Lodge Company when Rockefeller purchased the majority of the town in 1929. Early on, with a picnic lunch in hand, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. would often hike to the top of Moose Hill and gaze out upon the sea of Willows and the towering Teton Range beyond. Legend has it that this view influenced the location where he would eventually build Jackson Lake Lodge. More than 587,000 visitors came to the new Park in 1951 and there were not enough facilities to accommodate them. Feeling somewhat responsible for bringing so many visitors to the Park, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was asked what could he do about the situation, he responded “I supposed I ought to build a hotel”.


He began working on plans to construct the new hotel with the nationally recognized architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1950. Rather than distract from the outside, the building was designed to “bring the outside in.” An appreciation of the view was only possible when standing inside the lobby behind the large plate glass wall of windows. The lodge opened in 1955, near what is now called “Lunch Tree Hill”, the Lodge is a tribute to the vision and the lasting memories that one special moment can create. 


Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003, Jackson Lake Lodge represents a break with the traditional rustic style of architecture used in the National Park Service. Designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who previously had designed the Ahwahnee, Bryce Canon, and North Rim Grand Canyon lodges, Jackson Lake Lodge combines some elements of these earlier rustic style buildings with the modern International style. This breakthrough opened the way for many modernistic visitor centers and accommodations in National Parks built under the Mission 66 initiative to accommodate major increases in visitation after WWII. The integrity of the Jackson Lake Lodge and its associated buildings, the exceptional importance of the integrated modern/rustic architectural design of the building, and its association Gilbert Stanley Underwood, contribute to its exceptional national significance under National Historic Landmark criteria.


Visiting Jackson Lake Lodge perhaps will be an inspiring experience of a lifetime for our guests. It definitely creates lasting memories that only one special moment can create.

Homestead Implements - 

The Homestead Act of 1862 opened large areas of public land in the west for anyone to claim as their own. Although there was definitely no “land Rush” to settle Jackson Hole, the first homesteaders began to settle the area in 1864, and by 1888 twenty three hardy individuals lived through out the area. First claiming land on the valley floor where wild grasses grew, they irrigated, plowed, and planted more acres to feed their livestock. Bill Menor and was the only place to cross the Snake River as it proved vital in the settlement of the West of the Snake River on the land that would become Grand Teton National Park. The human history of Jackson Hole is a story of how a place of great natural beauty was used, treated, and in some instances, preserved.

Slim Lawrence, longtime caretaker of the AMK Ranch was an amateur archeologist who loved to collect remnants of the past. His collection grew so large that he eventually founded the Jackson Hole Museum. Jackson Lake Lodge is proud to display some of Slim’s collected artifacts that will visually carry you back to our early Homestead era. Try your luck identifying these implements of our early settlers and when you’re stumped, ask for the “Artifacts Key” while finishing your meal in the Ranch House restaurant at Colter Bay.

Also on the walls of the Ranch House restaurant is a collection of 29 black and white images from the book "The Early Days in Jackson Hole" written by Virginia Huidekoper. Her story is told in over 150 black and white photographs, many from established archives, but many came from family albums and shoe boxes handed down through the generations.

Jackson Lake Lodge Modern 1950s Architecture - 

The contributions of John D. Rockefeller to Jackson Hole continued long after the final park was formed in 1950.  Post World War II saw an increase visitation to national parks and the deteriorated and limited accommodations in Grand Teton National Park.  Mr. Rockefeller knew the importance of providing fine accommodations and commissioned architect, Gilbert Stanley Underwood to design and construct Jackson Lake Lodge.  Rockefeller insisted, the purpose of the new hotel was to make the wonders of the Tetons accessible to the people of the United States, not to construct resort-style accommodations in the national park.  The construction of Jackson Lake Lodge tested the National Park Service unofficially implemented rustic design criteria through the 1920s and 1930s, as the most fitting and suitable type of construction in a scenic setting.  By reinterpreting traditional rustic elements in a modern framework, Gilbert Stanley Underwood opened the door for modernism in the national parks. 

The decorative theme for the Jackson Lake Lodge interior was on a fur trapper theme, focusing attention on the period between 1810 and 1840.  The guest rooms were approached in a slightly different manner departing from the fur tapper theme and were designed to provide a unique, interesting, regional “antique” type attraction to guests.  As a result the guest rooms and cabins were furnished in an assortment of Western and modern elements, featuring Native American design and western-themed components that were complimented with modern tiled baths and utilities.   Jackson Lake Lodge is unique in that it brings together the “luxuriously primitive” design of the architect and the sleek 1950’s modernism. 

As New York Times columnist Jack Goodman reported early on, “As a non-practicing aesthete, this reporter can say that the interior décor seems an elegant, artful blend of comfortable modern with western.  There is not a bearskin rug in place … but no rustic artifacts are needed in a lodge where picture windows and admirably situated terraces permit the view of Jackson Lake and the pinnacles of the Grand Tetons and Mount Moran.”

As stated by the authors of our National Historic Landmark nomination, Jackson Lake Lodge was a “predominantly International style Hotel” that indicated a break from the rustic national park concession hotels of the 1920s and is a fine example of the modern architectural styling of the 1950s.

As a National Historic Landmark designation, painstaking detail and care was needed during our recent renovation to accurately maintain the original modern architectural styling of the 1950's. When looking forward to relaxing in a bygone era, take time to experience our artful blend of comfortable modern with western decor. 

Native American Artifacts - 

Native American Artifacts Long before tourists pulled travel trailers into Jackson Hole, Native American families pulled their travois into the valley in search of abundant fishing, hunting, and plant resources. As the tribes evolved and their culture changed with the arrival of European influences, they remained nomadic in this part of the country. The Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapahoe, Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, Crow, and their people, culture, and customs are still a vibrant part of the region today.

The reason why we know so much about Native American Indians is because of two things: storytelling and record of events passed from generation to generation and the discovery of Indian artifacts. Artifacts are so important to our society today because the study of them allows us to understand how our ancestors lived. What kind of clothes did they wear? What food did they eat? What were their religious beliefs? So many questions have been answered thanks to the discovery of Indian artifacts.

Over his lifetime, David T. Vernon collected an impressive variety of American Indian Artifacts. His collection was purchased by the Jackson Hole Preserve, Incorporated - a Rockefeller Family foundation dedicated to conservation of cultural and natural resources. Jackson Lake Lodge through its history with the Rockefeller legacy is proud to display a portion of that collection. Artifacts cover a range of Katsina and beaded dolls, bag and belt beadwork, jar and bowl pottery, woven textile rugs, bowl and tray basketry, and arrowhead and spear points.

Indian artifacts are like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle and provide us a window into our past. By putting those puzzle pieces together; you will have a better overall picture of how life might have been for the Native American Indians. Take a look back in history and appreciate the mastery of our earliest visitors by visiting our Native American Artifacts collection.

Rendezvous Murals - 

In the early 19th century, mountain men and Indians combed the Rocky Mountains, trapping beaver to supply the demand for exclusive top hats made from beaver fur. At an annual gathering called a “Rendezvous”, trappers would sell their beaver pelts to buy supplies for the following years trapping. In 1837, artist Alfred Jacob Miller chronicled his 2,400 mile round-trip to the Green River Rendezvous as well as the rowdy event itself. He was the first artist to travel west of the continental divide and brought back approximately two hundred watercolor sketches of a land never seen by his fellow Americans.

More than a century later, in the 1950’s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. sponsored a competition to paint murals for the newly built Jackson Lake Lodge. Rockefeller chose “The Fur Traders and Trappers of the Early West” as the murals’ theme, recalling the mountain man period began in the wake of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition.

Carl Roters, a professor of art at Syracuse University, won the commission; basing his murals on Miller’s sketches. Roters’ project spanned two years and in 1959 the ten Rendezvous Mural panels were installed in the Mural Room of the Jackson Lake Lodge. They accurately illustrate the 1837 Rendezvous, portraying the famous participants and span two walls of the restaurant - nearly twenty eight feet in length.

The Rendezvous Murals, and the history of the times and people they portray, along with the adventures they experienced are presented in these 10 masterfully crafter panels. Enjoy an equally masterfully created meal in the Jackson Lake Lodge Mural Room to fully embrace these historically significant murals.

The Trappers Bride -

Trappers Bride A major featured painting in Jackson Lake Lodge is Charles Banks Wilson’s, Trappers Bride. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. continuing his theme of the importance of the Trapper/Trader era in his newly constructed Lodge, commissioned the paining which reflects not only the artist’s highly acclaimed talent but also his meticulous study of the activities and accouterments of the trapper era.

Women played an important role in the early fur trade industry, although pioneer or European women were rare on the frontier. The women of the fur trade were usually Native American women as their skills made them valuable partners. They could handle horses, make and break camp speedily, cook, make clothing and, when necessary, handle weapons.

In this scene, after a successful bartering for his daughter’s hand in marriage, the young slender bride tentatively offers her hand to the dashing buckskin-clad trapper. Her father and leader of the group could have received firearms, iron utensils, blankets, flannel cloth, or even horses in barter for his daughter’s hand. This gathering for the wedding ceremony is a meticulous study of the activities and accouterments of the trapper era.

The Trappers Bride is displayed in the Jackson Lake Lodge, Blue Heron Lounge, awarded "best watering hole" in a National Park. After a day of exploring, have a beverage out on the deck overlooking a sea of Willows and the towering Teton Range, but don't forget to take a moment and study our Trapper/Trader heritage while viewing Charlie Banks Wilson's Trappers Bride.