Lake McDonald Lodge Coffee Shop Listed in National Register

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Date: November 17, 2008
Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Designed and constructed in 1965, the Lake McDonald Lodge Coffee Shop, is the most recent building in Glacier National Park to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an exceptional example of the National Park Service (NPS) Mission 66 planning and development program. Park officials announced today that the coffee shop was added to the National Register on October 16. It is located just east of the Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the park’s six National Historic Landmarks.

The economic boom that followed WWII meant that more Americans were able to travel in personal automobiles. This increased mobility led to a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to national parks.  NPS Director Conrad Wirth responded to the increase by conceptualizing and implementing the massive multiyear rehabilitation program dubbed Mission 66. The Mission 66’s goal was improvement of park facilities for visitors and employees before the 50th anniversary of the NPS in 1966.

“The Lake McDonald Lodge Coffee Shop is an exceptional representation of the Mission 66 program from 1956-1966 that saw a significant change in NPS planning, management, and architecture,” said park superintendent Chas Cartwright. He added, “Within the national park system, Mission 66 resulted in the construction of modern style administrative buildings, visitor centers, employee housing, maintenance/utility areas, entrance stations, comfort stations, and concession buildings.”

Like several other important Mission 66 buildings in Glacier National Park, the coffee shop was designed by Burt L. Gewalt of the firm, Brinkman and Lenon, Architects and Engineers, of Kalispell, Mont.  Collins Construction Co. of Kalispell built the coffee shop at a cost of $140,130, and it opened to the public along with the Lake McDonald Lodge in 1966.

The Lake McDonald Lodge Coffee Shop was constructed within what is now the Lake McDonald Lodge Historic District which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and amended in 1996. The low profile, one-story, 40’ x 100’ rectangular facility was designed to reflect the nearby historic Swiss chalet style buildings while incorporating modern materials and construction methods of the Mission 66 era. In a May 24, 2007, interview, architect Gewalt recalled that the coffee shop was patterned after the Lake McDonald General Store. The primary feature was the utilization of a low clipped gable, or “jerkin head” roof in the manner of the Swiss chalet style of the Lake McDonald Lodge and elsewhere in the park. According to Gewalt, “There was a conscious effort to blend the new building, though it was a modernist design.”

According to Cartwright, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic properties worthy of preservation.  The National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources.  “With the addition of this latest nomination, Glacier National Park now has 372 buildings, structures, and sites that have received this distinction,” he concluded.


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Editor’s Note: Scroll over the highlighted words to view digital images of the exterior and interior of the Lake McDonald Lodge Coffee Shop. Other photo formats and copies of the National Register nomination are available upon request from the Public Affairs Office.


Last updated: February 24, 2015

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