Tester wants to bring Capitol Christmas tree back home to help rebuild Sperry Chalet

A structural analysis found the remaining stone walls of Sperry Chalet to be sound. (Glacier.org)

The Yaak-grown Englemann spruce that did duty as the Capitol Christmas tree in December could be headed back to Montana for use in the rebuilding of Sperry Chalet.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Monday asked the Architect of the Capitol – whose domain includes the Capitol’s West Lawn and its Christmas tree – for permission to bring the 79-foot-tall tree back to Montana.

Specifically, Tester would like wood from the tree to be used when Sperry Chalet is rebuilt in Glacier National Park.

The 103-year-old chalet was destroyed last Aug. 31 when the Sprague fire made a wind-driven run and overwhelmed the best efforts of firefighters.

Work began almost immediately to raise funds for the chalet’s reconstruction, beginning with a successful campaign by the Glacier National Park Conservancy to collect the $100,000-plus needed to stabilize the remaining stone walls before the onset of winter.

That work was finished in an October snowstorm.

Sperry Chalet was destroyed by fire on Aug. 31 despite what was described as a “valiant” effort by firefighters. (National Park Service)

Now comes the process to decide how best to rebuild the backcountry dormitory – accessed only by foot or pack horse.

Stabilizing the chalet’s 2-foot-thick walls was the key, said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “That gives us the opportunity to think about what does the Sperry Chalet for the next 100 years look like. There will be a lot of discussion about that piece over the winter.”

In Monday’s letter, Tester explained the story and his plan for reusing the huge spruce.

“Efforts are underway to rebuild the Sperry Chalet, and I can think of no better use for some of the Montana lumber in our Capitol Christmas Tree than to assist in that endeavor,” he wrote. “I’d like to see this tree go home to Big Sky Country, where it can continue giving to the people to whom our public lands belong.”

Tester said he has corporate partners who will work with his office and the architect’s office to transport the spruce back to Montana: The Washington Companies, SmartLam and F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co.

Capitol Christmas trees are normally chipped for mulch, which is then spread across the West Lawn.

He also helped arrange the transport of the Montana-made copper star, which topped the tree, back to Montana Resources in Butte.

The U.S. Forest Service provides each year’s West Lawn tree from a different national forest. This year, northwestern Montana’s Kootenai National Forest got the call. The spruce was trucked 3,460-mile across the country over the last two weeks in November.

Tester’s letter to Stephen Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol, can be found here.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was put in place at the West End of the U.S. Capitol Building in December after a long truck ride from Montana. (U.S. Forest Service)