Paradise Inn, Mt. Rainier National Park. Page 1

These are photos of historic Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier National Park in the State of Washington, USA.

The front of the Paradise Inn

The Paradise Inn is a classic example of National Park Rustic Architecture, with giant fireplaces, and huge exposed log beams.  These photos were taken September 5-8, 2016.  I've added a brief history of the Inn as well as detailed descriptions.  As always I will point out things not noticed by most visitors and discuss the architecture a little.

For High Resolution Photos click or touch any photo.

If you just want to see photos, feel free to scroll down past my text, I'm not offended. I'm always torn between wanting to be brief, but also wanting to share all these details!

Page 1   Paradise Inn History and Exterior
Page 2   Paradise Inn Interior 
Page 3   Paradise Inn Dining Room, Guest Rooms,  & Architectural Details
Page 4   Other Historic Buildings at Mt Rainier National Park

Exterior Photos of Paradise Inn

Paradise Inn doesn't have the grand arrival experience of many of the other famous National Park Lodges.  Without any major distinguishing architectural features the main entry is hard to find (it's in the middle of the long side of the building.)  The main architectural feature of the Inn exterior is the roofs, over 2/3 of the total building height consists of roofs!  The building is essentially an "A-frame" designed so that the heavy winter snow slides off. The gal in the photo is my wife Julie.

The main building has 4 distinct segments to it, and a rear wing, as follows.
  1. Closest to this end in the photo above is the Great Room (Main Lobby)  with 5 gabled dormer windows in the roof.  
  2. In the middle of the building is a small section with a rock chimney and the highest roof line, this is where the main entrance to the Inn is located.  To the rear of this segment is a 3 floor wing with original guest rooms. (not visible in this photo.) 
  3. Beyond the main entryway is the Dining Room segment (Restaurant) with another 6 gabled Dormer windows (only 5 of them are visible in this photo.)  Tiny 8' wide guest rooms were located on the second floor above the dining room.  
  4. At the far end of the Inn the segment with the lowest roof and a brick chimney is the kitchen.  This is a replacement kitchen that was built in 1935 when it was realized the original kitchen was too small.  

Here's a link to Google Map of the Paradise Inn where you can see the layout of the buildings.

The front of the Paradise Inn showing the Dining Room section with the kitchen section beyond.  Rather nasty weather when we arrived.  The second floor gabled dormers are the windows for the original 8' wide rooms.  Each dormer had windows for two rooms.

The angled "log" columns supporting the roofs of the main building are actually steel beams encased with hollowed out logs to make them appear to be logs.  They are not original, the original building had real logs, but they leaned less.  They were replaced with the steel beams in the early years of the Inn when they failed under winter snow loads.

The original roof shingles were painted green.  (The architect wanted them to be red, but the Park Service said no to that.)  However, the shingles used as vertical siding on the building were not painted and allowed to weather to silver/gray.

Looking at the side and back of the Main Building.  At the far right of the photo you can see the original rear wing extending out from the back of the main building.

Same side, but the sun came out and you can finally see Mt Rainier to the left of the Inn!   

Note that the Inn is rather oddly situated in relation to Mt. Rainier.  The reason is that the Inn is aligned with Paradise Valley and not the mountain.  The Inn does not face the mountain, nor is it framed by the mountain, the mountain is off at an angle from the building.  In fact the Inn is all about the Paradise Valley, (it's called the "Paradise Inn" right?)  Before the construction of the 4 story Annex building behind it, and the addition of the Cafe and Gift Shop, the Great Room of the Inn overlooked the Paradise Valley.  Most of these famous National Park hotels are positioned so that the most scenic view is behind the hotel.  (The Timberline Lodge and Ahwahnee Hotel are classic examples of lodges/hotels that are framed by a spectacular view, both are featured on this website if you wish to take a look.)  So what seems all messed up wasn't originally.  It's just that they built the 4 story Annex building behind the Inn and it blocks the original view!

From the back of the Inn you can see Mt Rainier over the roof- if it is clear.  Notice the Cafe and Gift Shop expansions, ci 1927*,  (the gray "shed" style addition with the metal roof) on the back of the Great Room.  The space where the Cafe and Gift Shop are was originally a outdoor patio with a view of Paradise Valley and the mountain peaks beyond it.

(* ci 1927 date is based on dated newspaper fragments found under the gift shop floor covering during renovation, so this date is an educated guess.  Source "Paradise Camp, Archaeology in the Paradise Developed Area, Mount Rainier National Park, 2008 by Greg Burtchard, Benjamin Diaz, & Kendra Carlisle.)

This is what the back of the Inn looked like during most of our visit.  At the far right you can see a corner of the Annex building that sites behind the Inn.

This is the back of the Annex building looking up toward the Inn.  Most guest rooms are in this building.  Originally the dormers were gable style like those on the main building, but were replaced with shed style dormers after a heavy winter snow damaged the original dormer roofs.

The partial building closest on the left is the reconstructed guest room wing of the original hotel.  In the distance is the back of the dining room and kitchen.  Mt Rainier in the far distance.  This photo was taken from a window in the Annex building.  Roof shingles and shingle siding are cedar.

This is back on the front side, the front of the hotel, all the way around and looking at if with Mt Rainier directly behind me as I took this picture.  From this view you can get a hint of the way the Inn is built up against the hill over looking the valley on the far side.  On this end of the building closest is the kitchen (with the long shed dormer and closest chimney), then the dining room with the 6 dormer gables in the roof. 

Two more "scenery" photos:
Morning sunrise hits Mt Rainier.  Taken from the window of our guest room in the Annex Building.

View looking south-west from the cafe deck on the end of the main building.   This gives you a little hint of what the original view of Paradise Valley and the distant peaks was like from the rear patio of the Inn, before the Annex was built. The guide services building and visitor center buildings are visible on the right side of the photo.

Next Page - Interiors
Index:  Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4

Brief History of the Paradise Inn

Construction of the Paradise Inn began in 1916, it took a year to build and opened in July of 1917.  Dead wood (cedar) from local trees was used for the lumber and huge beams.  Much of the lobby furniture was hand crafted by Hans Fraehnke.  The original hotel consisted of the front lobby and dining room/kitchen, and one wing behind it set at a right angle, creating a building shaped like a "T" from above.  The top horizontal bar of the T consist of the lobby on the left side and dining room on the right (with guest rooms above it), and the upright bar of the "T" is the wing with guest rooms.  There were 37 rooms, however the dining room and lobby were designed with the capacity for many more future rooms.  A number of tent cabins were added in 1918 behind the Inn as a quick way to increase the number of guest accommodations.

The Inn was built by and privately owned by the Rainier National Park Company, up until 1952.  In 1952 the Park Service purchased the Inn and it has been run by a park service concessionaire under lease since then.

In 1920 the tent cabins were removed to make room for construction of a rear annex building which added an additional 104 guest rooms to the Inn.  Unlike the rooms in the original building, many of the new annex rooms had private baths.

As with many of these historic National Park hotels built in the Pacific Coast mountains of the USA, the architects underestimated the amount of snow weight that the buildings would be subject to each winter.  As a result winter damage lead to the need for structural upgrades to Paradise Inn over the years and more beams were added to the lobby roof trusses.  Thus the mass of beams you see today are a bit denser than you would have seen on the opening day in 1917.

The Inn has been updated and rebuilt throughout the years, but most of this updating has been done with great consideration made toward keeping the appearance unchanged.  The buildings have now been stabilized and brought up to recent code standards to the degree possible.  The Lobby, kitchen and original rooms have been upgraded, but are still in original configurations (except the kitchen.)  Each guest room in these original parts of the Inn has a sink, but restrooms and showers, are shared facilities down the hall from your room.  Renovations on the Annex building, where the majority of the guest rooms are located, is scheduled to be finished in late spring of 2019.  The annex has rooms with private baths, and a few small 2 room suites (we stayed in one of these suites on our visit, the suite is pictured on page 2 of this article.)

As of the time of this writing, Paradise Inn is open Spring through Fall and closed in Winter.  The Inn was not designed for winter use.

While Paradise Inn is the only lodging remaining in Paradise Valley, at one time there were 2 other Inns here, as well as 3 groups of guest cabins.  Page 4 has more information on the history of the guest lodging in Paradise Valley.  There is another, much smaller, historic inn still existing in the park called the National Park Inn.  See Page 4 for photos of it.

Next Page - Interiors

Index:  Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4

Reference:  Architecture in the Parks, Paradise Inn.  by  L.S. Harrison.

(Note that the NPS updates it's website periodically, which breaks links, so it may be necessary to do a Internet search for copies of these reference documents.)