Review: ‘Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years’ by Christine Barnes

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Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years, by Christine Barnes, photography by Fred Pflughoft, David Morris, and Douglass Dye, Farcountry Press (May 2013), 64 pages.

GlacierParkLodgeThe Swiss-style Glacier Park Lodge on the eastern side of Montana’s Glacier National Park was built by the Great Northern Railway (now BNSF) one hundred years ago as a tourist destination for railroad passengers. While the railroad sold its lodging facilities in 1957 and ended its passenger service in 1971, the rustic hotel with its central roof supported by massive Douglas firs has endured through the years as the “Gateway to Glacier.”

Christine Barnes has captured the spirit of the historic hotel with an accurate overview of “Big Tree Lodge” accompanied by an extravagant collection of archival and color photographs in Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years.

If the Great Northern Railway’s transcontinental route from Minnesota to Washington was the grand dream of tycoon James J. Hill in the late 1800s, the hotels and chalets built by the railroad at the dawn of the new century were the great vision and legacy of Hill’s son Louis W. Hill.

“Louis had taken over from his father, James J. Hill, in 1907, but temporarily stepped down in December 1911 to devote his time to railway-financed projects in and around Glacier National Park,” writes Barnes. “‘The work is so important I am loath to [entrust] the development to anybody but myself,’ he explained to the press.”

As a book of memories, Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years describes the establishment of the park in 1910, the building of the hotel in 1912 and 1913, the railroad’s back-country chalets, and the area’s mountains and wildlife. The book includes a bibliography of standard Glacier references, recipes from the hotel dining room and travel information.

With the help of three talented photographers, Barnes’ experience as a veteran chronicler of old hotels allows her to distil salient facts and images into this small-format book in an accessible style. Her other books include Great Lodges of the West, Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park and Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies. She was the senior consultant and historian on the PBS series Great Lodges in the National Parks which included two companion books.

Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years is a perfect introduction to the hotel for first time visitors and a keepsake for long-time hikers, climbers and other enthusiasts of the Crown of the Continent.

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In addition to three novels partially set in the park, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Bears; Where they fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley and “High Water in 1964″ in the National Park Service’s Glacier centennial volume A View inside Glacier National Park: 100 years, 100 Stories.

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