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Living History  - The Enduring Hamilton Store Legacy Remains

Living History - The Enduring Hamilton Store Legacy Remains

Popular stops for park visitors, the 11 Yellowstone General Stores and our website offer up a vast amount of unique, locally made and sustainable Yellowstone items. What not every guest knows is that the history of the stores is just as impressive — and that today’s Yellowstone General Stores were known generations ago as Yellowstone’s legendary Hamilton stores.

Back in 1872, the incredible natural riches of the Yellowstone region gave birth to America’s very first national park. In those days, Yellowstone National Park wasn’t just a bucket-list destination. More than a century ago, Yellowstone was the American frontier. For many, making a journey to Yellowstone was to go as far west as one could.

As thousands ventured into and through Yellowstone, it became clear that park visitors would need a way to acquire essential supplies to ensure safe passage. And some mementos to commemorate their Yellowstone experience would be pretty nice, too.

Enter the 14 Hamilton stores. Founded by the famed Winnipeg concessionaire Charles A. Hamilton in 1915, the stores quickly emerged as essential stops on anyone’s Yellowstone journey.

Hamilton’s stores were truly one of a kind. Similar to a trading post, they offered a wide array of items. This included food, jewelry, rugs, moccasins, furs and Native American-made goods, along with standard souvenirs like postcards. In many cases, these were offerings that visitors had never seen before. This added to the stores’ appeal.

For those who appreciate architecture, the Hamilton stores are a gem. Guests love to spend time at the fountains at the Old Faithful Basin and Lake Stores. Other popular Hamilton landmarks featuring like-nowhere-else touches include the knotted pine archway at the Old Faithful Basin Store, French chandeliers at the Lake Store and faux-log concrete structure at the Fishing Bridge Store.

Another significant aspect of the Hamilton story is how relationships that began in his time have withstood to the present day. For example, Yellowstone guests were enjoying Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream back in Hamilton’s heyday. Today’s guests can find out why Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream is such a beloved brand firsthand. Maintaining this connection to the past is one way to keep the spirit of the original stores alive.

Hamilton held the Yellowstone contract for a total of 88 years. He oversaw all the general stores throughout Yellowstone before his passing in 1957. Hamilton’s family continued to run the business through 2002.

The goal now is similar to what it was in Charles Hamilton’s day — to offer Yellowstone visitors useful items and authentic keepsakes that they’ll find nowhere else along with the highest level of customer service.

Generations have found unique treasures at these legendary Yellowstone shops. Stop by one of the 11 Yellowstone General Stores and you’ll have a way to take a little bit of the Yellowstone experience home with you. And you never know. You just might be waited on by someone who worked for the Hamilton family personally.

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