Great Northern Railway chairman of the board Louis Hill dubbed the rugged mountains of Glacier National Park “America’s Alps.” Between 1909 and 1913, the Great Northern Railway constructed the Belton Chalet complex under Hill’s direction. It was the first of the Great Northern Railway’s sprawling hotels to serve Glacier National Park, created in 1910, and marks the beginning of tourism in the park. Hill drew upon the Chalet and American Rustic styles for his hotels to create harmony with Glacier’s natural landscape and help define visitors’ perceptions of the “controlled wilderness.” He costumed employees accordingly throughout Glacier Park. Waitresses in alpine dress, cowboy guides, and local Blackfeet Indians created a true theme park preceding Walt Disney. Belton Chalet is the most traditional, purely Swiss of Glacier’s hotels. Stylistic elements include front-facing gable ends, wide eaves with heavy braces, balconies, and ornamental fretwork. Inside, taxidermy, American Indian motifs, and a large oil landscape of Glacier Park by artist John Fery complement the rustic wood timbers. Guest rooms at the Belton Chalet featured rustic rockers, porcelain washbasins, Arts and Crafts style dressers, Hudson’s Bay style blankets, metal bedsteads, and Swiss style curtains. After being closed for many years and then completely restored under private ownership, Belton Chalet is one of six original park hotels. The buildings as a group, designated a National Historic Landmark, remain unaltered as a unique example of a Swiss theme park in America’s Alps.

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West Glacier, Montana