When I listed a postcard this week showing the Theodore Roosevelt Arch, I wondered why I hadn’t ever seen this structure pictured before. So,I googled it and came up with a fascinating story.
The arch was built early in the National Park’s history. The cornerstone was laid in April, 1903. And Theodore Roosevelt was present at the ceremony for laying the cornerstone. More on that later. But first, one might ask why such an imposing structure would be built at the North Entrance of the park, a less used entry point today. But at the time that it was built, it was the closest entrance to a railroad line. In 1903, the railroad ended at Cinnabar, Montana. The Northern Pacific Railway was persuaded to extend the railroad line much closer to the park entrance to Gardiner, Montana where a stone railroad depot was constructed at the same time as was the arch. In the spring of 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a massive tour of the West via railroad car. He spent a fortnight in Yellowstone Park as a vacation. At Cinnabar, President Roosevelt debarked from the train and was met by the Superintendent of the Park and Commanding Officer of Fort Yellowstone. The presidential party left on horseback for two weeks of camping and viewing the sights. At the end of this time, President Roosevelt returned to the site of the park entrance and partcipated in the laying the cornerstone. The Masonic Order conducted rituals and President Roosevelt addressed the crowd, giving a talk about wilderness,democracy and the promise of the West.
Although the automobile was not allowed to enter the park until 1915, the building of roads,great lodges and other amenities that marked the gradual decline in use of the north entrance. Today, one must detour to view the arch and the depot that was constructed at the same time no longer stands. Most visitors enter from the south of the park.