News & Features

Sperry Rebuild Complete

Crews reconstruct iconic Glacier Park chalet two years after it was destroyed by Sprague Fire

With a few lingering chores to complete this coming spring, crews charged with reconstructing the fire-ravaged Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park have capped off their work in the high-alpine country, with reservations for the summer season set to begin in January.

Sperry Chalet was lost on Aug. 31, 2017 after the 17,000-acre Sprague Fire doubled in size in a matter of hours, destroying its fir-and-lodgepole framework and leaving behind only the native-rock shell hewed from a nearby mountain quarry by Italian stone masons more than a century ago.

Former Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke announced an ambitious goal to rebuild the historic wilderness chalet as quickly as possible, and that same fall Glacier employees conducted emergency stabilization work to ensure that the remaining stonewalls would survive the winter.

As the park’s fundraising partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy also made the Sperry rebuild a priority, and donations began pouring into its coffers, with contributions coming from citizens of every state in the U.S. and nine other countries.

With the timber braces in place, a heavy winter settled over northwest Montana, and no one knew whether Sperry would survive the weather buffeting its stonewalls perched in the mountains high above Lake McDonald, or whether it would collapse under the weight of winter.

It survived, and the rebuilding has gone mostly according to plan — or as close to plan as possible given the logistics of transporting workers and materials to the remote location.

On Oct. 11, crews descended from the high-alpine site after more than three months of steady work.

“Rebuilding Sperry Chalet is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the partner engagement has been remarkable,” Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said.

Using materials that match the historic style of the chalet, the work also included some code upgrades. The beams used to construct the roof, for example, are fortified with steel rods, and the fire-impregnated wooden shingles include a Class A fiberglass capsheet, according to Liz Hallas, of Hallas and Anderson Architects.

The first phase of construction took place in 2018 during a $4 million stabilization effort.

This year, the second phase of the Sperry rebuild got underway after the National Park Service awarded a $4.73 million contract, which, like the initial phase, went to Dick Anderson Construction of Great Falls.