‘This is incredible.’ Mount Rainier’s Paradise Inn opens after $24.6M annex renovation

The Mountain was not out.

That didn’t seem to matter to those gathered at the Paradise Inn Friday morning.

“Even though it’s cloudy outside, we don’t care,” said Melinda Simpson, the operations manager of Mount Rainier National Park. “It’s sunny inside.”

She and others filled the lobby to celebrate the reopening of the inn’s nearly 100-year-old annex, after a 19-month closure for renovation.

The 79 rooms in the annex account for more than half the hotel rooms in the park.

Simpson, who in 1973 started working at the inn in the pantry, said she’s excited that floors in the annex no longer creak and that all the windows open now and have screens that stay put.

“I see the changes,” Simpson said. “I see every nook and cranny.”

The $24,581,206 project included bringing the building up to seismic code, new fire safety systems, electrical and plumbing updates, renovated rooms and other work.

Park superintendent Chip Jenkins pointed out that the electrical system hadn’t been upgraded since Eisenhower was president, before the interstate highway system.

And the building had settled.

“One corner was 6 inches lower,” Jenkins said.

Crews used hydraulic lifts to raise the building to do foundation work.

As for the renovated guest rooms: “People will see a dramatic change,” Jenkins said.

Following an opening ceremony Friday, visitors were able to tour some of them.

“Oh this is so much better,” said Erin Burke, a Mount Rainier biological science technician, as she peeked in a room and saw photos of what they looked like before. “This is incredible.”

Soundproofing work was done between rooms, and insulation and energy efficient lights were added.

There are more than three floors where the historic crown molding was saved, and the historic door and window trim of the guest rooms were also preserved.

There are 57 of the original windows, including 19 guest-room windows on the fourth floor.

Exterior stone of the building’s foundation also was saved.

The main inn was built in 1916 and closed for a remodel in 2006-07.

Its annex opened in 1921. Together the buildings are a National Historic Landmark.

A brochure said rooms at the inn run from $138 to $332.

The reopening celebration involved presentations from park service representatives and an honor blessing song from the Nisqually Canoe Family, among other speakers.

With that, the inn opened for the season, until Oct. 1.

“This year is special,” Simpson said.