Oregon's great lodgesGreat places to stay and play

First published 11 January 2022

The great lodges of Oregon are found in some of the most beautiful places. From the Tudor pitch of a roof to locally crafted furniture, these lodges have nestled into our landscapes and become part of the scenery. Here are the stories of these wonderful lodges.

Timberline Lodge

It's only right to start with the most heralded of lodges Timberline, on Mount Hood. "Whether you think of it as an art gallery masquerading as a hotel or the other way around, it's a very special place, eminently worthy of the most thoughtful, careful stewardship," wrote Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in the foreword to Sarah Baker Munro's book, Timberline Lodge: The History, Art, and Craft of an American Icon.

The lodge, built by hand during the Great Depression above 6,000 feet on Mount Hood, still plays a leading role in this thriving ski resort. There were other inns on Mount Hood before Timberline, but none that can hold a candle to its glory. The Cloud Cap Inn, built in 1889 and still in use by search and rescue volunteers on the north side of the mountain, was an "unpeeled log structure with stone fireplaces," Munro wrote.

According to Munro, Oregon's Works Progress Administration director in September 1935 applied for $246,893 to build a hotel on Mount Hood's south side. Three more applications followed---for construction, road improvements and landscaping. The result: $968,636 from the WPA. It was an unlikely WPA project---these traditionally had low material costs and high labor costs.

The lodge was dedicated in September 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A lunch afterward featured Columbia River salmon and a crab leg cocktail. The lodge opened in February 1938.

The exterior features carved wood themes--- Oregon Trail motifs, "The Year in Moons" from a 1930s Camp Fire Girls handbook, thunderbird and ram, buffalo and bear heads. The defining feature of Timberline Lodge is certainly the enormous fireplace in the center of the headhouse. It is surrounded by huge hand-hewn columns supporting the ceiling.

Crater Lake Lodge

Not all lodges are created equal. Take Crater Lake Lodge, for example. "The truth is that the old Lodge, built in bursts beginning in 1909, was a dump," wrote Christine Barnes in her book, Great Lodges of the West. The national park was established in 1902, and the mock Tudor lodge was started seven years later.

The average annual snowfall at Crater Lake is 43 feet, and the most snowfall on record for the national park was 73 feet in the winter of 1932-33. But it was built, according to Barnes, with a light wood frame instead of heavy timbers. Due to a lack of funding, builders often took shortcuts and didn't have the right supplies or equipment for the project, according to Barnes.

When it opened in 1915, the lodge wasn't complete. After years of struggle, the National Park Service bought the lodge in 1967, then leased it back to the previous owners for decades, even though it was called a fire hazard and was falling apart. By the 1980s, according to Barnes, the park service recommended the lodge be demolished and a new hotel be built in its place. A 1989 report suggested it was likely the great hall and guest rooms in the middle section of the building might collapse. The lodge was closed in 1989.

It looked great from the outside, but wasn't designed for the amount of snow that covered its roof for months at a time and, as a result, the roof sagged and it was a chilly, low-rent spot. The Historic Preservation League of Oregon started pushing to save the lodge.. Using historical photos of the main floor, the restoration (and really, almost entire rebuild) began.

The lodge reopened in May 1995 with a roof that can support 350 pounds of snow per square foot.

Oregon Caves Chateau

Sometimes, you have to think outside the box, and the Chateau at the Oregon Caves is the exception that proves the rule. The chateau, in the Siskiyous east of Cave Junction in Southern Oregon, looks completely different from the other grand lodges of the region. Built by Gust Lium, a local builder from Grants Pass, the lodge is "a prime example of environmentally compatible, rustic architecture," Barnes wrote.

Construction began in September 1931, and the chateau opened in May 1934. Slotted into the canyon and covered in Port Orford cedar bark, it blends nicely into its surroundings. The chateau was built for $50,000. Unlike many lodges, the main entrance is on the chateau's fourth floor. Visitors enter a single-story lobby that feels deep and dark like the caves, with the exception of a double-sided fireplace.

Thirty years after it opened, though, the handsome chateau was nearly destroyed. A flood in 1964 pushed mud and debris onto the chateau, according to Barnes, and people opened doors and broke windows in an effort to let the surge pass through the building. The dining room was filled with 5 feet of gravel and rock. "Steps were ripped from the staircase, French doors torn from the hinges," Barnes wrote. "The entire foundation had slipped." Lium helped workers move the building back into place, then died a few months later. Much of the lower three floors had to be replaced. Today, the chateau has just underwent another set of renovations and is open to the public.