Timberline Lodge — National Historic Landmark

Timberline Lodge pano

Hiking at Mt. Hood, the highest mountain in Oregon, was an exciting adventure, with the varied beauty of hiking on a sunny blue day with the snow-capped peak visible and of hiking on another day in the clouds, when Mt. Hood couldn’t be seen.

Timberline fireplace - photo by Julie Dodd

The stone fireplace is the centerpiece of the lobby, with handwoven textiles that upholster the sofas, woven rugs, handcrafted furniture, and rod iron and rawhide light fixtures.

Experiencing Timberline Lodge, at the base of Mt. Hood, was intriguing, too.

The lodge is a massive stone structure with an interior decorated with original artwork, hand-crafted furniture, and handwoven curtains and rugs.

The lodge, located in Mt. Hood National Forest and operated by R.L.K & Company, is an imposing gray stone and wood 55,000-square-foot structure.

The centerpiece of the structure is a massive 88,000-pound great stone chimney with fireplaces that provide a cozy setting for looking at Mount Hood (on a clear day), reading a book or watching the flames in the fireplace.

The lodge provides dining options in the Cascade Dining Room, Ram’s Head Bar & Restaurant, Wy’East Café and Blue Ox Bar. All dining locations (except for the Blue Ox Bar, which is located in the lodge’s lower level) offer great views.

Created by WPA and CCC

Timberline Lodge was built during 1936-1937 during the Great Depression.

The lodge was the result of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program that created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which were designed to create work opportunities for those who were unemployed due to the Great Depression..

Carved Warrior Indian Wood Art

Carved Warrior Indian Wood Art on the front door of the lodge.

Workers in the WPA and CCC programs built Timberline Lodge and the surroundings roads and trails, with 100 to more than 450 workers on site daily during the lodge’s construction.

More than 100 other WPA workers created hand-crafted furniture, rod iron light fixtures, and hand-woven textiles for blankets and curtains.

Artists also were part of the WPA project, creating watercolor and oil art, wood carvings and mosaics.

The lodge – and each guest room – is a gallery of that work.

The WPA’s mission not only was to provide employment but also training. Skilled artists and craftspeople were matched with unskilled workers to teach them a craft or trade.

The lodge has a small museum, off the ground floor lobby, that tells the story of the construction of Timberline Lodge.

oil paintings by Darrel Austin at Timberline Lodge

Oil paintings by Darrel Austin are examples of the art created by the WPA artists for the Timberline Lodge.

The museum contains displays of dollhouse-size rooms with miniature furniture that were models for the actual furniture construction. The museum also includes the chair that was designed for President Roosevelt to use when he traveled to Mt. Hood to dedicate the lodge.

A documentary in the museum was a great way to learn about the Timberline Lodge project.

Film and photos from the days of the construction in 1937 show how limited the construction equipment was by today’s standards of massive cranes and earth-moving equipment, making the construction of Timberline Lodge even more impressive.

The documentary included interviews with WPA supervisors and workers about their experiences. I enjoyed hearing the WPA supervisor for the creation of textiles talk about the logistics involved in creating all the textiles needed for the lodge.

Interior design of lodge

Mary Elizabeth Starr's article on Textiles of Timberline LodgeIn writing this post, I wanted to learn more about the creation of the textiles and discovered Mary Elizabeth Starr’s “The Textiles of Timberline Lodge,” in Weaver magazine (Vol. 6 No. 2, April-May 1941).

Starr provides an overview of the project to design and create the textiles, furniture and artwork. (Thanks to Judith Combs for posting the article.)

The artist in charge of the design and execution of all the furnishings was Margery Hoffman Smith, Assistant State Director of the Oregon Art Project and a trained interior decorator.

I realized that it was Margery Hoffman Smith that I heard on the Timberline Lodge documentary!

Smith coordinated the Timberline Lodge Art Project, supervising more than 120 people. In creating the design for the interior of the lodge, Smith incorporated Native American culture and nature of the area.

Timberline Lodge rawhide and rod iron lamp

Guest rooms include a hand-crafted rawhide and rod iron lamp. The phone works!

The guest rooms were designed by name – such as the Trillium Room – rather than room number. She also was responsible for selecting the water colors and oil paintings displayed in the lodge.

In her article, Starr quotes a federal bulletin that summarized the massive textile project in just two sentences:

“With warp of Oregon flax and weft of Oregon wool, 136 yards of curtain material were woven by hand for use in the dining room. Hand woven are also 322 yards of material made into fifty-two bed spreads, and 564 additional yards required to upholster the chairs, benches, couches and stools of the guest rooms and main lounges.”

(FYI – The warp is the lengthwise stationary threads on a loom, and the weft are the threads that are woven over and under the warp.)

Friends of Timberline

In 1975, Friends of Timberline was established to help with the preservation of the lodge and to help maintain the lodge’s initial mission of being an arts project.

From 1975-1977, Friends of Timberline hired 11 seamstresses and fabric artists to create 4,000 yards of fabric and 100 rugs to replace the original textiles – bedspreads, upholstery and curtains — that had become worn out over the years. Marlene Gabel and Linny Adamson were directors of the project, and they maintained the same design patterns as the originals.

Mt. Hood viewed from Timberline Lodge - photo by Julie Dodd

Mt. Hood viewed from Timberline Lodge.

In 1977, Timberline Lodge was declared a National Historic Landmark.

The lodge is amazing from its massive structure to hundreds of details, like the animals carved into the wood stair rails and the Native American designs in the guest room curtains.

The creation of Timberline Lodge in 1937 was both the result of the vision of President Roosevelt, other elected officials, and the US Forest Service and the outcome of the talents of hundreds of craftspeople, artists and construction workers.

Thanks to the on-going management of Timberline Lodge by the US Forest Service, R.L.K & Company, and Friends of Timberline.

One comment

  1. Wow, great information on the lodge and mountain! Thanks for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

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