Filed Under West Glacier

Great Northern Railway buildings, Glacier National Park

National Historic Landmark

Nature is, of course, the primary force that shaped Glacier National Park. However, two entities—the National Park Service and the Great Northern Railway—played essential roles in designing the built environment that contributes so greatly to the park experience. Five diverse sites comprise Glacier’s Great Northern Railway Buildings National Historic Landmark. Together they exemplify the essential role the Great Northern played in building and promoting “America’s Alps.” Four of the sites are within the boundaries of the park: majestic Many Glacier Hotel overlooking Swift Current Lake; the more modest, log Two Medicine General Store on the shores of Two Medicine Lake; and Granite Park and Sperry Chalets, both hiking/trail-riding destinations in the spectacular backcountry. The fifth site, Belton Chalet, is located adjacent to the park in the small community of West Glacier. All were completed within five years of the park’s establishment to provide visitors with amenities rustic enough to match the surroundings but posh enough to meet the expectations of well-heeled travelers. To encourage Americans to “See America First” (and, not incidentally, increase railroad profits), Great Northern president and promotional mastermind Louis W. Hill chose a Swiss chalet style architecture that featured prominent gable ends, wide eaves supported by dominant corbels, numerous balconies, and fretwork. To remind patrons that their experience was uniquely American, designers enhanced the interior spaces with rustic Western elements and American Indian motifs. By successfully appealing to both a long-held regard for things European and a burgeoning national pride, Hill fully realized “the enormous potential for using architecture as a marketing strategy,” enriching the Glacier experience for generations of visitors in the process.

Images

Many Glacier Hotel with guests on porch Many Glacier Hotel with guests on porch and Mount Wilbur in the distance. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 7532; Kiser 5168. Accessed online on NOv 6, 2020 at Montana Memory project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/55/rec/1 Creator: Kiser, Fred photographer. Date: ca. 1915
Sperry Chalet, Glacier National Park, Montana Sperry Chalet dormitory with people on porch and balcony. Comeau Pass in the background. "GNRy" (Great Northern Railway) is painted on the end of the building. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 8238; Hileman 8025; HPF 3915. Access online at https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/95/rec/2 Creator: T. J. Hileman, photographer. Date: 1925
Granite Park Chalets View of Granite Park Chalet with people nearby. Mount Cannon in left background and Heavens Peak in far right background. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 10522; Hileman 8229; HPF 3964. Access online at https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/198/rec/17 Creator: T. J. Hileman, photographer. Date: 1939
Belton Chalet, West Glacier, Montana Belton Chalet at western gateway to Glacier National Park Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 7666; Kiser 5035. Access online at Montana Memory Project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/54/rec/1 Creator: Kiser, Fred photographer. Date: ca. 1910
Two Medicine Store with Rising Wolf in background Two Medicine Store with Rising Wolf Mountain in background. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 10166; Hileman 1056; HPF 1001. Access online at Montana Memory Project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/209/rec/9 Creator: T. J. Hileman, photographer. Date: 1930
Lobby of the Many Glacier Hotel, showing the gift shop and the top of the spiral staircase Lobby of the Many Glacier Hotel, showing the gift shop and the top of the spiral staircase Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 8249; Hileman 4222; HPF 2219. Access online at https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/88/rec/6 Creator: Hileman, T. J. photographer Date: 9-8-1940
Many Glacier Hotel View of Swiftcurrent Lake from side of hotel. Digital scan of original color transparency. Source: Glacier National Park Historical Photographs GLAC_10902a; HB-16600-C (1953). Accessed at Montana Memory project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/327/rec/15. Creator: Great Northern Railway Publicity dept. Date: ca. 1953
Many Glacier Hotel and Wynn Mountain across Swiftcurrent Lake Figures on shoreline of Swiftcurrent Lake. Many Glacier Hotel and Wynn Mountain in background. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC 10887; Photographer's number: HB 28560-G. Access online at Montana Memory project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/162/rec/15 Creator: Great Northern Railway Public Relations Dept. Date: ca. 1965
Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, Montana View of Many Glacier Hotel. Five red buses lined up in front of hotel. Packard station sedan passenger car in right foreground. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC_11013b; Spring 9277C, 1953 series. Access online at Montana Memory project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/290/rec/14 Creator: Great Northern Railway Company (U.S.). Public Relations Dept. Spring, Bob; Spring, Ira Date: 1953
Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Lake. Glacier National Park, Montana. Single rider on white horse wearing cowboy hat waves at park visitors in red bus. Balconied Many Glacier Hotel frames one side of image in immediate foreground. Source: Glacier National Park Archives, GLAC_10818; Spring 14830. Access online at Montana Memory project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll83/id/323/rec/38 Creator:
Great Northern Railway Company (U.S.). Public Relations Dept. Spring, Bob; Spring, Ira
Date: ca. 1940-1965

Location

Glacier National Park, West Glacier, MT | public

Metadata

Montana Historical Society, “Great Northern Railway buildings, Glacier National Park,” Historic Montana, accessed February 4, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/3238.