MISSOULA – There are still specific plans to develop, but ideas for rebuilding the historic Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park are beginning to emerge, and the work to save what was left of the burned backcountry icon will help form the basis of that reconstruction.
Amidst all the fires in Western Montana this summer, perhaps no piece of the destruction hit people as hard as when the Sprague Fire destroyed the Sperry Chalet.
Despite efforts to protect the century old structure, a weak spot, a gap under the eaves, was the chalet’s undoing.
“The ember flew in underneath, unobserved, and by the time the fire was observed it was coming from the inside. That’s exactly what happened at Sperry,” said Glacier National Park Conservancy Director Doug Mitchell. “So firefighters were in the scene. They’d wrapped the wooden parts of Sperry. They were ready to fight the fire. It just got inside before they could do anything about it.”
Fortunately, quick action by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the park and local construction crews was able to come up with the plan to save the historic stone walls. Planning started the morning after the fire, and using the brief window before winter set in, engineers came up with a plan to brace the remaining structure against the winter storms.
“I get a lot of emails saying those two by fours will never hold anything,” Mitchell said. “I would agree if they were two by fours. They are six-by-six inch studs with 18-inch long bolts and rebar screws as well. This built to stay. This is a very stout piece of infrastructure.”
The Conservancy is working on fundraising plans and supporting the park’s efforts to evaluate the engineering report for a long-range rebuilding plan. Ideas have focused on clearing away debris, even re-using some of the remains and the new timbers already brought to the site.
“To take these great minds, the great craftspeople we have in Montana, volunteers, thousands of them and with our own two hands do what the people did in the 1910s. Which is to rebuild with our own two hands another icon for future generations, for the next hundred years of park visitors,” Mitchell said.
MTN’s Dennis Bragg
Hear more about the Sperry reconstruction and other efforts by the Glacier National Park Conservancy on the “Face the State” program this coming Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on KTVH.