Look ‘beyond beauty’ during tour of Timberline Lodge Aug. 21

Barlow Road Carvings adorn the wall above a staircase at Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood National Forest in a Dec. 17, 2013 file photo. USDA Forest Service photo by Trent Deckard.

Timberline Lodge is an iconic example of early 20th century, arts-and-crafts movement-inspired artisanship. It’s also a study in contrasts – remote, yet accessible; rustic, yet grand; and designed to both help travelers experience nature, yet with all the comforts of home.

Inside, the lodge’s unique, hand-crafted furnishings were thoughtfully designed to instill a greater appreciation of the region’s history and culture. But, the designers also made mistakes while interpreting the native cultures and wildlife that inspired their work.

And, history is like that, Jay Horita said.

Horita is a resource assistant for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional office. He’ll be hosting a pair of tours that focus on the lodge’s history and social context on Wednesday.

“A prominent thing that comes across is the duality of things, of public lands… we think of the beauty of it, the grandeur of it, the inspirational characters… What we don’t think of is all of the ugly things. That’s part of it, too,” he said.

Some examples of the iconic lodge’s blemishes are already well-known to visitors on previous tours.

Carvings on the great stone fireplace were inspired by the Tenino tribe in nearby Washington state, but the symbols used bear no resemblance to writing or artwork produced by any native Northwest tribes.

The ram’s head motif that appears throughout the lodge depict a species that isn’t native to Mount Hood (although the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can found further east, on the other side of the Cascades).

Others blemishes are more subtle, like how many public lands were wrested from local native populations, who found themselves blocked from practicing traditional activities of the land even while it was being opened for access by the public at large.

 “I take people to the outside… You see everything from the steps of the Cascades to the dry, eastern part of Oregon. You see pockets of land that are completely shaved and bald. I talk about clearcutting, I talk about the industry of Oregon in the 1800s,” Horita said.

Horita said the focus for the tour is telling the whole story, the more complete story of the lodge.

“It’s not a pretty history,” he said. “But if you decide to wear something that says ‘Oregon native’ or ‘Portland native,’ you are unwittingly or unknowingly (representing) the ugly part of that history, not just the beautiful parts.”

Horita will host two guided tours of Timberline Lodge Aug. 21, 2019; at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tours will meet on the ground floor, in the main hall.

The USDA Forest ServiceMt. Hood National Forest’s ZigZag Ranger District coordinates guided tours of Timberline Lodge several times each month. Times and times will vary. For upcoming tours, contact the district’s Information Center by visiting in-person at 70220 US-26; Zigzag, OR, or call (503) 622-3191.

More information:

Timberline Lodge (hotel and visitor information)

Mt. Hood National Forest: Timberline Lodge history and facts

Friends of Timberline: About the Lodge

VIDEO: Timberline Lodge: A Sense of Place (Travel Oregon)

This Travel Oregon documentary delves into the fascinating history and modern-day opportunities available for visitors to Timberline Lodge, a 1937-era resort motel that was built on Mt. Hood National Forest by the Works Project Administration and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places even as it continues to operate as a vacation destination for both locals and national and international travelers to this day.

Timberline Lodge fast facts:

  • Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
  • The lodge first opened Feb. 4, 1938, following two years of construction (led by the Works Progress Administration).
  • It took an estimated 760,000 person hours to build the lodge, including original artwork and artisan-made furnishings. One goal of the project was to train tradesmen and craftsmen, part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Hundreds of people worked on the site daily. Workers lived in a tent city, outside nearby Government Camp, and new construction crews were rotated in every two weeks.
  • Timberline Lodge is publicly-owned, and privately-operated. Approximately 2 million people visit the lodge each year; as hotel guests, for weddings, to enjoy a meal, or to view the one-of-a-kind architecture and fixtures while hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing the many nearby trails on Mt. Hood National Forest.
  • Many of interior fixtures are fashioned from recycled materials: scraps old Civilian Conservation Corps uniforms were latch-hooked into new woolen rugs, cedar utility poles were used as newel posts, and tire chains and old railroad tracks were fashioned into andirons and other ironwork.
  • Much of the interior artwork was created by WPA artists hired through the Federal Art Project. Botanical prints displayed in many guest rooms depict local native plants, illustrated by artists who worked on-site during the lodge’s construction.
  • The exterior of Timberline Lodge may look familiar to some horror fans; it stood in for the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining.” (The interior sets were based on the Ahwahnee Hotel, in Yosemite National Park, which is about a decade older than Timberline Lodge. Both hotels were designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who is sometimes called “the Parkitect” because for designing several of the well-known grand hotels from this era. The hotel in the novel was inspired by the Stanley Hotel, in Colorado, and is where the TV mini-series based on the book was filmed).

Source information: Catherine Caruso is the strategic communications lead for USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communication and Community Engagement, and edits the Your Northwest Forests blog.

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