Town Square is the gathering place for the community of Jackson Hole where business, relaxation, culture, and recreation happily co-exist. Formally known as George Washington Memorial Park, the community hub was dedicated as a park in 1934. On each corner of the square, an iconic elk antler arch stands to welcome visitors. The first arch was built in 1953.
According to the Town of Jackson, "The park was named in order to memorialize George Washington for the 200th anniversary of his birth. The state of Wyoming, in cooperation with Congress, planned to honor the country's first president by establishing a George Washington Memorial Park in as many communities as possible."
Town Square is home base for dozens of events each year. The Chamber hosts the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival QuickDraw Art Sale and Auction, Old West Brew Fest, Town Square Lighting, and many more. Be sure to visit www.jacksonholechamber.com/events to learn more about Chamber and community events.
About the Elk Antler Arches
The four elk antler arches are culturally unique landmarks. If you spend time around Town Square, you'll see people taking photos with the iconic arches as a backdrop, from family vacation keepsakes to office staff portraits and everything in between!
How Do Elk Antlers Work?
No elk were killed to make the arches! Each spring male elk shed their antlers and, since Jackson Hole is home to the National Elk Refuge, there is an abundance of antlers available near Town Square.
Male elk develop antlers to intimidate other male elk and to impress female elk. When the antler has finished growing, the bone dies and hardens. The antlers are shed (or fall off) in the early spring. With 5,000 elk wintering on the National Elk Refuge, they leave behind quite a mess! The Boy Scouts started collecting the antlers in 1967.
Elk Antler Arch Construction: A Brief History From Ralph Gill
February 22, 1966 (Washington's Birthday)
Rotary Club met at 11:00am at the Wort Hotel for weekly meeting and lunch. At 12:00 noon we adjourned to the NW corner of the Town Square to build the second elk antler arch. Before lunch several Rotarians went to the Fair Grounds and loaded five trucks and one pickup with the elk antlers which were stored in a shed and a barn. The buildings were located in the SW corner of the Fair Grounds where the City Maintenance building is now. We put 400 antlers on each truck and those left over (67) we put on the back of a pickup. We had 2067 antlers.
Harry Brown (Blacksmith and owner of Anvil Motel) and Ralph Gill (Estate Administrator) were co-chairmen of the project. Harry and Harold Bell (Locksmith), with the help of Bob Vandenberg (Wedco Mfg. Co.) had constructed the base and put up the steel frame to stack the antlers around a couple of days before.
We started putting antlers on the arch at 12:00 noon. The arch was completed by 4:30 pm.
Several Rotarians showed up in a pickup during the construction phase and arrested the Rotarians that didn't show up to help. They brought the slackers to the arch, held court, and fined them each $5.00.
After admiring the work, we decided we should have a party. The Rotarians and their wives met at the Wort Hotel, had a few cocktails and dinner and called it a day about midnight. It was a great day and night.
Ralph Gill - Transcribed July 1, 2007 - Thanks to the Town of Jackson for providing this history!
Maintaining the Elk Antler Arches
Each arch contains about 2,000 antlers. Exposure to many years of sun and snow cause the antlers to become brittle so the arches have to be replaced periodically -- about every 50 years. The first arch was replaced in 2006.
About the First Elk Antler Auction in 2006
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported on the first elk antler arch sale in 2006. The article began, "The Grand Teton, the Snake River, and the elk antler arches on Town Square: All three are icons of Jackson Hole, but only one could grace someone's front lawn next summer. The Town of Jackson and the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole announced Tuesday that one of the historic arches will be sold at the annual Boy Scout Elk Antler Auction in May. Proceeds from the sale will help Rotary's efforts to replace the aging arches with newly built ones."
They went on to quote Pete Karns who spearheaded the effort for Rotary: "We discussed a lot of ideas that involved a substantial amount of work. Finally, we decided to sell it in one piece to one buyer and let them decide what to do with it." Read the complete article online at www.jhnewsandguide.com
About the Fourth Elk Antler Auction and Reconstruction in 2015
The Rotary Club of Jackson Hole continued their volunteer efforts to maintain the iconic elk antler arches with the support of the Town of Jackson and in May of 2015 they spurred the effort to auction the final original arch, which was located on the northwest corner of Town Square. The arch was auctioned for $21,750.00. As with the previous auctions, the proceeds were slated to buy new antlers to rebuild the arch.
Former Town of Jackson Mayor Mark Barron was quoted on www.elkfest.org: “I have no doubt millions of people have had their pictures taken under the arches in downtown Jackson over the years. We are thrilled the Rotary Club has taken on this project to preserve and maintain part of our western history."
See photos of the project from the Town of Jackson above and below. More photos of the 2015 reconstruction are available on the Town of Jackson Facebook page. Click here.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide interviewed lifelong valley resident and Rotary Club member Pete Karns along with the Town of Jackson Public Works Director Larry Pardee who have each served pivotal roles in the maintenance of the Elk Antler Arches for the June 10, 2015 story: "Anchoring the square."
The Jackson Hole Boy Scout Elk Antler Auction is traditionally held on Town Square the third Saturday in May. Elkfest is a community celebration built around the auction. It features activities related to nature, outdoor skills, hunting, and ecological education and awareness. Activities include the Mountain Man Rendezvous and the High Noon Chili Cook-Off.
The Boy Scouts assist the Refuge with harvesting the shed antlers and auction them to bidders from around the world who make furniture, wall decorations, jewelry and food products from them. This annual event, which includes the High Noon Chili Cook-Off and the Mountain Man Rendezvous kick-off, supports the National Elk Refuge with a large portion of auction proceeds going back to habitat enhancement projects on the Refuge.
About Town Square Shootout
The Town Square Shootout wouldn't be complete without the Elk Antler Arches! They serve as the backdrop to the longest running shootout show in the west. Visitors and locals delight in the reenactment of Old West justice carried out by professional actors summer evenings from Monday through Saturday at 6:00pm. There's no shootin' on Sundays!
Started by Chamber boosters in the 1960's the Town Square Shootout started with a wild flair that tended toward the violent. Managed by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce with the team from the Jackson Hole Playhouse, the show is now more colorful with period costumes and plenty of playfulness! Click here.
Stagecoach RidesThe Stagestop is located on the south side of Town Square, off Broadway. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely Stagecoach Ride and tour of historic Jackson Hole. Managed by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, fees collected from the Stagecoach help fund the Town Square Shootout.
Town Square is a must-see stop in Jackson Hole! From the events to the shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, and activities located around the Town Square, it's a convenient stop!
References and More Information