Returning to Paradise At Mount Rainier National Park

After two years of renovations the Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park is ready to reopen. The lobby fireplace in the bottom photo will soon be back in action. NPS photos.

After a two-year hiatus, you can now return to Paradise. Mount Rainier National Park's Paradise Inn, that is. Following much-needed structural repairs, the beautiful inn will open for business on Friday.

The Paradise Inn is one of the more glorious lodges in the national park system, one I've had the pleasure of spending a night or two in. It truly is one of the "stately lodges" of the national park system, having been built between 1916 and 1917 with logs and rocks from the area. But time and Rainier's harsh winters took a serious toll on the building. When I stayed there a few years back the structure was so off-kilter you could set a marble on the floor in one corner of your room and it would roll to another.

The $22.5 million renovation of the Paradise Inn began in May 2006 to correct structural problems that could have been catastrophic in the event of an earthquake or fire. The building’s timber-frame construction was deformed from years of heavy snow loads. The stone fireplaces and a stone wall were unstable. The stone rubble foundation did not provide adequate support for the building. Along with correcting those problems, workers replaced failing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection system components. And the building is also now accessible to those in wheelchairs.

Now the inn is ready for another century of work.

“It will be wonderful to see this noble landmark hotel open again for park visitors,” says Mount Rainier Superintendent Dave Uberuaga.

Indeed. A stay in the inn truly is a stay at Paradise. Not only does the inn set on the flanks of Mount Rainier, making it possible for you to track climbing teams as they assault the mountain from your room, but the 92-year-old inn truly is a work of art. It's museum-quality carpentry and stone work harken to an earlier age of craftsmanship in this country. Two of the more beautiful pieces of furniture that were built while the inn itself was under construction are the grandfather clock and piano that you can find in the lobby. Here's how Park Service architects describe those pieces:

The woodwork, particularly the detailing of the lobby registration area, the post office, and the handmade furniture was completed by German carpenter Hans Fraehnke during the winter of 1916-17. The piano, the grandfather clock, and the detailing around the registration desk, were designed with a gothicism reminiscent of woodwork from the Bavarian alps. The piano--played by President Harry Truman during his visit--was detailed with heavy log corner-posts of peeled logs with pointed, whittled ends. The grandfather clock's carefully whittled quoins at its base, spiked and whittled corner-posts, and capping of a broken pediment and whittled finial, added elements that were simple and primitive in their material, but refined in their creative execution. These unusual pieces gave the interior decor a strong alpine feeling, with a hint of German gothicism.

If you find yourself in the area of Mount Rainier on Friday you just might want to take a drive up to Paradise. Visitors are invited to a 3:00 p.m. ribbon cutting ceremony to be followed by coffee and cake in the hotel lobby. Congressmen Dave Reichert and Norm Dicks and National Park Service Pacific West Regional Director Jon Jarvis will say a few words. There will be tours of the Inn at 1:00 and 4:00 for those interested in learning more about the work completed during the renovation.

The Paradise Inn, which is recognized as a National Historic Landmark, has 118 guest rooms, a gift shop and cafe. The inn is operated by Guest Services, Inc., and will be open to overnight guests from May 16 through early October.