Exterior of Paradise Lodge.
The exterior of Paradise Inn and the Annex. Photo by Kimberly Westenhiser.

Nestled on the south slope of Mt. Rainier, Paradise has remained a major hub for visitors to Mt. Rainier National Park. Offering gorgeous views on the mountain landscape and an abundance of forest and waterfalls, it marks itself as a true testament to the natural beauty in Washington State.
Built in 1916, Paradise Inn has offered visitors a cozy get-away on the mountain for over a hundred years and was built to bring visitors closer to the already existing landscape.

“The buildings of Paradise Inn didn’t look to compete but to connect. They built something that complimented the landscape, they used local materials.” Said Jared Infanger, Mt. Rainier National Park’s historical architect.

After a hundred years, the building had begun to show its age with deferred maintenance becoming a larger and larger issue. The utilities had not been updated since 1950s and due to uneven snow fall on the east and west sides, the building had settled leaving the annex hallways with a three inch slant to one side. And these were just a few of the problems with the ever-aging building.

A major rehaul of the foundation was necessary to keep the building from sinking further and to mitigate a natural flow of water from melting snow that formed a stream under the building.

“So basically what we did was say ‘look, this water’s been running through here [since] 6,000 years ago, its just gonna do it, lets just let it go.” John O’Conner of Korsmo Construction, the contractor responsible for the renovation.

Engineered with the water flow in mind, the foundation was poured after the building was jacked up, just a day before a major snowfall in October. The snow fall lasted for the next thirty days If the foundation had not been poured before the snowfall, it could have spelled disaster for the project.
“[It] was really fortuitous that things came together well. Everything was well planned, well designed, well managed by the contractor.” Ray Todd, project manager of the National Parks Denver Service Center “Our whole project was difficult, on the other hand it went really smoothly. I mean I think it really spoke to […] the great cooperation between the concessioner, the parks, the local staff here [and] Korsmo, the contractor.”

The renovation also included the addition of insulation and sound proofing in the rooms and the replacement of the majority of windows. Only 57 of the original remain, with 19 of those in the guest bedrooms.

Paradise is also significant part of the history of Nisqually tribe, and tribe councilmember Hanford McCloud said he is pleased to be an increasing part of the conversation and to be included in the opening ceremony. He and the Nisqually Canoe family sang songs, and played drums in their regalia.
“I think it’s a great step forward, especially working with the indigenous people and having us as a presence here.” he said.

McCloud has worked to educate visitors and parks staff about Nisqually history for the last twenty years. He will be back up to Paradise on May 30th to educate the rangers coming on for the summer. He say that communication with the National Parks Service hasn’t always been easy, but he is looking to increase the visibility of indigenous people.

“It’s a tough path, we have to go through a lot of bureaucratic stuff to get to, not even an answer, maybe another question to our question really. The continuity needs to be there, when somebody steps down like Randy King and [Superintendent] Chip Jenkins takes over, the continuity needs to be there.” he said. “So that’s what I want to do is make sure that we’re still a presence here, not just a paragraph in a book that talks about the indigenous people that used to come up here, that used to use these places.”

He says that’s important aspect of being a council member, is asking questions and ensuring the indigenous people are a part of the conversation.
“Our voice needs to be at that table, our voice needs to be heard.” he said.
Rooms at Paradise Inn run from $138 to $332 dollars a night and will be open until the end of the season on Oct 1st.