Great Lodges of the National Parks
Glacier Lodges: Many Glacier
This was the third and largest of the Great Northern lodges in Glacier National Park. Louis Hill handpicked the Hotel's location on the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. And Hill was, once again, personally involved in the design, construction and decor. And, once again, expansions and renovations began as soon as the main building was finished.
Some 20 years after "Many" opened, Hill still hadn't recouped the millions invested in his Glacier Park buildings and promotions. The railroad had little choice but to continue throwing good money after bad.
So in 1936, when Many Glacier employees fought off a wildfire and cabled the good news to headquarters, saying, "WE HAVE SAVED THE HOTEL!," the only reply was "WHY?"
Louis Hill died in 1948, and in 1950 the Great Northern began one final round of Glacier Park investments, sprucing up buildings for new buyers. It was the end of an era.
Work began in September 1914, with a crew provided partly by Hill, and partly by Evensta & Company, the same contractor that worked on Glacier Park Lodge.
The site was remote and the weather foul. By December, the foundation had been laid. All of the stone used in the Hotel was quarried locally. The architect praised the material, noting that it came from the mountain "amgost square."
The main hall emerged as a half-size copy of the Glacier Park lobby. Once again, the big timbers were brought from the Northwest. A crew of bridge builders, on loan from the Great Northern, had all of the 40-foot supports in place by January. Remaining timber was harvested locally and floated to the job site, where Hill built a planing mill and drying kiln.
The Hotel opened on July 4, 1915, less than a year after building plans were finalized.
Thomas D. McMahon is the architect of record for Many Glacier. But much of the credit should go to Kirtland Cutter.
Hill badly wanted Cutter for the project. Cutter was an award-winner, and an expert in the Swiss style (he had also designed the Lake McDonald Lodge for a man that Hill detested).
So in the spring of 1914, Hill, Cutter, and McMahon visited the Park, and both architects started drawing up plans. The two men were in a competition that Cutter would surely have won, had he given the project his full attention. But Cutter was in high demand. By July, Hill was showing signs of impatience with Cutter. In the early fall, Hill finally committed to McMahon.
The final design included a lobby facing the lake, first-floor stonework, arched windows, tiered balconies, and a gabled roof – all elements from Cutter's drawings.
While guests still love the Hotel, it is far different today than when it opened. The original Many Glacier lobby felt like a hunting lodge, stuffed with trophies and bearskins. A 180-foot mural, painted by Blackfeet artists, covered an entire wall. Seven incongruous totem poles dotted the open area.
A spiral staircase dominated one end of the lobby, and a copper-hooded fire pit anchored the other end. Hill's choice of furniture was an odd mix of Japanese wicker, Windsor, and canvas camp chairs.
Employee lore says that the gradual decline of the Hotel inspired a program of evening diversions (1961 to 1983) intended to distract guests from the problems with their rooms. The performers were Hotel employees, mostly college kids majoring in music and theater, and working summer jobs as maids, waiters and dishwashers.