Montana Preservation Road Show roams Flathead

Keynote speakers discuss Sperry Chalet during the annual conference June 13-16 in Columbia Falls

New & Notable
Preservation Road Show: Soldier's Home
The Montana Soldiers’ Home along Veterans’ Drive in Columbia Falls.

The Montana Preservation Alliance’s annual Montana Preservation Road Show travels to Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls and around the Flathead/Glacier region June 13-16, in a collaboration with the USDA Forest Service Region 1.

Get ready for “four days of uncommon tours and talks with local and national experts, all focused on rural and lesser-known historic places in the Flathead/Glacier region,” says MPA Outreach Director Christine Brown.

Keynote speakers explore Sperry’s future

This year’s keynote speakers are Jeff Mow, Glacier National Park Superintendent; Deirdre Shaw, Glacier National Park Museum Curator; and Tom Beaudette of DCI Engineers, who will discuss the history and future of Sperry Chalet June 14 at St. Richards Catholic Church in Columbia Falls.
The sturdy stone walls of the Sperry Chalet served intrepid hikers in Glacier National Park for 103 years and became a symbol of back country heritage in the Park. The Chalet was destroyed by the Sprague fire in late August 2017, but a worldwide community of Sperry Chalet enthusiasts have rallied with funds and strong support to see it rebuilt.
Museum Curator Deirdre Shaw will feature stories and photos of the chalet’s rich history as a railroad hotel and much loved oasis in the wilderness. Beaudette will share details of the initial structural analysis last fall; and Mow will talk about current and future efforts that will rebuild this beloved landmark building for the public to enjoy.

Preservation Road Show: Uncommon Tours & Talks

The Road Show launches from a different small town every other year with the mission to immerse participants in the history and culture of rural Montana, spotlight great local preservation efforts, and raise awareness of the importance of preserving Montana’s historic buildings and cultural landscapes.

In the Flathead, that means taking the path less traveled to see barns and homesteads, tribal landscapes, industrial buildings, ranger stations, depots, hotels, and more. Along the way, veteran preservationists, local historians, tribal experts, archaeologists, teachers and professors all join in to provide a well-rounded portrait of the historic places that define the Flathead area and her people.
“By getting people out of the conference room and into the field to experience history first hand, we all gain a better appreciation and deeper understanding of the places in our past,” says Brown. “There are simply remarkable places hidden in the rural corners of Montana, and the Road Show aims to shed a light on the importance of these places – how they played a role in the past, how they’ve been preserved or need to be preserved, and how they continue to be an important factor in our community’s economic and cultural well-being.” You don’t have to be an historian or professional preservationist to join this conference – just an enthusiastic traveler, listener, and lover of history.
The hardest part of the Road Show is choosing from several concurrent tour and/or talk options during the four days.

“The Flathead has such a wealth of architecture, history, and cultural sites to learn about, we’ve really had a hard time narrowing down all the choices to fit into four days,” says Brown. “It will be a tough decision for a lot of folks to choose which all-day and half-day tours they want to take.”

Among the tour highlights:

  • Explore the North Fork Road and its history on a trip to Big Creek Work Center, Polebridge, and other North Fork landmarks with local historians and the Flathead National Forest archaeologist.
  • Head east to Browning and St. Mary Lake to learn Blackfeet history and culture with tribal experts.
  • See the Flathead through the eyes of the merchants and magnates responsible for high-style landmarks like Belton Chalet, Lake McDonald Lodge, the Conrad Mansion and Cemetery and more, with historian Ellen Baumler and architect Jim McDonald.
  • Discover post-World War II industrial architecture at Hungry Horse Dam, and at the ruins of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant with local and national experts.

For those who can’t attend the full conference, tours on Saturday offer a one-day registration fee. These include learning about Salish-Kootenai history and culture; Spotted Bear Ranger District history; or Lower Valley historic barns.

Workshop and talk highlights:

  • Saving Sperry Chalet with Glacier National Park Superintendent, Jeff Mow and engineer, Tom Beaudette;
  • “Montana’s Small Towns: Then, Now, and Tomorrow” with Hal Stearns;
  • Preserving historic wood windows with Forest Service and preservation specialists;
  • Historic Preservation Funding short course with the Montana History Foundation;
  • “Exploring Ice Patch Archaeology” with archaeologist Craig Lee; and
  • “Preserving Montana’s Majestic Fire Lookout Towers” with Chuck Manning and historian Janene Caywood.

Register still open

The conference rate is $225-$250 per person and includes a reception on June 13; all-day tour, lunch, and evening presentation on June 14; and talks, lunch, and half-day tour on June 15. Tours on June 13 and June 16 are optional and cost $50 to $100 each.

Conference participants are encouraged to book hotel reservations as early as possible due to high demand for rooms near Glacier National Park. Road Show conference headquarters will be at the Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls; MPA also has room blocks reserved until May 13 at Belton Chalet in West Glacier, Glacier Highland Motel in West Glacier and the West Glacier Motel.

To get the latest information, updates, and registration information about the Road Show, visit or follow Montana Preservation Alliance on Facebook.