The Izaak Walton Inn, a historic Glacier National Park hotel, was built next to the railroad yard in 1939 for the use of railroad service personnel. It was also intended to serve as an entrance to Glacier National Park between East Glacier and West Glacier, but this plan never materialized. As a result, Essex has a hotel that seems disproportionate to its modest needs.
In recent years tourists have discovered The Izaak Walton Inn, experienced its hospitality, and the warmth of the hotel, enjoyed the railroad ambiance, participated in the summer and winter activities available in the serene surroundings, and judged it one of Montana’s best kept recreational secrets.
According to Francis June, Schultz convinced Great Northern officials in St. Paul that names should be changed to better reflect the nature of the area in which the Blackfeet had roamed. Consequently, the present day Walton Ranger Station was listed on the map data in the early nineteen thirties as the Izaak Walton Ranger Station and the town of Essex Montana was renamed Walton. With the precedent set it was only logical to name the hotel erected in Walton in 1939, The Izaak Walton Inn.
The hotel was built not only to meet the needs of railroad personnel, but was also designed to be a resort at the proposed new entrance to Glacier Park. Plans to open Glacier Park between east and west Glacier were postponed due to WWII and after the war, interest in running a road into the Park Creek area had disappeared and all that remained was the Inn between the two park entrances.
The Izaak Walton Inn has remained the “Inn Between”, and through the years has found its own delightful niche in a million acres of wilderness.
The fact is the Great Northern Railroad did not build a hotel in Essex. On April 28, 1939 the Great Northern Railroad and the Addison Miller Company entered into a contract that would allow Addison Miller to build and operate a hotel and lunchroom on railroad land at Walton, the contract was for 12 1/2 years from June 01, 1939 to December 01, 1951.
The Izaak Walton was completed at a cost of $40,000.00 and was to be formally opened November 15 1939. “Modern in every detail”, the two and a half story 36 by 114 foot structure boasted 29 rooms, ten bathrooms, a spacious lobby, dining room, kitchen with a two ton cook stove, drying room, store room, and general store.
It took twelve carpenters three months to complete. Much of the interior and exterior of the hotel remains the same today. In spite of losses, the Addison Miller company continued to own the hotel beyond the termination date of their contract with the Great Northern Railway. Ed Wellman bought the hotel from the Addison Miller company for $5,000.00 and sold it to Harry Stowell in 1965. In 1968 George A. Walker bought the hotel and Sid and Millie Goodrich bought it in 1973.
Larry and Linda Vielleux expanded services started by the Goodrich’s. The emphasis was on a comfortable brush with the past in which cross country skiers, hikers,and railroad fans all over the country and Canada can experience in the million acres of wilderness in which the Izaak Walton stands.
The Kelly’s are continuing to maintain the quality and ambiance that guests and Railfans of the Izaak Walton Inn have become accustomed to.
EXCERPTS FROM GAIL SHAY ATKINSON & JIM ATKINSON ’S
“A HISTORY OF THE IZAAK WALTON INN AND ESSEX MONTANA”
Essex, Montana is a small railroad town located 60 miles east of Kalispell Montana, and bordering Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness Area. The dominant feature of the town is the railroad yard with its many tracks. There helper engines idle constantly, standing ready to assist freight trains over the Continental Divide at the summit of Marias Pass. Burlington Northern now owns what was once J. J. Hills Great Northern Railway that ran from St. Paul Minnesota to Seattle Washington…
It is not known who named the Izaak Walton Inn but Francis June, a railroad telegraph operator who moved to Essex in 1914, claimed that a man named James Willard Schultz had a lot to do with the naming and renaming of many locations along the Great Northern Railway in Montana. Schultz was an author who lived with and fought beside the fierce Blackfeet nation in its last glorious days before being confined to a reservation just east of Glacier National Park. He wrote 37 books about his life with the Indians and gained much celebrity from them.