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About Longmire

Longmire, which includes the Longmire Buildings, is a visitor center in Mount Rainier National Park, located 6.5 miles (10.5 km) east of the Nisqually Entrance. The area is in the Nisqually River valley at an elevation of 2,761 feet (842 m) between The Ramparts Ridge and the Tatoosh Range. Longmire is surrounded by old-growth douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock.

Longmire is the location of Mount Rainier's National Park Inn, the Longmire Museum, and the 1928 National Park Service Administration Building, which is now a Wilderness Information Center. These buildings are constructed in what came to be known as National Park Service Rustic style, and were together named a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The National Park Inn is the only accommodation in the park open all year round.

Longmire is the second most popular destination for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park after Paradise. Of the more than 1.3 million people who visited the park in 2000, 38% visited Longmire. The Cougar Rock Campgound is about 2 miles (3 km) north west of Longmire. Longmire is one of the starting points of the Wonderland Trail.

History

In 1883 James Longmire built a trail from Succotash Valley in Ashford 13 miles (21 km) to the hot springs where he built cabins in the area which now bears his name. John Muir described staying there on the way to his ascent of Mount Rainier in 1888. The oldest surviving structure in the National Park is a cabin built by Longmire's son Elcaine Longmire at the springs in 1888. It is located north of the road in the area now called Longmire Meadows.

From 1899 to 1904 approximately 500 people a year visited Longmire Springs in the summer months. They reached the area by train to Ashford and they on Longmire's wagon trail. They enjoyed the mineral springs and the view of Mount Rainier. They could also hike to Paradise or Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds, both about 6 miles (10 km) from Longmire Springs on trails built by the Longmire family.

By 1906, the Longmire family had built the 30 room Longmire Springs Hotel. In that year, the Tacoma and Eastern Railroad built the original National Park Inn at Longmire. This was a three-story building with accommodation for 60 guests. Having a competitor establish in the Longmire area soured relations between the National Park Service and the Longmire family. There followed some legal disputes between the Longmires and the National Park Service including the opening of a saloon by Robert Longmire (James' son) and its subsequent closure by Acting Superintendent Grenville F. Allen who thought it was a "public nuisance."

The Tacoma and Eastern Railroad built a Hiker's Center in 1911. Constructed in an early rustic style, it is now the Longmire general store.

Steven T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service developed a policy which favored regulated monopolies over competing concessioners in the National Parks. Over a number of years the National Park Service worked to make the Rainier National Park Company the only concessionaire in the park. This was completed in 1919 when the Rainier National Park Company purchased the Longmire family buildings and a 20 year lease on the Longmire's private inholding for $12,000 in a three way deal which included J.B. Ternes and E.C. Cornell who were leasing a portion of the Longmire family property. They eventually bought the Longmire family property, after the lease expired in 1939.

Rainier National Park Company built a new hotel next to the inn in 1920. Smaller than the existing inn, it became known as the National Park Inn Annex. A two and a half story building with plain exteriors, it contained seventeen guest rooms. The Rainier National Park Company also demolished the original Longmire Springs Hotel and utility buildings in the area to "improve the appearance" of the area.

Once the road to Paradise and the Paradise Inn opened, visitors to the park preferred to stay at Paradise thereby making the Longmire hotel and annex unprofitable. The Rainier National Park Company intended to promote the area by advertising the medicinal qualities of the spring water however the Bureau of Chemistry's Hygienic Lab in Washington D.C. tested the waters and concluded that they didn't have any medicinal value. The National Park Service prohibited the Rainier National Park Company from making false claims about the waters. The springs where never redeveloped.

In the 1910s as the number of visitors to the park increased the Park Service moved the administration center from the Nisqually area to Longmire. The community kitchen was built in 1916 and is now the library. The park's first administration building was built in 1916 and now houses the Longmire Museum and Visitors Center.

In 1927 the Landscape Engineering Division of the National Park Service San Francisco office created a development plan to give "a sense of order" to the buildings the government and concessionaires had built in the Longmire Plaza area south of the road. Three particularly significant buildings came about as a result of this plan, each of which demonstrated the National Park Service efforts to construct structures "that harmonized with the rugged slopes of Mount Rainier". The Community Building (1927) is a good example of early National Park Service Rustic style. The use of pairs of columns rather than the notched corner technique shows a particular skill in using natural minerals.. The Administration Building (1928) is said to be the most architecturally significant of the buildings from this period. Features such as the heavy masonry first floor and timber second story were influenced by the 1924 administration building at Yosemite. Careful selection of local boulders was important in achieving a building which matches the surrounding landscape. The Service Station, a gas station built in 1929, is the last of these three buildings. It was designed to be unobtrusive in its natural setting.

The original National Park Inn burned to the ground in 1926 leaving only the National Park Inn Annex which is the building now known as the National Park Inn. This building was remolded in 1936 and was essentially rebuilt again in 1990.

The administrative center was moved outside the park to Tahoma Woods near the Nisqually entrance in the 1977 as a result of a 1972 master plan which restrained new development within the park.

The Longmire Buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

2006 Flooding

Longmire, along with Paradise, were amongst the most badly affected areas in the November 6, 2006 Pineapple Express rainstorm when 18 inches (457 mm) of rain fell in a 36 hour period causing extensive flood damage and road closures. State Route 706 (the Nisqually entrance to Paradise road) which serves Longmire was closed due to flood damage until May 5, 2007.

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