Monday, June 24, 2013

Glacier Park Lodge Celebrates 100 Years

Louis Warren Hill, Sr.
After the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, there was phenomenal growth in railway development.  Railroads began to connect the dots not only from the Pacific to the Atlantic, but to destinations that would link people to the wonders that lie inside our continent.  Louis Hill, president of The Great Northern Railway, saw the trend of other railways being built to destinations such as Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon, and decided that he too wanted to bring passengers to a destination unlike any other—to “The Crown of the Continent.” 

Although the Great Northern Railway was a portal for passengers to travel from the East to the West, there would be great need for an extensive tourist development project in the Park in order for visitors to move about the park. Glacier Park Lodge symbolized the entrance into Glacier Park, connecting guests from the Great Northern Railway, and as the gateway into the vast roads, trails, and vistas through the transportation of the red buses.   In March of 1912, work began on the Glacier Park Hotel site. The building was inspired by the Forestry Building constructed for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon.

Construction of Glacier Park Lodge in 1913
The Great Northern commissioned Samuel L. Bartlett of St. Paul, Minnesota as the architect for the Glacier Park Lodge, but Hill controlled every major aspect of the design, having temporarily stepped down from the presidency of the Great Northern to oversee the Glacier hotel projects. The large 40-ft Douglas Fir trees used for the interior columns were transported by train from the Pacific Northwest, where the 500-800 year-old trees were harvested. The trees had to be imported because trees rarely grow to that size in Montana.

48ft-Colonades that were imported from the Pacific  Northwest
Glacier Park Hotel was originally built with 61 guest rooms, beauty and barber shops, a plunge pool in the basement, steam heat, and few private baths.  Just one year after the initial opening, in the winter of 1913-1914, the Great Northern Railway built the Annex, now named the Great Northern Wing, adding 111 bedrooms. The nine hole golf course was added in1928, becoming the first golf course in Montana.  In 1960, the Great Northern Railway divested itself of hotels and sold Glacier Park Lodge to Glacier Park, Inc., then operated by Don Hummel. Hummel then sold Glacier Park, Inc. to Dial Corporation in 1981. (VIAD Corp spun off from Dial in 1996)

On June 15th 1913, Glacier Park Hotel opened its doors to the public for the first time, and guests began arriving to explore the furthest reaches of Glacier National Park.  It wasn’t until a week later, on June 22nd, that a party was thrown to celebrate the opening of the hotel.  The event entailed a free meal at the hotel, entertainment by local Blackfeet, and dancing to music by the Kalispell Elks Club band.   Exactly one hundred years later, (known now as) Glacier Park Lodge, shared their centennial anniversary with the public in similar fashion.

Hundreds gather for the rededication ceremony in the front lawn of GPL
The rededication ceremony began in the front lawn of Glacier Park Lodge, where the Flathead Valley Community Band greeted guests as they began to trickle in from the lodge, buses, and their vehicles.  The flag raising ceremony was performed by four United States Veterans of War and the Star Spangled Banner was performed by Darel H. Porter II, who is a porter for Glacier Park Lodge for over 20 years and sings the Star Spangled every morning at the lodge.   The “Welcome to Glacier Park Lodge” song was performed by three prior Glacier Park Lodge employees circa the 1960s and 70s and then Amy Croover, official from Senator Jon Tester’s office, spoke on his behalf in sending his celebration wishes.

Joe Fassler, Board Chairman for Glacier Park Inc.(GPI), and Ron Cadrette, Vice President of GPI, outlined the history of the lodge over the last century.  They also detailed the contributions that GPI has made in order to create the same atmosphere and experience to the guests as the first guests who walked through the doors 100 years ago.  We were also joined by Jim Kipp, Blackfeet Member, who then shared his words on the “Oral History of the Ceded Strip.” 

Guests await to enter the Great Northern Dining Room
The crowd was then welcomed to the Great Northern Dining Room, where a complimentary barbeque lunch was being served and musical entertainment was provided by Four Roses & a Thorn and a woodwind quintet.  Other activities in the lodge included, Christine Barnes, author of Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years, who offered book signings in the lobby, old jammer stories were told at the fireplace, and historic tours were provided around the property to guests.  An edible cake replica of the lodge was served in the lobby and BrassWerks soon followed with their performances. 

A private dinner was offered to 155 guests who were served the exact menu that was used in J.J. Hill’s seventy-fifth birthday party, held in Glacier Park Hotel in September of 1913.  The menu included,“Going-to-the-Sun” canap├ęs, mountain trout meuniere, parisienne potatoes served with claret, Montana beef tenderloin with fresh mushrooms, and stuffed bell peppers. While guests enjoyed their meals, Jack Gladstone, Blackfeet Nation Singer and Poet, crooned the crowd with songs about American Indian mythology and history.

Glacier Park Lodge’s Centennial Celebration marks the beginning of a series of similar centennial celebrations for GPI.  Next year, Lake McDonald Lodge will celebrate their centennial and Many Glacier turns 100 in 2015.  The National Park Service also celebrates their centennial anniversary in 2016, when the Going-to-the-Sun road reconstruction is projected to be completed.   

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