Striking a natural balance between rustic and comfort, PARKitecture is known for its use of local materials, traditional building styles, and craftsmanship
Story by Colton Martini | Photography by Gibeon Photography
Just a stone’s throw from the entrance to Glacier National Park, on the shores of Whitefish Lake, is a delicately balanced home that straddles the boundary of nature and urban life. The infrastructure has been built in a traditional style that harkens back to the landscape, with materials collected from the bounty of the immediate surroundings.
The National Park Service was officially established in 1916, and subsequently, in 1918, a division was created to design the shelters, kiosks, landscaping and lodges needed to serve visitors exploring the parks. From this point on, a movement was born, giving rise to a building style referred to as National Park Service Rustic Architecture or “PARKitecture.”
The goal of PARKitecture was to create modern amenities without disturbing the immediate surroundings. PARKitects combined local stone, native woods, and traditional building styles, much like those found in the Arts and Crafts movement, which incorporated the use of handmade craftsmanship and moved away from the symmetry found predominantly in more industrial architecture.
When the owners of Cedar Camp came to Troy Denman of Denman Construction in Whitefish, they were looking for a builder who would implement the values of PARKitecture. Denman takes pride in his company’s efforts to build homes as environmentally conscientious and energy efficient as possible. Notable is Denman Construction’s passion to build homes that “cannot easily be seen,” according to Troy, “especially when you are building on the lake!”
Denman’s talent for building homes that hide in plain sight is evident in the choice of exterior materials incorporated at Cedar Camp. Reclaimed metal from nearby fallen buildings adorns the shed style roof, reflecting the well-thought-out architecture of even the most rudimentary service structures found in Glacier. More refined elements like hand-hewn log siding and cedar shake roofing help draw the house further into the landscape.
Denman and his team hand-selected and cut the cedar flair posts surrounding the house. There is only a short timeframe when these trees can be harvested, normally in the heart of winter, between January and February.
“The pores are closed then and the bark stays with the trunk,” Troy said. “Harvested any other time, and the bark peels away.”
The cedar posts are reminiscent of the lobby in Glacier’s Lake McDonald Lodge. Among the many other intricate details in the lobby, gargantuan cedar logs rise up three stories and support the balconied halls of the guest rooms above. Like the lodge and its location on the shore of McDonald Lake, Cedar Camp has an intrinsic connection to Whitefish Lake.
Nestled on a low bank, Cedar Camp uses subtle and site-correct proportions that hold it into the trees, lichen, and boulders, exuding a humble elegance. However, the irregularly shaped and pointed deck is designed to get the guests out to the lake, and creates a sense of floating above the lapping waterline. Looking back at the home, the warm light from the interior through the muntin-style windows invites you inside.
Further reflecting the PARKitecture style, the windows are tastefully painted with the undeniably familiar “Forest Service green,” Travis Denman said.
The interior is just as meticulously thought out. Aged wood flooring runs throughout the home, complimented by the massive timberwork that is also made from the support of structures past. The great room boasts a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace fit to grace a lodge in Glacier National Park. A small secret room hides behind the fireplace, perfect for a cozy night in, if you can find it.
All of the home’s stonework was sourced locally through a quarry in Elmo, just above Flathead Lake. The kitchen countertops are even fabricated from this local stone, and are a bold complement to the live-edge slab on the island. Bark, timbers, and camp-style lighting and plumbing bring the feel of the bathrooms, fitted with all of today’s amenities, back to a simpler time.
Bunk-style bedrooms were created to fit as many people as possible into this camp. The homeowners’ teenage sons, all active in sports, needed extra-large bunk beds to make the room comfortable for everyone — a cozier interpretation of the historic Snyder Hall, which until recently was dormitory-style employee housing, just a walk from Lake McDonald Lodge.
Much like the lodges of the past, Cedar Camp was built on the premise of bringing people together all while enjoying everything nature has to offer. Whether skiing in the winter or spending days on the lake in the summer, the homeowners of Cedar Camp will be creating happy memories long into the future.
Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University and is a principle designer with Sage Interior Design. He can be reached at (406) 480-2375, 105A Wisconsin Avenue in Whitefish, 101 S. Higgins in Missoula and www.Sade-ID.com.