This presentation is part of the A Century of Design in the Parks: Preserving the Built Environment in National and State Parks, June 21-23, 2016, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Abstract and Presenter’s Bio

Many Glacier Hotel: The 100-Year Restoration
by Elizabeth Hallas

Many Glacier Hotel, 2012

Elizabeth Hallas: Thank you, Debbie. Good morning, everybody. Nice to see you here bright and early. All right. How many people have been to Glacier National Park? Good. About half of you. How many of you made it all the way to Many Glacier Hotel? Same. Excellent. Okay. Good. Well, some of this might look a little bit familiar to you. That’s great. All right.

I’m going to start by giving you a little bit of a project overview. As Debbie said, we’ve been working on this project since 2004. In that time, I’ve gotten married, had two kids. One of them is 10 years old now. It’s been a labor of love. I’m going to give you a project overview of our part of the project. A little bit of the history of the building, the scope of work that we worked on and how we develop those priorities and then portions of the completed project. If I do it well, we’ll have time for questions.

Okay. It’s a little bit complicated, but this building has really four parts to it. This area is one quarter. This is the kitchen/dining area. This “T” shaped part is called Annex One. It’s a guest room wing. This is the main lobby and then this is Annex Two. This is the part that was built later and I’ll get into that in a second. The project was divided up into two phases. The north phase over here and the south phase over here. The north phase began in 2004 and was completed in 2012. That included, as I said, the dining room and the majority of the guest rooms in this wing it was about 10.6 million dollar project. It had the benefit of going to bid in the midst of the recession, so they got good value for that money. It’s about 73,000 square feet. This part of the project is currently under way. The south half of the building. That includes the lobby portion. Again, right here and Annex Two, which is over here. Combined the hotel, in total, has a little over 200 guest rooms and, currently, this area is closed. This construction started in April and is aiming to be complete in June of next year.

It is on track for about 13.5 million dollars for the construction costs. This is what it looks like. It’s just a gorgeous site. Those of you that have been there can attest to that. Right on Swift Current Lake and it’s just gorgeous, but it’s also very remote and that has a lot to do with it. I’ll talk about the railway in a just a minute, but you can see this line is where the railroad track goes. This is the park map. There was a lot of talk yesterday about the Going to the Sun Road, which is also gorgeous. That’s through the middle of the park here. Our hotel is not on that main thoroughfare through the park. Our hotel is up here, so you have to go outside of the park and then back in. One way in, one way out. 12-mile road to get back in there. It’s also maybe two and a half, three hours from the park headquarters.

Lobby building, c. 1915

Okay. As was discussed yesterday, the development of Glacier National Park really was integral with the Great Northern Railroad. They were the ones that built three hotels and eight chalets across the park. This is a picture of the lobby building at about 1915 before Annex Two was built, was added on, which would be where we’re standing in this view. That’s a rare view of the hotel. Again, this is the lobby portion and then Annex Two was added over here, so, again, this is before 1916 when that was added on. The lobby, the kitchen dining and Annex One were all built under one phase. They were completed in one year, which I think is astonishing since it’s taken us since 2004 to do this work. The construction cost of that original work was $500,000. They had a local quarry, a local lumber mill, a kiln, all of that right on site. The architect was Thomas McMahon and, again, this was built by the Great Northern Railroad. It’s a Swiss chalet style, so it’s got the massing and root forms of that precedent and then the rustic, American rustic style, as well. A few more of those exteriors.

The exterior really remained pretty much intact through the years. A few minor changes here and there. Here you can start to see, again, this is the lobby and then they added what we call the South Bridge and then this is Annex Two over here. All of these right along the lake. It’s really quite gorgeous. Again, not too many changes. This is in the 1950s. Really harsh climate. This is not as high as the snow gets. We know that the snow during the winter usually gets up to the third floor, so this is probably just upon opening. In 1963, by 1963, this porte cochere was added to the front of the lobby, which has been debated a lot about whether that’s appropriate or not, but it still remains today and is not in our current scope of work, so it will remain if you go see it in the next couple of years. It certainly speaks to the visitor amenity. It certainly helped as visitors were getting out of the cars and into the front door.

Lobby interior, 1931

To the interior. This is the main lobby space. It’s really quite striking. Again, very rustic. There were Asian-inspired lighting on the interior, lots of hides, this helical stair we’ll talk about in a minute. This is the main lobby portion, so this is the part that’s under construction today. There are guest rooms that surround the main lobby. This is the helical stair, so this connected the main lobby level to what we call the lake level, which then you can go out, obviously, to the lake. This was removed at some point in the 1950s and apparently, reportedly, was just dragged out onto the ice of the lake and left to sink. We have not found it in the lake and we are currently working to bring this feature back at a slightly modified state to be code compliant, but to get this because it really was quite a feature within the lobby. By the 1950s, the interior had had some improvements. A lot of white paint was applied to this interior. This is another view of that lobby, although it’s just to the side, you’re not … the atrium is still open today. The hotel was for sale for almost a decade by the concessioner and, I think, these improvements were made to help make it a little bit more attractive to buyers.

When you originally, back in the 19-teens had a room, you shared your bathroom with your neighbor. Two rooms to one bathroom. Not everyone likes that by the 1950s, so they subdivided that space so that every guest room did, in fact, get a bathroom. Then a fire suppression was added in the 50s, which was a good improvement, as a five-story wood frame building. That was a good improvement, but, again, lots of white paint.

This is the dining room shortly after construction. You can see these wonderful tresses apparently designed by some of the railroad engineers. There’s a nice set of windows along looking right out on the lake, really quite stunning, nice fireplace back here and a pergola, some of which was discovered in the attic. By the 1940s, the ceiling had dropped likely due to the handy bat population up there. Yes, but it certainly impacted this space quite a bit and that ceiling remained dropped throughout the years and then we got a nice asbestos tile floor in there, too. Such a shame this picture, I mean that lake is so stunning and I just cringe when I look at that picture.

This is what the guest rooms look like. Again, lots of white paint. The corridors, this is the typical corridor throughout the five stories of Annex One. I want to pause her for a minute and just talk a little bit about the listings and the context of the building leading up to when we started our work in 2004. In 1976, the building’s around Many Glacier were listed on the National Register as a district. By 1987, the buildings of the Great Northern Railroad were actually made a National Historic Landmark. In 1996, some of you may recall, that the National Trust listed the Great Northern buildings on their Endangered Places List. There was some political pressure coming for this site. That spurred on a new general management plan for the park when HSR started. The HSR was completed in 2002 and it found some very severe exterior stabilization needs and those were completed between 2000 and 2004. The exterior work was completed prior to our involvement. We were on the interior rehabilitation, so that’s what I’ll be speaking to, but that exterior work really was quite dire, so the roofing, siding, stabilized a lot of exterior balconies and they did a good with that. We were able to focus on the interior by the time we got to the project.

Okay, so that leads me to what the scope of our work was. As you all know and as was discussed yesterday, budgets rule. We could have spent a lot more effort and dollars on this building and would have liked to, but we really had to focus our work on health and life safety issues. A new fire suppression and alarm system, replacing the electrical, which was not in a tube, replacing the plumbing system and I’ll show you a little bit about that, introducing some fire separations. This is a seismic zone, so we need to stabilize the building in the event of an earthquake. We also looked at accessibility and snow loading and on and on. All those life safety things. The real crux of the project. In doing that work, we tried our best to incorporate some good preservation pieces so that it wasn’t just health and life safety. When we were touching walls, we tried to, as much as we could, incorporate them. We did study some time on the dining room that was almost completely rebuilt due to the seismic needs and I’ll show you a little bit about that. We were able to reintroduce some of the features and expose those wonderful trusses again.

Hallway to Interlaken Lounge, 2012. Note the reintroduced interior transom lights.

There were some, as many of you have probably seen in different hotels, the interior transoms in the hallways. We were able to reintroduce those, but not impact the guest rooms. A creative way to introduce a light source for the emergency lighting and, yet, from the public spaces, have that feel of those transoms, even though you didn’t get those in the interior guest rooms. In the lobby, we’re currently trying to create the helical stair again. Don’t have any pictures of that because it’s currently going back and forth with the contractor. Then, in the guest rooms, we would have loved to have brought all of the guest rooms back to what they were like originally, but we couldn’t afford to do that, so we identified one hallway as the prototype and I’ll show you some pictures of what those look like. Okay and, again, funding. This slide is, actually, a couple of years old, so a ten billion dollar backlog. Yesterday, we were talking about 12 billion and growing. This was a line item construction project, so it was competitive with that scenario. We had several different value analysis, choosing by advantage processes with this project.

This is one that’s early on and what’s ironic about this picture is that every single person here has since retired. It’s been a beast of a project, but this is where we really prioritize because at that point we didn’t know how we were going to break this up. We had discussions of do we do different floors. Do we do one-quarter of the building at a time? What we agreed on in these different processes was that the life safety risk was real and how could we prioritize that first. Why we did the north half was because it had the most guest rooms in Annex One and, also, in the event of a fire, earthquake in the dining room with folks in that room. We had a four-story stone chimney that was at risk for collapsing. That’s how, ultimately, the north half of the building got first priority and, as I said, now we’re working on the south half.

It’s a very remote site. There are realities of construction that need to be thought of, so the remoteness has some factors to it, for sure. We’re close to the Canadian border. There’s a seasonal closure in this valley. As I mentioned, we’re not on the Going to the Sun Road. We’re in our own little valley and that valley is closed for wildlife easement from December 31 through April 1. Even if they wanted to do construction during that time frame, it’s closed and it’s not allowed. Worker housing. There’s no worker housing availability right out at the site, so the contractor had to consider where he’s getting crews from and where they’re going to be located, staging material, storage, snow removal. All of those things are realities that, unfortunately, beef up the cost for construction. Did I mention snow? Lots of snow.

We began our work by doing some exploratory holes and, quite frankly, we didn’t like what we saw, but that really did inform our team of engineers as to what the conditions are. We, certainly, couldn’t look at everything, but we made some educated guess as to what the conditions were where we couldn’t open them up. The structure, for sure, was compromised. With all of that snow comes draining that was going through and under the building. We’ve done our best to mitigate that with our civil engineer, but we’re still anticipated that there will be a fair amount of draining through. The plumbers were not so sensitive to the structural members throughout the years, so they notched significant pieces out of the structure. Again, just wet conditions and rot and some bad flashing details that compromise the walls.

I mentioned the seismic zone. It was something to consider, so, again, trying to be strategic in what we needed to do in terms of the replacement of plumbing, electrical, etc. We identified that bathroom core walls as one area where our engineers could be stabilized laterally for the seismic risk. Again, I mentioned the chimney, was trying to stabilize that. We had a great structural engineer that worked this out for us and was quite a feat to try to make it as invisible as possible.

The plumbing. This could have been a museum of plumbing. Every single type of piping in the last 100 years could be found here and it was quite disgusting. Lots of leaks, too, which also compromised the structure, so it was decided early on that we just needed to start over in terms of the plumbing. Again, a fire risk was real. This is showing the knob and tube wiring. This is showing the 50-year-old, by this time, fire suppression system that gets drained own every year and some samples showed that the piping was actually blocked with scaling from 50 years of use or non-use, as the case may be. We’ve been lucky it’s not been tested. We had wonderful documentation. These are the original drawings of the building and we, also, obviously, used a historic photograph to guide our work. This is the dining room. It shows the pergola and the original windows. They also showed us that there was an original ventilation shaft here that we’re able to recreate and use. Our mechanical engineer was very excited for us to provide that space within the dining room because we did not provide code necessary ventilation within the dining room. There they are getting framed up.

The reason why this wall had so much impact was we needed to replace those windows, which were not original and then this almost continuous steel between the windows to get that seismic lateral stability. In terms of the guest rooms, I’m going to walk you through real quick what the impact of these were. This is what a typical guest room looked like when we started. Lots of white paint, again, and the original wainscotting had been removed and FRP had been installed. It was brown, so it kind of looked good. We removed all that down to the studs, added the ventilation chases that were necessary for the bathrooms, the electrical work, new piping, new fire suppression system. Trying as much as we could to conceal all of this. Added acoustical insulation back in hoping to facilitate the visitor experience. Then, as I mentioned, the plywood we were using these walls as part of our strategy for the seismics. Then we went back in and most rooms could only afford to get the jib board covering and then some rooms, the prototype rooms, went back with a new board and batten trim to be similar to what was there originally.

Rehabilitated dining room, 2012

What did we get? Again, that was the typical corridor in 2008, actually. This is what we did. We cleaned up the ceiling quite a bit, illuminated the piping as much as we could across there. Had a lighting designer that helped us with period fixtures and these are the interior transoms that I was mentioning. There’s actually fluorescent strip on each top and bottom to appear like daylight even though that’s part of the emergency egress route lighting. Then repainted what was painted, all of that original trim came down and it was reinstalled and repainted. This is the interlock and lounge. It’s right outside of the dining room. That’s what we were able to do there. Typical guest room. We had original clawfoot and wall hung sinks in most of the rooms, not all, but most. They were actually shipped off to the factory and refinished and brought back to us in the north phase and that’s what one of the prototype rooms looks like now. Another, typical room and, again, one of the prototype rooms. Then the dining room. This is what it looked. Now, granted, we were there in the off-season which is why there’s not table set up. It’s kind of a mess, but we took out that ceiling and recreated some of the kind of Asian inspired … Thank you. This is my favorite. Some of the Asian inspired lanterns that were there throughout the years.

On the exterior, these are the windows that we had to replace and used the original drawings to inform our paint scheme. As I mentioned, so this is up till here and over, this is what was completed in 2012. The lobby here and Annex Two over there are what are currently under construction and we’re working closely with the concessioner and we’re tried to be very creative with our budgets to get the dollars to stretch as much as possible, but we were limited on this side, so we’re fingers crossed. We have a donor that may be interested in the main lobby space, the interior, in doing similar light fixtures that we did in the dining room, but that has yet to be determined. That is it, Thank you for your time. Any questions?

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