History Lost. History Saved.

Posted by Justin Franz
on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Inside the newly refurbished Many Glacier Hotel. Photo by Justin Franz.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the loss of the Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park. Built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railway, Sperry was not just a reminder of railroads’ efforts to entice passengers aboard their trains to see the scenic wonders of the west, but also a reminder that railroad history is made up of more than just locomotives and cars.

But not all is lost in Glacier National Park for fans of railroad history. Fifteen miles away, the National Park Service has recently completed a 17-year, $40 million renovation of the Many Glacier Hotel, another GN lodge, once dubbed “the Jewel of the Rockies.” The restoration was the result of a collaboration between the National Park Service, the non-profit Glacier National Park Conservancy, the park’s for-profit hotel operators and others. Among the highlights include the restoration of a spiral staircase and Oriental lanterns in the lobby (subliminal advertising for the GN’s Oriental Limited passenger train in the 1920s). Although the project took more than a decade to complete (the hotel is only accessible part of the year due to snow), it shows what can happen when different organizations work together to preserve history.

The collaborative effort to preserve history is a great reminder for those in the rail preservation field about what good can happen when different groups work together. Look no further than the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in Maine that is teaming up with the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges to save a Howe Truss type of bridge built by the Boston & Maine in 1918.

Back in Glacier Park, a collaboration between NPS and the Glacier National Park Conservancy is already underway to save the Sperry Chalet. Last week, the Department of Interior announced that private contractors had begun stabilization work on the fire damaged chalet and the conservancy was already raising money for any future preservation efforts.

Glacier Park’s superintendent says it’s too early to tell with certainty if they will be able to rebuild the stone structure, but it seems possible that in a few years visitors to Glacier will again be able to experience the chalet and the surrounding park just like the GN’s Louis W. Hill intended.

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