Timberline Lodge (6 miles north of Government Camp, 503/622-7979 or 800/547-1406, www.timberlinelodge.com) is one of the unquestioned masterpieces of rustic craftsman design and an object of veneration for those who look back to the Depression-era building boom as a golden age of social and artistic idealism. Over 2 million people visit Timberline each year, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the Oregon.
When it was built in 1936 and 1937, the four-story 43,700-square-foot log and stone lodge was the largest of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects in Oregon. It employed up to 500 workers and artists for whom building Timberline was more than just a job; it was an expression of a cultural ideal.
In a contemporary pamphlet, one eager observed noted: “In Mt Hood’s Timberline Lodge the mystic strength that lives in the hills has been captured in wood and stone, and in the hands of laborer and craftsman, has been presented as man’s effort at approximating an ideal in which society, through concern for the individual, surpasses the standard it has unconsciously set for itself.”
Nearly every part the structure and its decor was handcrafted, from the selection of stones in the massive lobby fireplaces to the hand-loomed coverlets on the beds. Every effort was made to harmonize with the natural splendor of the location; stonecutters quarried local stone for the walls, and builders employed locally harvested timber for the floors, staircases, and monumental three-story lobby.
The six-sided central tower was designed to echo the peak of Mount Hood; the steeply slanted rooflines are meant to resemble mountain ridges. Even the exterior paint color was specially created to match the color of mountain frost.
The results of this astonishing attention to detail and handcraftsmanship is vividly on display in the lobby and central foyer. The massive fireplace built of local basalt rises 92 feet through three floors of open lobby; all the furniture in the hotel was made by hand in WPA carpentry halls, fanciful hand-carved animals adorn newel posts and stairways, and murals and paintings of stocky stylized workers grace the walls. It’s hard to imagine a more powerful relict of the 1930s glorification of the worker than this.
Timberline Lodge is open to nonguests, so be sure to stop by for a hot chocolate or a meal (there are three bars and dining rooms). The Rachael Griffin Historic Exhibition Center, on the main floor, displays some of the history of the lodge in tools, drawings, weavings, and photographs. A free 30-minute video that illustrates the building of the lodge is shown daily at 12:30 p.m. in the Barlow Room, and forest service rangers offer free tours at 11 a.m., 1, 2, and 3 p.m. daily.
For information on the rooms at Timberline Lodge and making reservations, please see the Timberline Lodge page in the Accommodations section.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel