Tetonscapes: Living History

Downtown Jackson is changing fast, but we still have some historic buildings.

Living History

Downtown Jackson is changing fast, but we still have some historic buildings.

By Mark Huffman

“We don’t have the historic architecture you see in places like Aspen, Durango, [or] Telluride, [Colorado,]” says Katherine Wonson, the president of the Teton County Historic Preservation Board. Many old buildings here have already been torn down, and there’s little preservationists can do. Robert Gill, owner of the Teton Theatre (built in 1941) and Jackson Drug (1937), says that with economic pressure and government rules, “there’s no incentive to preserve old buildings” in Jackson. He has kept his historic buildings standing with a lot of love and money, and by finding new uses. (The theater is now a restaurant; Jackson Drug reopened last summer as a restaurant and soda fountain after many years as a home design store.) Here, “you have to look a little harder, because much has been nibbled away,” Wonson says. Downtown Jackson has the highest density of historic buildings in the valley. Here’s where to find some.

1. American Legion Hall

The local Legion was founded in 1920, and this building was constructed in 1928-29. In 2002, members—there are about 150—resisted a developer’s proposal to tear it down, build a modern replacement, and put them upstairs. The building was the site of 1933 Senate hearings on expansion of Grand Teton National Park.

2. St. John’s Chapel

St. John’s Episcopal Church began in 1911, and this chapel was built in 1915. It’s in a log style that would make it seem at home on a dude ranch. 

3. Jackson Hole Playhouse

This building was constructed in 1916 on the former site of a stable. It was built as a garage and was the valley’s first car (Ford) dealership. It’s also been a mercantile, bowling alley, and post office. Since 1957 it has been a theater where live shows are performed all summer.

4. The Clubhouse

On the east side of the Town Square, this 1896 building is probably the oldest in the valley, and despite multiple remodels, original parts of the building are still recognizable inside. In the late 1890s and through the first half of the twentieth century, this was where just about every public gathering was held. Today it’s home to Hines Jewelers, Wilcox Gallery, and Jackson Hole Resort Store, among other tenants

5. Café Genevieve

This 1910 cabin was the home of Genevieve Van Vleck, a member of Jackson’s famous all-women town council in the 1920s (which was the first all-women government in the country). The building and adjacent property have been discussed as the site of a hotel of up to 90,000 square feet.

6. Teton Theatre and Jackson Drug

The drugstore was built in 1937, and the theater—now Hand Fire Pizza—was built in 1941. Both were constructed from stone quarried near Victor, Idaho. The last movie shown in the theater was in September 2012—End of Watch. 

7. Teater Studio

Archie Teater was a popular artist known for his quirky primitive Impressionistic style and almost always depicted the Tetons and life in Jackson. Teater had this cabin built in the 1930s and used it as his studio and gallery—moving it to different locations around the valley—until his death in 1978. It’s been at its present location and home to JC Jewelers since 1992.

8. Old Teton County Library

Officially the Huff Memorial Library, this log cabin was built by the Works Projects Administration between 1938 and 1940. It remained the main branch of the Teton County Library until 1997. It now houses county offices.

9. Old Courthouse Building

Built in 1933, this was the headquarters of Teton County government until 1968. In the back, on the alley, the original 900-square-foot county jail—built in 1927—still stands, barred windows, and all.

Receive Published Stories In Your Inbox

Enter your email address below to subscribe to published stories.