GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

Vic Sawyer Builds Models of Yellowstone Hotels

Our children and grandchildren are eagerly anticipating Santa Claus and his helpers, some of them hoping to get a dollhouse or a train set with wonderful buildings along the track. I’m a grandma who never got a dollhouse or a train set, but last summer I got to see a truly unique “dollhouse” being constructed and learn how it’s done.

As I was visiting with people who came by my author’s table in Old Faithful Inn last August, one especially interesting man who works at Old Faithful in the summer stopped by to talk. He told me he was the manager of the nearby Haynes Photo Shop, totally renovated last year by the Yellowstone Foundation. This historic building now showcases the photographic work of father and son, F. Jay and Jack Haynes, and informs visitors about the good works done by the Yellowstone Foundation.

My new friend’s name is Vic Sawyer, and he offered to show me the scale model he is building in a small shop set up in the Haynes Photo Shop’s back room. The model he is now working on is of the huge and elegant historic Canyon Hotel, built in 1911 but torn down by the owners, the Yellowstone Park Company, in 1959–60 to maximize their profit on the nearby recently built Canyon Village motel-like units. Since Vic has not been able to locate the plans for the Canyon Hotel, in 2014 he can only work from pictures and perhaps some verbal descriptions. Ironically, as of this past summer the Canyon Village units are being torn down and replaced by small lodges.

Vic Sawyer and model

Vic has a fabulous and unique hobby. He showed me pictures of the first model he built, that one of Lake Lodge. He has not yet settled on where he might exhibit these remarkable models, but his first one is now being stored by friends a long way from Yellowstone. For that model he made most of the furniture as it now looks in the real Lake Lodge, using masking tape painted with acrylic paints to look like leather upholstery. He found the tiniest possible incandescent lights and bits of clear plastic for windows.

He has not yet settled on where he might exhibit these remarkable models. His “dollhouses” are 1:300 to-scale models built of thin sheets of wood, and the furniture is of tiny bits of various wooden objects (like popsicle sticks, coffee stirrers, tooth picks, broom straws, and the tiniest twigs), then carefully painted. The Canyon Hotel model, he told me, will have LED lights.

Vic does beautiful, painstaking work, and I was delighted to meet him and get to see what he’s up to. I’m eager to see the completed Canyon Hotel and wonder when he will tackle Old Faithful Inn!

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