The state of Oregon is a premiere vacation state with beautiful forests, mountains, rivers and seashores. There are a great number of historic lodges and hotels spread throughout the state. Below are two very historic sites which were built during the first half of the 1900’s and today still serve as excellent and scenic lodges. The first is at the base of Mount Hood Oregon and the other is directly on the Columbia River in the popular Columbia Gorge area, north of Mount Hood. Timberline Lodge is a great place to enjoy Mt Hood skiing.
Timberline Lodge– The Timberline Lodge at the foot of Mount Hood in Oregon is one of the most historic lodges in the entire state. The Timberline Lodge was actually a project undertaken by the Works Progress Administration along with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Hundreds of men were put to work building the lodge. Work on the lodge began in 1935 during the depths of the Great Depression.
The lodge was built at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Stonemasons were brought in from Europe to teach the American workers. The stonemason craft was important in as much as some four hundred tons of volcanic rock from nearby canyons was used in the project. In addition to this, very large Ponderosa pines were gathered together by adjacent forests to help support the roof. The building of Timberline Lodge was truly a unique endeavor.
Constructing the lodge required even more skills. During the 1930’s the art of blacksmithing was something from the past. Something back from the 1800’s. A master blacksmith was recruited to help the men learn the art. The results were a large collection of handwrought gates, lights, ornaments and other hardware used in the construction.
Furniture built for the Timberline Lodge was another fascinating aspect. Chairs were built big and out of strap iron. Chairs and bench seats were a combination of rawhide leather and hardwood planks. Rugs to cover the lodge rooms consisted of over one hundred hooked rugs. They were made by Oregon women who used the worn out blankets and uniforms of the workers.
The Timberline Lodge was 360 feet long and four stories high and at the top was a 750 lb weather vane. The construction cost was $1 million. Today, it would take perhaps twenty times that amount to build the same type structure. Many people in Oregon today know of some relative who was involved with the project.
The Timberline Lodge was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt who called it “A monument to the skill and faithful performance of workers”. The projects goal was to add a recreational facility in the Pacific Northwest while helping to create jobs. The views from the lodge are quite dramatic. You can see the forested slopes below Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson about forty miles south. The Timberline Lodge offers fifty bedrooms. Each is furnished with pieces built exclusively for the lodge. The designs of the room are somewhat Art Deco which was a popular theme in the 1930’s.
The skiing at Timberline Lodge is considered excellent. The first ski trails were established as far back as 1906. Today, Mt Hood skiing is world class not to mention a world class hiking and mountain climbing venue as well. The peak of Mount Hood has an elevation of 11,235 feet. Amazingly, it was first scaled in 1857.
The lodge is located at 27500 East Timberline Road, Timberline Lodge Oregon. This is about 47 miles south of Hood River Oregon.
The Columbia Gorge Hotel– Here is another excellent Oregon lodge which has a lot of history attached to it. Located on the south bank of the Columbia River in Hood River Oregon, the Columbia Gorge Hotel offers one of the finest views of the river. The hotel is located along the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway which in itself is one of America’s most scenic byways.
The site where today’s Columbia Gorge Hotel stands on was first developed by a Hood River pioneer named Bobby Rand in 1904. Rand built the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel which in Native American language translates into “rushing water”. The name showcases the fact that the grounds contain a 208 foot waterfall. This was of course before the Scenic Highway was built. This was an era when visitors to the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel came by steamer on the Columbia River from the Cascade to The Dalles. An interesting story is that ship captains would blow their whistle to alert the hotel of the arriving guests.
The hotel was sold to a man named Simnon Benson in 1920. Benson is referred to as Oregons very first tourism promoter. Benson was instrumental in having the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway built. He also wanted a hotel built at the end of the highway. As a result, he had the Wah Gwin Gwin torn down with the idea of building a lavish luxury hotel on it’s siteTo help accomplish his dream, Benson employed the same Italian stonemasons that were used to build the Scenic Highway. The new hotels name would be the Columbia Gorge Hotel.
What wasn’t foreseen was the coming Great Depression. Economic troubles would also reach into the Columbia River Gorge. During this period of economic turmoil the Columbia Gorge Hotel was bought by the Neighbors of Woodcraft which turned it into a retirement home. The building served as a housing facility all the way up to 1977.
Today’s Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa is now owned by a corporation. It has also undergone a large restoration and is a marvelously elegant hotel. It’s location right on the north bank of the Columbia River and in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area affords visitors a million dollar view. The Columbia Gorge Hotel is located at 4000 Westcliff Drive in Hood River Oregon, about 60 miles east of Portland.
(Timberline and Mount Hood photos from the public domain. Columbia Gorge Hotel photos from author’s collection)