St. Mary Lodge, the largest fully restored historic Glacier National Park mural in the collection of the Hockaday Museum of Art, will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Dec. 19 in the atrium lobby of the Lake County Courthouse in Polson, thanks to the efforts of Eagle Scouty Ethan McCauley. County commissioner Gale Decker, McCauley and his troop, Hockaday board president Harry Wilson and executive director Tracy Johnson join donors for the unveiling of the 10-plus-foot work of art.
The project was spearheaded by 13-year-old Polson resident Ethan McCauley, who read about the Hockaday’s mural restoration efforts last year when two of the murals were installed at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. Ethan vowed to raise enough money to restore one of the recovered Glacier Park Lodge murals and display it in his hometown.
Ethan raised $10,000 as part of his Eagle Scout project to achieve that goal. “I think it will be a wonderful contribution to our community. I am also proud that I have a chance to help restore a special piece of Montana history as well as Glacier National Park history.”
Johnson noted that “Ethan is a shining example of how one person can make a difference in preserving the artist legacy of our community and we are so proud to work with him on this special project.”
Ethan worked with the Hockaday to select one of the murals, and boldly pushed forward after choosing the largest mural of the 15 in the museum’s permanent collection. Joe Abbrescia, Jr., a professional art conservator, completed the restoration work and Greg Smith of Frame It built a frame for the enormous work, which measures 51-by-120 inches.
In 1913, when ailroad tycoon Louis Hill built the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, he commissioned many murals to celebrate the natural beauty of the Park. Hill had the large-scale paintings installed above the wainscoting throughout the hotel. In 1950, 51 of the murals were water damaged and discarded. However, 15 were rescued by Leona and Robert Brown of East Glacier’s Brownies Grocery, and were stored in their garage for over 50 years.
The murals were passed down to their granddaughter, Leanne, and her husband, Alan Goldhahn, who donated them to the Hockaday Museum of Art in 2012. The Hockaday received enough support from local community members through 2015 to restore six of the murals. Learn more at hockadaymuseum.org.