Zinke Vows to Rebuild Historic Glacier Chalet Destroyed in Fire

National Park Service starts stabilization work at Sperry Chalet

By Justin Franz
The remains of the Sperry Chalet after it burned in the Sprague Fire, pictured on Sept. 1, 2017. Courtesy Glacier National Park

Two weeks after the Sperry Chalet was destroyed in a wildfire, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that rebuilding the historic dormitory in Glacier National Park is one of his “top priorities.”

Engineers from a Missoula-based firm have visited the chalet, which was heavily damaged by the Sprague Fire on Aug. 31, and in coming days they will recommend to the National Park Service what needs to be done to stabilize the remains before winter. The Glacier National Park Conservancy is financing the stabilization work and has established a fund to support future efforts.

The structural assessment is being conducted by DCI + BCE Engineers, the same firm that worked on the chalet after a 2011 avalanche heavily damaged it.

The two-story dormitory was largely destroyed during the Aug. 31 fire, and today only the outer-walls and chimney remain. Outlying buildings, including the kitchen, dining room and utilities cabin, survived the fire.

Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said it’s too early to tell what the future holds for the chalet complex, but Zinke says the goal is to rebuild it.

“Rebuilding Sperry is one of my top priorities,” Zinke said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is the first step in that process. I’m grateful to the Conservancy and the Park for their quick work to preserve and rebuild Sperry.”

The conservancy set up a $90,000 emergency fund to perform work at the chalet site. The conservancy is now soliciting donations from the public for future stabilization, preservation and renovation work. Donations can be made online at glacier.org or mailed to the Glacier National Park Conservancy, P.O. Box 2749, Columbia Falls, MT 59912.

“Sperry Chalet is an iconic piece of Glacier National Park’s history,” said Doug Mitchell, executive director of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.  “As part of our mission to preserve and protect the park for future generations, we met with Superintendent Mow the morning after the fire and offered our immediate assistance.”

Mow said the work completed in the coming weeks would lay the groundwork for future preservation efforts.

“While it is too soon to know what the future holds for Sperry, the outpouring of support from our local community and visitors from around the world has been remarkable,” Mow said. “This work represents the first step in assessing the extent of the damage to evaluate what future actions might be possible.”

Great Northern Railway constructed Sperry Chalet in 1914 along with other wilderness accommodations to attract visitors and passengers. Over the years, many of the wilderness chalets were closed and demolished. The loss of Sperry means that the Granite Park Chalet is the only surviving wilderness lodge in Glacier National Park.

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