Preserving the Past and Looking Ahead
As West Yellowstone begins its second century of serving visitors to Yellowstone National Park, it has a strong and proud history on which to stand. The West Gate has maintained its record as the busiest entrance to the park since the honor was first garnered in 1913.
As a tribute to its special role in pioneering services to national park visitors, the town nominated the entire Union Pacific complex of buildings, including the 1909 stone depot, for designation as the Oregon Short Line Terminus Historic District. Also known locally as "Heritage Park," it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The historic district stands as a constant reminder of the town's roots - a symbol of the role this western frontier town originated and continues to play in providing access and services for millions of visitors from all over the world. The Yellowstone Historic Center Museum in the Union Pacific Depot.
As part of its commitment to the restoration and interpretation of the historic district, the town supported the founding of the Yellowstone Historic Center in 1998. The "YHC" aims to interpret the story of how people wanting to visit the first national park in the world created the need for transportation over great distances, and how these demands influenced the opening of the western U.S. to permanent settlement. It celebrates the history of how various modes of transportation developed, as trappers and explorers on foot and on horseback gave way to stagecoaches, trains, and buses, and eventually to cars, snow coaches, and snowmobiles. It also seeks to preserve the unique cultural heritage of West Yellowstone and the Hebgen Lake Basin. Modes of transportation have changed greatly since those early pioneer tourists arrived. But some things remain constant - the awe and wonder felt as travelers gain their first views of Old Faithful, or see a herd of bison thundering across Fountain Flats, or hear the roar of the mighty falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. And West Yellowstone will continue to welcome and serve these tourists as they begin and end their adventures in America's Wonderland.