Northwest Montana to Host Preservation Conference

One of the highlights will be a discussion on the historic Sperry Chalet

By Justin Franz
Sperry Chalet, side and rear of main building, unknown date. Unknown photographer. Photo Courtesy Glacier National Park Archives

Northwest Montana is home to a rich and diverse history: from Native American tribes that first lived here centuries ago to massive projects like the Hungry Horse Dam that helped power the post-war prosperity of the United States.

Many of those stories will be on full display next month during the Montana Preservation Alliance Road Show from June 13 to 16. The annual conference lets locals and visitors explore the state’s history through various lectures and tours by leading historians. A highlight of this year’s program will be a presentation by Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow on the past, present and future of the Sperry Chalet, which burned down last summer in a wildfire.

“There are simply remarkable places hidden in the rural corners of Montana, and the Road Show aims to shed a light on the importance of these places – how they played a role in the past, how they’ve been preserved or need to be preserved, and how they continue to be an important factor in our community’s economic and cultural well-being,” said MPA Outreach Director Christine Brown.

Established in 1987, MPA helps promote historic preservation projects across the state through workshops, lobbying efforts and conferences. Since 2000, the organization has directly led 20 different stabilization and restoration projects and raised funds for another 80 efforts.

One of the organization’s primary efforts is the annual Road Show, which is held in a different community every year. This year, Columbia Falls’ Cedar Creek Lodge is the home base for the conference. Organizers are planning a number of excursions during the four-day event.

One tour will share the history of the legendary North Fork Road along the western edge of Glacier National Park, with stops at Big Creek, Polebridge and other landmarks. Local historians will provide attendees context to what they are seeing. Another group will have an opportunity to travel to Browning to learn about the Blackfeet Tribe and its deep cultural connection to the land. Local and national experts will also lead a tour of the Hungry Horse Dam and the remains of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant to discuss post-war industrial architecture.

“By getting people out of the conference room and into the field to experience history first hand, we all gain a better appreciation and deeper understanding of the places in our past,” Brown said.

One of the highlights of the event will be a discussion led by Superintendent Mow, Glacier National Park museum curator Deirdre Shaw, and Tom Beaudette of DCI Engineers about the Sperry Chalet on June 14 at 7 p.m. at the St. Richards Church in Columbia Falls. The public talk is being hosted by MPA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, USDA Forest Service Region 1, and other local partners. Speakers will discuss the chalet’s storied past, the fire that destroyed a large part of it, and the potential to rebuild it in the coming years.

Find the full conference agenda and register at

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