The remaining pieces of the Sperry Chalet rebuild puzzle literally and figuratively are expected to fall into place this summer.
On Wednesday, the National Park Service is holding an industry night in Kalispell for construction contractors interested in bidding on the second of two phases for the Sperry Chalet rebuilding effort. That’s followed by a public open house celebration, which will reflect on the 2018 first phase and outline what to expect this summer.
The contractors’ meeting is set from 5 to 5:30 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel, followed by the public open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Videos and photographs of the construction work, as well as wintertime monitoring overflights, will be shared during the open house.
“We look forward to celebrating what was accomplished and talking with the concessionaire, architect and others to learn more about what Phase Two looks like,” said Doug Mitchell, executive director of the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the park’s nonprofit fundraising branch.
As part of the ongoing private fundraising effort, Mitchell said they’re sending out pieces of a jigsaw puzzle featuring the iconic Sperry Chalet dormitory, which they hope people will send back with donations. Shortly after the fire, the conservancy raised about $20,000 to pay for emergency stabilization, which kept the walls standing during the first winter.
Since then, Mitchell’s group has raised in excess of $600,000 and spent about $400,000 of that to help pay for rebuilding the iconic structure. Mitchell said their goal is to raise another $500,000; generally, they’re covering non-construction costs or upgrades, like historic light fixtures the government may not deem essential.
“We’re prepared to be helpful wherever it’s most useful,” Mitchell said.
In the fall of 2017, crews performed emergency stabilization work on what was left of the wood and stone Sperry Chalet dormitory, which caught fire when it was overrun by an ember storm on Aug. 31, 2017, during the Sprague fire. After the firestorm, only the stone wall shell and chimney remained of the historic structure, which was part of the Sperry complex built in 1914.
After about $12 million in federal funds were allocated to the reconstruction work, crews from Dick Anderson Construction spent most of last summer at the site, which included a six-mile commute on foot to an elevation of 6,560 feet.
They put a new roof on the dormitory, which included logs with metal rods inserted inside them for strength, topped with 2-by-6 sheeting, which was then covered by tongue-in-groove, fire-resistant plywood. Before leaving, the crews covered doors and windows with plywood to keep the elements out.
The first phase cost about $4.08 million.
This summer, the work generally involves finishing the interior and exterior work, according to Daniel Lawson, the project manager. That includes repairing some of the stone masonry that was damaged by the fire; installing windows and doors; finalizing the roof structure, and putting up interior walls and exterior porches and balconies. They’ll also install stairways and railings, as well as internal flooring and trim work.
“It will be painted as much as it was originally,” Lawson added.
The Park Service hasn’t received any bids yet, but Sally Mayberry, a public affairs specialist in Denver, said the phase 2 construction work is estimated at between $5 million and $10 million. Along with the federal allocation and donations, funding is expected to include a $1.2 million property insurance reimbursement.
Crews are expected to stay at the site again this year, with the work season running from July to October.
The dormitory won’t open to the public until the summer of 2020, but like last year, hikers will be able to munch on the traditional cookies washed down with lemonade, as well as other goodies, at the dining hall. Private funds raised through the Glacier conservancy are expected to help cover the costs of keeping the dining hall open.
Last year, Park Service officials bypassed the open bidding process in order to use an expedited contracting method to meet project deadlines. Mayberry said they’re going through the traditional bid-letting process this year.
Unforeseen events or conditions could affect both the construction schedule and costs.
The Sperry and Granite chalets are the only remaining stone lodges in Glacier that hearken back to the days when visitors arrived on the Great Northern Railway to explore the park by horseback. The plan calls for the chalet dormitory to reflect its “period of significance” from 1914 to 1949, with some critical upgrades, including fire-resistant materials. It will be rebuilt in the same location, despite concerns about avalanches, and the two-story structure will again sleep about 50 people once it’s rebuilt.