After working as a student at Glacier Park’s Many Glacier Hotel in the 1960s, I hoped I would end up living in the area and possibly being part of the workforce there over time. While that didn’t pan out, I thought, well, I’ll sell 100000000000000 copies of my novels including the two partly set in the hotel and will be able to fly out to Montana for a visit area year. While that didn’t pan out, I thought I’d go there occasionally and have my memories.
Now, as the National Park Service continues to refurbish the hotel, it has accomplished much in terms of infrastructure that will keep the 1915 hotel alive and well for many years to come. But, I’m not going back again and will let the Many Glacier Hotel of my memories suffice. Why?
I’m not going to rehash the issues here; I covered some of them in NPS to proceed with ill-advised restoration of Many Glacier Hotel Staircase. I believe this action and several less obvious changes are better classified as vandalism rather than preservation–or even restoration. I did not like the changes I saw the last time I was at the hotel. While many upgrades were necessary, changing the look and feel was not. Once the lobby and lake level spaces are gutted by the unfortunate rebuilding of a staircase (that has been gone longer than it was there), I don’t want to see the hotel again.
I have said my piece on this from the perspective of a person who wrote preservation grants and who worked in preservation at the municipal level. Nobody was listening to those of us who felt the changes violated the Interior Department’s own standards. Sentimentality won the day, and those of you who visit Many Glacier Hotel beginning in 2017 will see a new lobby/cafe/giftshop configuration. You might actually like it, and that’s fine because you didn’t grow up seeing it the way it’s been for over 50 years.
I applaud the NPS’ work–and those of many fundraisers–in support of stabilizing the hotel and in dealing with building code issues that are always problematic in older structures. But when the look and feel is altered, the historic nature of the structure is compromised. The hotel stands in (to my biased view) the most beautiful valley in a park that’s my favorite place on the planet. I hope many people will enjoy the Swiftcurrent Valley for years to come. I’ll enjoy it as I remember it as this blog discontinues any future mention of Glacier National Park.
As my father grew older, he stayed away from some places he recalled as childhood favorites because he liked them better as they were than as they became. Perhaps a lot of this are this way. The tide of change and so-called promise is as hard to stop as the incoming tide on a beach. So, sometimes it’s better not to go back to the old familiar places because nobody there knows your name any more and too much of what was familiar has been altered, sometimes in unforgivable ways.
I’m happy I saw the hotel several years ago before the worst of the changes arrived. Do you feel this way about some of the places in your past? Do you worry what you’ll find if you go back for a visit? Do you wonder if it’s best to stay away after friends who still live there tell you about the old buildings that were torn town for parking lots and the parks that were paved over for housing developments or the historic structures that were ruined by misguided efforts?
Or, perhaps these feelings only come to those who are starting to grow old.