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Many Glacier Hotel July 17, 2005

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.

One of the reasons I was eager to move to East Glacier is that access to one of the park’s premier lodges is easy from this side.

As a preface, I went shopping yesterday, and found a small market in St. Mary’s for fresh meat and vegetables. I checked out where Catholic churches are in this area, and found one in Cut Bank, about 67 miles away. In Montana, that’s considered nearby. I asked at the campground office, and found out that there is a small satellite church in the town of Babb, nine miles away, and a priest drives in from Cut Bank for one Mass each Sunday. I drove to find it during my shopping trip, and I am glad I did because it is not only small, but also situated on top of a 500 foot high hill off the main drag and easy to miss. It is also opposite one of the entrances to Glacier National Park, with a twelve mile long road which has only one destination: the Many Glacier Hotel.

According to The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges (David L. Scott and Kay W. Scott, The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford CT, 4th Ed. 2004), the Many Glacier Hotel was built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1914, and opened to guests the following 4th of July. The railroad built a sawmill and a drying kiln near the site, and used trees from the park for the construction. Huge trees for the lobby columns (three stories high) were harvested near Lake Josephine, five miles away. Even though the lumber and rocks used to build the lodge came free, the cost of importing fixtures, glass and boilers drove construction costs to $500,000. The hotel had its own hydroelectric plant at Swift Current Falls (200 feet away) for fifty years, but it was wrecked by a 1964 flood.

This classic old hotel has 211 rooms, five stories, but no elevator. Rooms range from $111 to $219 for family suites. There are horse stables, trail rides, boat rentals and simply magnificent scenery with four mountain peaks just beyond the hotel’s shoreline on Swiftcurrent Lake. That lake was Mom’s swimming pool, and the famous pier is still there.

I last visited here with my parents in about 1960. Then, the hotel was 45 years old. I don’t think we stayed there, because it was run by the National Park Service, reservations were 12 months in advance and it was expensive. (Now it’s run by Glacier Park Inc., a private company, and reservations are on the internet at www.manyglacierhotel.com.) I remember talking to the staff – college men and women working for free room and board and a small stipend during the summer.

I recall clearly that my Dad left his camera hanging on his chair at lunch. After he paid the bill and we walked into the gift shop, a young staffer came up to him and gave him back his camera. My Dad was so grateful that he gave the young man $10 – a fortune in my eyes. Then Dad said to me, “See? If you had been alert, you could have saved the camera and gotten $10.” I recall mumbling to my Mom, “Yeah, but only if I sold it to someone else.” Did your Dad ever pay you a reward for giving him back his own misplaced stuff?

Today, my visit is 45 years later, and the hotel is 90 years old. A five phase restoration project is underway, with exterior repairs complete. (On the hotel, not on me.)

Since the hotel is inside Glacier National Park, I had to pay the park admission. I bought a seven day pass for $20. I hope to get back to Many Glacier for hiking, for lunch, and to let Lacy commune once again with the very docile herd of trail horses tied up nearby. I’m not sure what she’s telling them, but I think it includes, “…and he won’t even let me drive.” Horses don’t really laugh; they just snort in derision.



1. Gerbera Daisy - July 17, 2005

You have described Montana in a way that makes me want to visit sometime. I would love to spend the night in the 90 year old hotel. I guess I will add that to my list of things to do before I die.

2. Greg Finnegan - July 19, 2005

Gerbera Daisy, enjoy it while you’re young. You will love this place. It is more difficult to breathe at altitude, but I just pace myself… (grin).

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