HELENA – The Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park became a symbol of the Sprague Fire that ripped through the Park in 2017. After the interior of the hiker’s retreat was destroyed, the Glacier National Park Conservancy is looking forward to restoration.
The chalet in Glacier is a staple in the history of not just the park, but also the Great Northern Railway when the company built Sperry and other chalets. The dormitory-style hotel first opened its doors in 1913 and burned in 2017.
Despite extreme efforts from fire crews, the fire tore through the structure and the interior was a total loss. But, when the fire finished smoldering and the dust settled, the stone walls stood tall.
A structural assessment was done in the fall of 2017 and GNP Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell said the evaluation found the walls were structurally sound.
“Fourteen hardy souls about 11 days and they camped out in the snow. They were super dedicated to put into place 100 six by six inch, 20 foot long timbers, to make sure the walls, which are in good shape, stay in good shape over the winter,” Mitchell explained.
As the Conservancy -- the official fundraising partner for the park -- prepares for the next step in restoration, Mitchell said they will monitor Sperry throughout the winter, start clearing the trail in June and expect the construction work will begin in 2019.
But these projects take money. The Sperry Action Fund brought in more than $100,000 from all 50 states and even a handful of countries. “It really has been incredible how this has touched so many people,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said he’s ready to work together with anyone who wants to help because “It should be a public-private partnership and we’re ready to lead that.”
Another unique partnership is the use of the Capitol Christmas Tree for the Kootenai National Forest in the Chalet. The 79-foot-Englemann Spruce is ready to be milled and Mitchell said one idea is to put it on display.
“It would be the new mantelpiece for the large fireplace in the large dormitory building that would just be a terrific asset,” added Mitchell.