Timberline Lodge: 75 Years
September 27, 2012, 10:07 pm
75 years later Timberline Lodge still sits on southern flank of Mt. Hood. Registered as national historic landmark, and built in the great depression, but built to last. Timberline Lodge historian Sarah Monroe says "The depression really hit Oregon before it hit the nation because there was this slowdown in agriculture that had already put a lot of people in financial distress." Timerberline area operator Jeff Kohnstamm says that a project like Timberline Lodge was unheard of, and that most Works Prog
ress Administration projects were large utility projects "The depression and tough economic times called for drastic plans, Timberline was a project that was promoted by local Portlander's who were ski enthusiasts".
The Works Progress Administration began construction in 1936. Truckloads of workers were brought up by bus, many untrained laborers just happy to have a job, free meal, and 90-Cents a day. The architectural design mimics the shape of mountain, with two wings flanking the hexagonal hen house. Crews made a push to complete the lodge before the winter snow moved in, limbing and peeling giant Ponderosa Pine Tree's and quarrying giant basalt boulders, right on site.
1,200 gathered on September 28th, 1937 to hear President Franklin Delano Rosevelt open the lodge "I am here to dedicate Timberline lodge". Roosevelt said, " as a monument to the skill and faithful performance of workers on the rolls of the Works Progress Administration." Roosevelt continued "Here, to Mount Hood, will come thousands and thousands of visitors in the coming years. Looking east toward eastern Oregon with its great livestock raising areas, these visitors are going to visualize the relationship between the cattle ranches and the summer ranges in the forests. Looking westward and northward toward Portland and the Columbia River, with their great lumber and other wood using industries, they will understand the part which National Forest timber will play in the support of this important element of northwestern prosperity". The tapestries were hand made, and finished just hours before the opening by local craftsmen and women.
Timberline Lodge and the recreation area flourished for many years after its opening. But when World War II hit, the lodge had to be temporarily closed. At the age of 18 the lodge was almost even tore down, after its operators couldn't continue to pay the bills, "The economics weren't working at Timberline, and not only did that have to happen, but there was a brothel and some gambling going on too" said Jeff Kohnstamm. Finally in 1955 Timberline Lodge closed its door and went dark. Shortly after the closing a young Dick Kohnstamm, who had no previous management experience decided to apply for a permit to run the lodge. And he did so based on his belief that Timberline Lodge was a place to make memories. In 1958 Timberline added an outdoor heated swimming pool. And with all it's financial dark days in the rear view mirror, Dick Kohnstamm continued to push forward. Kohnstamm brought in ski instructors from Europe in the late 50's, as well as built new ski lifts. Then in 1981 the Wy'East Day Lodge was built. Today on a typical busy night the lodge serves 180 guests, the Cascade Dining Room serves up award winning cuisine. 75 years later, where its charm, and services still exceed expectations.