Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cinnabar Hosts Teddy Roosevelt

A few buried foundation walls are all that mark the place where the town of Cinnabar once hosted a presidential entourage. Situated on the flats between the Yellowstone River and the Gallatin Mountains in the shadows of the famous Electric Peak and Devil’s Slide, Cinnabar took root in 1883. As the Northern Pacific Railroad’s terminus of its Yellowstone National Park branch, the town, four miles north of the park’s entrance, was a lonely stopping place for some twenty years. In 1902, the Northern Pacific extended its line to the new town of Gardiner where the monumental entrance arch to Yellowstone Park was under construction. But the depot and visitor services were as yet nonexistent when, in May of 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt planned a preseason tour and dedication of the entrance arch.

Roosevelt dedicating the entrance arch at Gardiner. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-stereo-1s02085
Cinnabar was the only place to locate the nation’s portable capital. For sixteen days, pullman, parlor, and dining cars serving President Roosevelt and White House staff parked along the tracks at Cinnabar. A contingent of secret service men and newspaper writers added to the throng of visitors. The cavalry stationed in the area made their horses available for fishing trips and sightseeing, and stagecoaches offered excursions into the park.

Preparing to go into Yellowstone National Park. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18932
Cinnabar’s shabby buildings and antiquated services were a far cry from the nation’s sophisticated capital. Associated Press official Harry Colman remarked, “Well, thank goodness, this blooming town will be wiped off the map when we leave. It’s a mystery to me how it ever got on in the first place.” Once the presidential cars sped down the tracks, Cinnabar’s businesses moved to Gardiner, and that brief moment in time was Cinnabar’s last hurrah.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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