A Brief History of the GTCR
The Grand Teton Climbers Ranch occupies part of the site of an original Homestead Act claim of 160 acres filed by Jimmy Manges in 1911. Mr. Manges was one of the earliest settlers on the west bank of the Snake River. Geraldine Lucas filed her Homestead Act claim a short distance to the north in 1913. Manges built a smokehouse, barn, woodshed, and a cabin where he sheltered stock on the first floor while he lived on the second floor. The cabin now stands at the west end of the horse pasture about a mile south of the Climbers’ Ranch, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
In 1924 Mrs. Emma Williams, wife of Frank Williams, filed a Desert Land Act claim of 12.97 acres adjacent to the Manges land. That small claim constituted the original property of the Double Diamond Ranch. The ranch opened in 1924 as a summer camp for boys, using platform tents for housing. During the Depression the boys’ camp was discontinued and the ranch became a dude ranch of the type then common in Jackson Hole. The partners of the Double Diamond were Joseph Clark, a wealthy Philadelphia lawyer who later represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate (1957-1969); and Frank Williams, born in Colorado in 1883 and resident in Jackson Hole after 1900. Prior to his partnership with Clark, Williams had been a cowboy in the Timbered Island area and a wrangler at the Bar BC Ranch, a dude ranch along the Snake River west and slightly south of the Double Diamond property. It has been said that Frank Williams selected the site for the Double Diamond Ranch since he was fond of the view of the Tetons and the sanctuary afforded by Cottonwood Creek on the east and the Taggart Lake moraine on the west. In 1926 Jimmy Manges sold 40 acres of his original Homestead Act claim to the partners of the Double Diamond Ranch, and the property was complete.
After 1924 cabins and other structures were gradually added to the property. Cabins 4 and 6 date back to the earliest days of the ranch. Several of the original structures were constructed by some of the same craftsmen who built the Chapel of the Transfiguration. In 1945 the building which now houses the office, kitchen, and library was constructed, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in1998. The room which is now the library was originally the dining hall for ranch guests. The Double Diamond brand was scribed into the fireplace hearth at the time of construction and still remains. Frank Williams operated the Double Diamond Ranch for 40 years, until his death in 1964. His initials, “FW,” were carved next to the door of cabin 4 and can still be found there. Williams’ heirs sold the property to the Park Service the year he died.
After the closure of the famous Jenny Lake climbers’ camp, which had been a home for Teton climbers from the 1950s through 1966, the American Alpine Club was granted a lease for the Double Diamond Ranch in 1969. Nick Clinch was then President of the Club. The Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch opened in 1970. In 1985 the Taggart Lake/Beaver Creek Fire swept through this area of the Park and destroyed half the buildings on the property. The Ortenburger cabin was the first cabin to be brought to the site after the fire, through the intercession of Leigh Ortenburger with officials of Grand Teton National Park.
The history of the Climbers’ Ranch has also been made by all of the climbers fortunate enough to have stayed here.