Hamilton Stores, Inc. - 1915 to 2002
Excerpts from "Making Concessions in Yellowstone"
Charles A. Hamilton moves to Yellowstone . . . .
    
Charles Hamilton was the founder of the Hamilton Store chain that operated in Yellowstone Park from 1915 to 2002.  He was born in Winnepeg, Manitoba in 1884 and came out to Yellowstone in 1905 to work for the Yellowstone Park Association.  His dedication to his work paid off when in 1915, he purchased Henry Klamer's general store at Old Faithful.  He paid slightly over $20,00 for the business, receiving financial backing from his boss Harry Child.  The Klamer store had opened in 1897 and operated successfully until Henry's death in 1914.  Hamilton worked hard and in 1917 went into the filling station business with Harry Child, and opened up a second store at Lake in the old E.C. Waters building, in front of Lake Hotel.  Two years later he began construction on a new store at Lake, having it ready to open for the 1922 season.
Lake General Store
This unusual building was completed for the 1922 season, overlooking the beautiful Yellowstone Lake.  It was located near to the Lake Hotel.  It is still in operation, although the log trimwork was removed many years ago.
Courtesy 1927 Haynes Guide
Geyser water swimming pools . . . .
     
Hamilton expanded his business in 1933 when he bought out Henry Brothers Bathhouse & Plunge at Old Faithful.  It had been established in 1914 in the basin across from the Old Faithful Inn.  Hot water from Solitary Geyser was piped in to fill the pools.  Hamilton remodeled the structure that year, creating a peaked roof with log beams and skylights.  There were 147 dressing rooms and 'sand porches' for sun bathing.  After a prolonged political battle, the structure was razed in 1951 after the government determined it was inappropriate for a National Park.
Brothers Bathhouse & Plunge
This log bathhouse was built in 1923 by Henry J. Brothers in the OF Geyser Basin, utilizing water from Solitary Geyser. It replaced a facility Brothers established in 1914.  There was a main swimming pool and five smaller hot pools
Photo courtesy Haynes Guide, 1927 Edition.
More improvements at Old Faithful . . . . .  
    
Hamilton was not content to sit idle and was continually trying to improve and expand on his operations.  He erected a filling station at Old Faithful in 1922 and built a huge addition to the old Klamer store in 1923-24.  At the time, it was reputed to be the largest store in the National Park system, measuring 110' x 160'.  In 1921 he opened a small store at West Thumb, utilizing the former lunch station.    He built a new store and filling station there in 1924. 1923 saw a small store erected at the Basin Auto Camp at Old Faithful, while the small store at Fishing Bridge was doubled in size in 1925.  Between 1925-27 an addition was made to the Basin Auto Store, the knotty wood porch was added to the former Klamer store, and a new filling station constructed nearby.  In 1929 Hamilton built a third store at Old Faithful - the 'Upper Store'.  It had 150' of frontage with a 48-person employee dorm in the upstairs.  By this time Hamilton had a firm monopoly on the general store business in the southern portion of the park.  It would be two more decades before he would gain control over all the park general stores.  Business at Canyon and Mammoth was still controlled by Pryor & Trischman and George Whittaker (Whittaker sold out to P&T in 1932) until the early 1950's.
The original clapboard store circa late 1890's.  Henry & Mary Klamer lived upstairs.  The store faced the geyser basin and was located near to where the  Old Faithful Inn would be built in 1903.
Photo courtesy of the YNP Archives Collection
Click Here for other Store Pages
Ole Anderson
Jennie H. Ash
Henry Klamer
Pryor & Trischman
George Whittaker
Haynes Photo Shops
The Klamer store after addition and renovations of 1904, making it blend in with the log-style of the OF Inn.  It is believed he worked with architect Robert Reamer on the changes.
Photo courtesy of the YNP Archives Collection
Henry Klamer General Store at Old Faithful
Hamilton's Lower Store in 1924
The old Klamer store was greatly enlarged in 1924.  The original store is at the far left of the building.  Old Faithful Inn is shown in the background.
Haynes-Photo Postcard #26496
Hamilton's Upper Store in 2002
This store was constructed in 1923-24 at the upper end of the current parking lot, adjacent to the current OF Snow Lodge.  Employees lived upstairs. 
Photo by the author.
Hamilton's Store in 2002
The residence portion on the left is much the same as when it was built in 1896.  The flat roof addition was put on by George Whittaker ca1914.
Photo by the author.
(Mouse over pic for 1930 view of store)
Geyser Swimming Pool ca1934
The Brothers building of 1923 was completely rebuilt and enlarged, creating two pools, showers, employee dorms, and a public laundry. 
Haynes Linen Postcard #34115
Charles A. Hamilton in front of the Knotty Pine porch at the old Klamer Store; ca1925
Photo courtesy of the YNP Archives  Collection
Hamilton takes over all the park general stores . . . .
     
Hamilton fulfilled his dreams in 1953 when he purchased the general stores of the Pryor & Trischman operation at Mammoth and Canyon.  George Whittaker had orginally owned the general stores and filling stations in those two  locations.  He sold out to sisters Anna Pryor and Elizabeth Trischman at the end of the 1932 season for about $75,000. The two ladies started at Mammoth in 1908 when they purchased Ole Anderson's Specimen House and turned it into a coffee shop/deli/gift shop.  They expanded over the years and had operated the Devil's Kitchenette at the Mammoth Terraces and a cafeteria at the Mammoth Auto Camp.  The 1953 sale to Hamilton gained him the Mammoth General Store (established in 1896 by Jennie Ash), the filling station next door, The Pryor Coffee Shop, and the store and filling station at Canyon.  The store at Canyon did not last long after that, as the new Canyon Village was mandated to be constructed for opening in 1957.  Hamilton shelled out a million dollars to build a new store, gas station, and employee dorms at the new location.  Charles Hamilton died May 28, 1957 - one and a half months before his new store was to open at Canyon.  Daughter Ellie and husband Trevor Povah took over the operations of the stores.  They continued on in a very successful fashion and in 1967 expanded the business by purchasing the 19 Haynes Photo Shops from Isabel Haynes.  Trevor retired in 1979 and his son Terry took over.  The business continued admirably until 2002, when the family lost the contract that had served them for 87 years.  The Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998 made changes that eliminated existing concessionaires 'preferential right of renewal'.   Delaware North Parks Services received the 15-year contract and now operates all of the former Hamilton stores. 
George Whittaker's Canyon General Store
Whittaker built this log store at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, at the edge of the current Upper Falls Parking Lot.  The building was completed in 1920 and the original operation of 1917 was moved from the old
Holm Transportation building.  He sold his Mammoth and Canyon businesses to Pryor & Trischman in 1932.
Photo courtesy of the YNP Archives Collection.
Jennie Henderson Ash Store at Mammoth
This store was built in 1896 and was operated by 
Jennie Ash and the George Henderson family until 1913 when they sold out to George Whittaker.
Photo courtesy of the YNP Archives Collection.
Click Here for information on books by the author about Yellowstone's general stores, camps, and hotels.
Copyright 2004 Robert V. Goss
All rights reserved.  No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.
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