Historic Classification V

historic image of the former Paradise Lodge

Above, this postcard featured a hand-colored image taken shortly after construction. Below, another view of the lodge, circa 1948, at the peak of its popularity.

1950s image of the former Paradise Lodge

Paradise Lodge Mount Rainier NP, 1928-1965
Classification V
Site of Henry M. Jackson Visitors Center, Paradise Valley, Mt. Rainier, Washington.
Theme: Parkitecture style similar to existing structures at Paradise, including Paradise Inn.
Landscape Architect: Thomas Vint
Construction: Rainier National Park Company
Known Timeline:
Lodge proposed with aerial tramway connection to Nisqually bridge, circa 1925
Construction completed, 1928
Tramway plan abandoned, 1929
Lodge becomes primary hotel at Paradise during depression, 1933
Lodge open during winter ski season, 1933-34
Park service approves construction of T-Bar ski lift (never built), 1940
Lodge open March 1 for spring ski season, 1945-46
Lodge open weekends during ski season, 1946-47
Cafeteria only open weekends during ski season, 1947-49
Lodge (and Paradise Inn) slated for demolition under Mission 66 plan, 1956
Paradise Lodge demolished and burned, 1965
Original Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center (the "flying saucer") built on site, 1966


If the nearby -- and still operational -- Paradise Inn got "no respect," the Lodge received even less respect during its brief history. At quick glance, the structure bore a passing similarity to the Inn, which created confusion for some of the guests. Both the image above and the one immediately below were sold as post cards during the 1930s. Guests of Paradise "Inn" regularly purchased and mailed cards of Paradise "Lodge," not realizing the difference. Evidence is found in comments on the message side, the error betrayed by mention of the silver forest logs, massive German clock, log mail drop, and other features found at the Inn.

front porch with rainier in the distance

above, this image depicts the Lodge's slight advantage over Paradise Inn: a great view from the front porch.

The History & The Experience

The Skier's Paradise

The Rainier National Park Company envisioned Paradise as a haven for winter sports. Snow skiing easily lasted into May, often June, right outside the Inn. Unfortunately the Inn was situated such that it was a magnet for snow; drifts usually piled to the roof peak. With a better designed structure on a different slope, the Company believed they could conceivably keep a new ski lodge open straight through the winter.

The road, of course, was impassable for most of the winter; the repeated plowing and east side access made the entire concept seem ludicrous. Thus it was planned that a massive aerial tramway would be built to ferry skiers up to the ski area and Lodge. All of this was approved by the Park Service, and the Lodge was built.

Unfortunately the timing couldn't have been worse. The RNP Co. found its treasury severely strained by the new construction, and when it came time to pursue the tramway, the stock market crash said otherwise. The company was continually strapped through the 1930s, and went to great lengths to move skiers up to Paradise.

Despite the lack of a tram or other means to do this, Paradise gained a reputation as an excellent ski resort for the times. It was easily the top ski destination in the Pacific northwest, and even served as the site of U.S. Winter Olympic trials.

During World War II Paradise served as a training ground for U.S. Army Mountain troops. The Army used the rope tows during ski training; at times training right alongside recreational skiers. The RNP re-opened the Lodge for skiers immediately after the war, but continued to lose money on the operations. It ultimately sold out to the National Park Service in 1952, which ran winter operations through various concessionaires over the years.

The Paradise Lodge, which was not nearly as charming nor well constructed as the nearby Inn, fell increasingly into disrepair. By the early 1960s it was more or less beyond renovation, and the NPS determined that a day-use facility would receive more visitor use at the site. The Lodge was razed in 1965, and a new visitors center was built on the spot. It was an odd, extremely modern circular building. Nicknamed "the flying saucer" and "the space ship," some observed that it appeared as if the top of the Seattle Space Needle had detached and crash landed at Paradise meadow. Later named the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, it lasted until 2008 before the NPS determined that the design was too difficult to heat, let alone maintain. A new Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center was built on the site, more in tune with the architecural style of the rest of the Paradise complex.

new henry m jackson visitor center on the site of paradise lodge

Above, the exterior of the new Henry M Jackson Visitor Center traces its architectural lineage to the old Paradise Lodge. Photo courtesy Acroterian/Wikipedia

The site has changed significantly since the lodge was demolished in 1965 such that further on-site study is virtually pointless. Further study of photographic and written record is essential to successful interpretation and preservation of that history.

Former employees of the Paradise Lodge are encouraged to contact the NPLAS by e-mailing info@nplas.org to share any comments, anecdotes, recollections, etc. to aid this preservation.


Historic Classification V

Paradise Lodge played a brief but important role in the history of lodging at Mt. Rainier National Park. It is classified by the NPLAS because of its historic significance as a lodge, and its role in the ski area operations at Paradise. Efforts should be made to gather information and data to better preserve the recorded history of the site.

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This image circa 1930 doesn't show much of the Lodge, but what little it does reveals a hodge-podge rear structure, not nearly as appealing as the front side. Bear feeding was a popular daily event at the time.

Additional Mount Rainier NP Lodges

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