Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Thank You to the Rockefellers!

In 1926, concerned that rampant development was ruining the scenic Teton Range, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., heir to his father's Standard Oil fortune, began to purchase approximately 30,000 acres of private land that would ultimately become the Grand Teton National Park.

But he kept for himself the JY Ranch, a dude ranch he purchased in 1932 from H. S. A. Stewart.

From left to right: Nelson, John D. III, Laurance and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
This photo is on display at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve's Visitor Center.

Over the next decade, the ranch buildings were razed or remodeled to became his family's favorite vacation destination.  

Laurance S. Rockefeller
Photo displayed at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.
When Rockefeller died, the ranch was passed to his son Laurance.

Monday Tim and I signed up for a ranger-led tour of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve.  Laura, our ranger, led us to the site of the JY Ranch on the banks of the crystal-clear Phelps Lake.  She passed around the following photo and allowed me to photograph it.

Nothing remains of the compound but the flagstones by the lake where the lodge once stood.  A noted conservationist, Laurance who died in 2004 at the age of 94 specified that the ranch should be returned to its natural state.

And so it is!  The lodge, cabins, stable and other buildings have been removed.  Now a meadow is growing in their place.

When Laurance gave the final parcel of the ranch to the National Park Service, he retained the right for the Rockefeller family to reclaim the acreage if NPS did not strictly follow his instructions, including his caveat that the Preserve's parking lot should have no more than 50 parking spots.  He believed that any more would bring too many people to the Preserve at a time.  Such crowds would compromise the serenity and beauty of his bequest.

As we walked the property, I wondered how the Rockefeller family could bear to part with this beautiful place situated close to the southern boundary of the Grand Teton National Park.  But I grateful to be a Rockefeller beneficiary!


  1. Wonderful reading your blog. I love how you write! Glad the Rockefellers found a place to spend their money so we all could enjoy this place!

  2. Thank you for the compliment! I think part of the reason Laurance turned the ranch back to nature and over to the National Park Service was his reluctance to have people gawk at the home that had played such a big role in his life. I can understand that, can't you?