Fixing Paradise

An Inside Look at the Paradise Inn Remodel

After a $24.5 million, two-year renovation, the classic Rainier hotel reopened in May 2019.

By Allison Williams July 23, 2019 Published in the August 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Courtesy NPS

There’s a particular look to national park buildings; stone walls and big timbers, steep roofs and massive fireplaces—think Timberline Lodge, or Crater Lake’s classic hotel. They may recall the chalets that dot Europe’s Alps, but the style is quintessentially American. Paradise Inn is one of the best examples of the form (as the park service likes to call it, “parkitecture”), an imposing gray hotel whose peaked roof withstands the snowiest place in America. Inside, a grand lobby is crossed with timber beams, sourced from Alaska yellow cedar along a park road; twin fireplaces crackle at either end, the couches and high-backed wood chairs open not just to guests but day-trippers and tired hikers. The grand but aging building had been partially closed since August 2017 to bring it into the twenty-first century. The $24.5 million project concluded in May after two years of work.

A before (left) and after comparison of a Paradise room.

Image: Courtesy NPS

Modern Life

The project added new fire systems, updated electrical and plumbing, installed energy efficient fixtures and window screens, and brought the building up to seismic code.

$186 million: Maintenance backlog at Mount Rainier National Park, part of $12 billion of work needed across the park system. MRNP paid for the Paradise Inn rehab with congressional appropriations and park franchise, concession, and entry fees.

How to Repair a 100-Year-Old, Tilted Foundation

Construction crews cranked a bunch of hydraulic jacks to raise the Paradise Inn annex building over two days. They replaced the pile of rubble underneath with a modern foundation, then used the stone to create a matching facade on that concrete.

Stones removed from the historic building had to be carefully tagged so they could be replaced after improvements to maintain the original appearance.

Image: Courtesy NPS

Paradise Through the Years

1886: A tent camp opens at Paradise meadows.

1908: The Paradise road becomes the first in America to link motor vehicles to a glacier.

1917: Paradise Inn debuts with 37 guest rooms, a lobby, and a dining room.

1921: Annex building, with 104 more hotel rooms, more than doubles the hotel capacity.

1980: $2.8 million worth of structural renovations begin.

2006: Lobby fireplace and chimney removed to stabilize foundation.

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