Mountain Architecture: An Alternative Design Proposal
CHAPTER IV - PART 3
The planning for Timberline Lodge (a name officially adopted only near the completion of the project) began soon after Griffith's appointment to the WPA. Since federal funds were potentially available for the project, Griffith had little trouble persuading both the local business community and the Forest Service to lend their support. The Forest Service agreed to allow construction of the hotel on their land and act as official sponsors--but in name only. A group of businessmen who had been active in the promotion of winter sports activities on the mountain and the marketing of associated winter sports products, organized earlier in the year under the name of the Mount Hood Development Association (MHDA). Their reason for being was, in Yeon's words, "to satisfy a requirement that token seed money be raised locally for a Federal project of this sort." (18) They also intended to take under charge the design and construction of the hotel as well as act as the permitee, operating it for a profit upon its completion. Funding, however, would be provided primarily by the WPA and the Forest Service.
Griffith submitted the first proposal for a "year-round recreational center at Timber Line," to the WPA on September 7, 1935. The budget was estimated at $275,313, of which $28,620 was to be Forest Service monies and the rest, $246,893, or about 90%, was to be supplied by the WPA. (19) The estimate was rough and lacked a detailed breakdown of specific costs, but it served the purpose of getting the project rolling and left open the possibility of future amendments.
The project was ostensibly a commercial venture seeking federal funds in return for providing employment for the many out-of-work on the relief rolls. Normally this arrangement would have been disapproved by the WPA outright, but the Timberline Lodge project offered other attractions. Its purposes suited well the objectives of the WPA: it was to be a public building supporting public recreation in a region where the need for such a facility was more or less unquestioned. Heavy emphasis was also placed on scenic preservation and the embodiment of a local cultural heritage exemplifying the perseverance and fortitude of the pioneer spirit. Griffith had already established a positive working relationship with the director of the WPA, Harry Hopkins, during his previous travels to Washington. This early application to the WPA proposing a project so exemplary of the WPA's goals quickly won Hopkins' attention and sympathy.
One minor problem arose immediately over sponsorship, which was remedied by changing the official sponsor from the Forest Service, a federal agency, to a local representative, the State of Oregon. The application was then resubmitted under the orginal date and accepted for consideration.
While the WPA required an official sponsor in the form of a local governmental agency, the Forest Service, which still maintained an active role in the project, required a sponsor of its own--a business partner of sorts. The Forest Service was not prepared to, nor had any interest in, running the hotel on a day to day basis. That responsibility fell to the MHDA.
As the eventual permitee, the MHDA held its first meeting on September 12, 1935, five days after the first permit application was mailed. John Yeon was selected as the architect of their choice for the project. For the next meeting, on September 23, Yeon was prepared with a design, the same modern scheme as his previous 1934 proposal promoted by Griffith. Little criticism at the meeting was recorded of the proposal's stylistic features, only the program. It was suggested, for example, that the number of rooms be increased from 39 to 100 and that dormitories and ski and drying rooms be added. The budget for construction was set by the Association at $138,000 (it is not clear why this is so different from the amount entered in the WPA application) which, even by comparison to proposals put forth before the Depression when costs were higher, was a relatively small amount for the size of hotel the MHDA envisioned. On the whole, the members of the Association appeared to have little knowledge of hotel planning, at least as evidenced by the lack of discussion on the subject. (20)
But Yeon recalls that the MHDA was much more concerned over the aethetics of the design than the records of the early meetings indicated:
So, as far as the Mount Hood Development Association was concerned, Yeon as out of the picture; "very disappointed, but also very relieved".
No word is available as to whether the MHDA made contact directly with any other architects subsequent to the scuttling of Yeon's plans.
The selection of Yeon as architect was also brought to question by the federal WPA officials--not over his modern design, but because of the nature of his association with the MHDA, the private permitee. The WPA could allocate funds for architectural fees, but, despite the fact that Yeon had volunteered to donate his services, he appeared to give the private MHDA an unacceptable vested interest in the hotel project. Yeon's scheme was summarily rejected upon the recommendation by the president of the Portland Chapter of the AIA that a design competition be held to select an architect. Still at issue was the required commission--a standard six percent--about which the AIA would not retreat. Griffith and the Association continued to seek a compromise with the AIA over fees and the selection process for weeks, but to no avail. (23)
Meanwhile, the application for work-relief funds had made its way through the appropriate WPA channels, and on December 17, 1935 approval for the project was granted, but with no appearent recognition of the struggle going on in Oregon. At the same time, the Forest Service, sensing an impasse between the AIA and the MHDA, had itself been working behind the scenes to find an architect. Gilbert Stanley Underwood, architect of The Ahwahnee and several other park hotels, was contacted with favorable results.(24) At the time, he held a position as a Treasury Department architect but was in the habit of accepting private commissions through his Los Angeles firm. Aside from his close personal relationship with Stephen T. Mather, director of the National Park Service, Underwood also had an excellent reputation for designing appropriate, large-scaled buildings in the wilderness environment, the most notable being The Ahwahnee (see Chapter II).
Underwood sent his chief assistant, Stanley Stonaker, to Portland on December 4 as his representative to meet with the local Forest Service officials. The pending arrangement proved satisfactory to all. Thus, on December 26, 1935, Gilbert Stanley Underwood & Company of Los Angeles was officially retained as architectural consultant for the Timberline Lodge project, with the National Forest Service assuming responsibility for his commission.
The MHDA, sensing the loss of potential supervisory control, abdicated responsibility for project supervision to the Forest Service, although it still maintained its intention to operate the hotel as permitee upon its completion. John Yeon appears to be the only casualty in this restructuring of roles; his name does not appear again in any official connection with the project.
The selection of Underwood as consulting architect seemed to solve most of the problems associated with getting the hotel project underway. The federal WPA officials had their man and it was assured that he and his Los Angeles office would take under full charge execution of the design. But the Forest Service office in Portland saw it otherwise. Regional Forester C. J. Buck assumed that the designation of Underwood & Company as consulting Architect was just that; and in late December, W. I. "Tim" Turner, the local Forest Service architect, was appointed architect-in-charge. (Turner was the first architect hired by the Forest Service in the Northwest--ostensibly to do CCC work.) He began designing immediately with the assistance of architects Howard L. Gifford, Linn A. Forrest, and Dean R. E. Wright, also of the Portland office. The result was that two men, with two very conflicting ideas, were each producing preliminary designs for the same project. Neither one was to completely submit to the other, although Turner's proximity to the project gave him a distinct advantage over the day-to-day decisions.
The first drawings by Turner and his staff were ready for the January 7 meeting of the MHDA. A day or so later, a letter from Underwood arrived in Portland, putting forth the first general description of his ideas for the Lodge design. With no apparent recognition of these ideas, Turner's design concept and style were accepted whole-heartedly by Buck and Griffith. In fact, copies of the schemes drawn up by Turner were sent to Underwood noting only some "minor flaws" which needed correcting. (25) The tacit assumption by the Portland Forest Service office was that one of Turner's schemes would be developed into the final design, with relatively little input from Underwood.
The early meetings of the MHDA had purposes other than evaluating the designs for the hotel, one of which was to discuss a special allocation of funds to the Timberline project by the Federal Arts Project (FAP). Along with Griffith, regional FAP director Burt B. Barker had been working for some time to find money for the Lodge's interior decorations and furnishings. Although enthusiasm on the federal level for this type of allocation was not overwhelming (FAP funds were intended for the employment of professional artists, not craftsmen), the FAP Director, Holger Cahill, did give permission to fund one mural project, but rejected all the other requests for work in the Lodge.
This marked a significant shift in focus for the Timberline Lodge project. As more avenues for funding arts oriented projects were uncovered, Timberline Lodge became much more than a WPA project in public recreation, it was also able to place significant emphasis on arts and crafts in architecture. And this suited perfectly the objectives of the WPA. Employment for the many on work relief was of course the primary concern of the WPA, but to that, Timberline was able to bring the added emphasis on regional character also sought after within the WPA. "It was determined that the [Timberline Lodge] project would be a demonstration of the talents of the artists and craftsmen of the area, working with materials of the area: it was to be a regional expression." (26)
The person who was to bring this regional, handcrafted character to fruition, was Margery Hoffman Smith, a well established and respected Portland interior designer. Brought to Griffith's acquaintance by John Yeon, she was hired in March of 1936 in a temporary capacity to supervise the production and design of the Lodge's furniture, interior decorations, and accessories. As funding became more available and it was clear that crafts were to have a significant place in shaping the spirit of the Lodge, she was retained on a permanent basis and was eventually elevated to one of several administrative positions, including Assistant State FAP Director.
Mrs. Smith proved to be an extremely valuable asset to the project. Being well versed in the tenets and aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts movement, (27) she brought much more than the sensitive eye of an experienced designer--"she brought to the forefront a coherent, unified statement of aesthetic goals that gave to Timberline Lodge an emphatic regional identity perfectly attuned to the overall character of the building." (28)
Many stories have been told of her direct, but sensitive influence over the outcome of the numerous and diverse activities under her supervision. (29) Of all those involved in the Timberline Lodge project, "no single person, no single committee built Timberline Lodge, but the person closer to the total scheme than any single person was Margery Hoffman Smith; that part of Timberline not designed by Mrs. Smith was overseen by her." (30)
As a total design, Timberline Lodge was shaped by four distinctly different forces: Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the consulting architect; Tim Turner and his staff of Forest Service architects and engineers; Margery Hoffman Smith; and the builders and craftsmen themselves. Each brought to the project their own skills and ideas, which together made possible a powerful structure whose essential spirit speaks to both cooperation and individual integrity.
From the very beginning, Turner and Underwood, each in their respective offices, had different ideas as to in which direction the architectural design of the Lodge should proceed. Whereas both were united in their selection of the Picturesque as the appropriate style for the building, that is where the agreement ended. Underwood favored a rustic interpretation, a rather brutal style which had been adopted by the National Park Service and executed with success in countless structures ranging in scale from out-buildings to substantial hotels and community centers. (31) Turner, on the other hand, was working in what Weir terms the "Stately Picturesque", a more refined style which had been "assimilated from large country houses built in the northwest and elsewhere in the nineteen twenties." (32) The basis of the two architects' disagreement lay in the degree of sophistication which each felt should be allowed in the design. Underwood emphatically stated in his early correspondence that what "must kept out at all costs is sophistication. Neither inside or out should the building carry any touch of sophisticated design or ornament," whereas Turner et al. were advocating just the opposite; the Lodge was envisioned by them to be a refined structure ornamented with art--"a living museum." (33)
To compound the problem, each of the two architects perceived himself to be solely in charge of the design and neither was willing to be swayed from his own position.
Turner's Four Schemes
The first proposals were presented by Turner at the January 7 meeting of the MHDA. Four in number, all showed a remarkable continuity between them (Figures 4.12, 4.13, 4.14, and 4.15). All are long and linear in plan, with a characteristic dogleg angle. The building forms, molded carefully to the site, are divided into three major parts, each with a roofline ending in a hip or gable. The central form dominates and features a spreading gable along its flank, marking the entry. The roof, pitched 12-in-12 in all four schemes, is dotted with small dormers which show variation in size only in scheme "D" (Figure 4.15). Stone is used for the foundation as well as the first story, leaving only one level between the termination of the stone and the eaves. Symmetry is conspicuously avoided and, with the inclusion of the turret, the schemes are quintessentially Picturesque.
The structures that could have influenced Turner and his concept for the design of Timberline Lodge are many. It is not unlikely that he drew inspiration from resort hotels such as the Coronado in San Diego (1900), or from published examples of eastern country estates. But it is most probable that the greatest influence came from work by local architects. The A. E. Doyle office especially, had turned out a considerable amount of work from which Turner could have drawn inspiration. The three most notable examples are the Forestry Building in Portland (designed substantially by Doyle as an apprentice under Ion Lewis of Whidden and Lewis), erected for the 1902 Lewis and Clark Exposition (Figures 2.50, 2.51, and 2.52); the 1922 Multnomah Falls Lodge (Figure 4.2); and the scheme rendered by Pietro Belluschi to replace Cloud Cap Inn in the Late 1920s (Figures 4.4 and 4.5). All of these projects rely on a Picturesque interpretation but also exhibit Doyle's distinct personal style, which later, through John Yeon and Pietro Belluschi, was to develop into a strong Northwest regional tradition. Other examples of his work include several modest but distinctive cottages on the Oregon coast, the Julius Meier "farmhouse" at Meneucha on the Columbia river, and the Arrawanna Hotel for J. L. Bowman at Wemme on the Mount Hood Loop Highway. Some of Doyle's residential work, that not in the popular colonial or Tudor styles, was also in the Picturesque mode, with clear references to the English country estate, a style also popular with other notable Portland architects.
The Lloyd Frank residence by Herman Brookman (1924) serves as a good example of the Picturesque country estate as it was manifest in Portland. There is a conspicuous similarity between the elevation shown in Figure 4.16 and any one of Turner's four preliminary schemes: the linear plan with a slight bend at the junction of two of the major forms; the gabled projections, especially at the entry; dormers on the larger roof surfaces; the dominant chimneys, etc. This residence, along with others by Brookman, including a house for Julius Meier to replace the earlier log structure by Doyle, clearly influenced Turner, not only by developing a vocabulary of local Picturesque form, but also by reinforcing a more refined and sophisticated aesthetic than was present in the National Park rustic favored by Underwood. (Brookman was the local architect recommended by Olmsted to redesign the Cloud Cap Inn proposal submitted by the Cascade Development Corp. circa 1928--see above.) Turner had good reason too, to draw from the local traditions given the regional nature of the Timberline project. The country estate was appropriate as a building type as it was intended to function in much the same way as a resort hotel, "the space and facilities for individual privacy or social group activities were provided on a generous scale . . . . leisurely life was catered to by large domestic staffs living on the premises." (34) It follows easily that the country estate could serve as adequate, if not ideal model for the remote tourist hotel in its picturesqueness and function.
Two other local influences that may have affected Turner should be noted. As mentioned above, E. J. Griffith, who later would be a not insignificant voice in the design decisions, had envisioned a "chateau" style structure in his earlier endeavor with John Yeon. This feeling undoubtedly carried over to the early phases of the Timberline Lodge project, although there is little to suggest this influence directly except Griffith's enthusiastic involvement in the early design process. Construction in Government Camp during the previous ten years, although of dubious influence, was another local source from which Turner could have drawn ideas. The Battle Axe Inn, 1925, and its Annex, built a year later, brought a more rustic look to the mountain community (Figure 4.17), as did the 1931 Mazama Lodge built for the Mazama mountaineering club in the forest on the outskirts of Government Camp (Figure 4.18). All three are log structures (or in the case of the original Battle Axe Inn, give the appearance of being a log structure) with shingled upper stories. The Battle Axe Inn Annex and the Mazama Lodge share a character distinctly different from the other buildings in the area, marked most conspicuously by the broad enveloping hipped-gable roof. Turner and Underwood were both certainly aware of these structures but, except as examples of the local vernacular, they appear to have had only minor influence over either architect's design decisions.
On January 20, 1936, E. J. Griffith sent a letter to regional forester Buck approving, although critically, of Turner's schemes for Timberline Lodge. To that date, only a written description of Underwood's design intentions had arrived in Portland (January 8). Griffith was fully prepared to accept Turner's design approach without significant input from Underwood (although he did send Underwood a copy of the January 20 letter addressed to Buck).
Turner's first schemes were liked by Griffith, but not necessarily in preference to Underwood's--Turner's drawings were just the ones in hand at the time. In fact, they were presented at least two weeks before the Underwood drawings arrived in Portland. It seemed that Griffith's enthusiasm for promotion would not let him wait for the complex bureaucratic machinery to get into full swing before adding his input.
The manner in which Griffith criticized Turner's design made it clear that he intended to remain very close to the development of the design. He had been personally involved with the project from the beginning and would maintain that level of involvement until the Lodge's completion. "In many ways he behaved as a private patron and may well have thought of himself in just that role." (35)
Several days after Griffith communicated his approval of Turner's designs to Washington, a letter from Stanley Stonaker of Underwood's office in Los Angles was received by Regional Forester C. J. Buck outlining their progress on the design and briefly describing some of its details. When Turner's designs were received in Washington, Underwood too, sent a letter to Buck acknowledging their receipt and, along with an explanation of the character of his scheme, gently reminded him of Turner's relationship to the project:
Underwood was not insensitive to the proposals by Turner. He described his scheme with a tactful introduction:
A week or so later (about February 1), Stonaker and an assistant traveled to Portland bringing with them three perspective sketches and various other drawings to present in person the Underwood scheme. (Underwood himself could not come due to a severe attack of pleurisy.) Of the drawings, only the perspectives survive. They show the Lodge in a form that is similar in many respects to the final design (Figures 4.19, 4.20, and 4.21). The style is not as rustic as Underwood suggested in his first letter, but it is certainly less "sophisticated" than Turner's schemes.
In plan, Underwood's design consists of two wings of unequal length extending at right angles from a peaked central octagon or "headhouse" (Underwood's term). The longer of the two wings is crossed near its outer end by a short transept. The other wing, housing the kitchen and dining facilities, is terminated by a modified version of the same feature.
The Lodge is oriented on the site so as to place the main entrance at the inside apex of the "V", facing north-west towards the mountain summit (Figure 4.20). Underwood's intention was to form a court, protected "from winds and drifts" by the shorter kitchen wing. Entry from this forecourt would have been into "a storm vestibule, in front of which is a porte cochere to partially protect the sleds when they arrive during snowfalls". (38) From this description it is clear that Underwood apparently had little concept for the staggering amounts of snow that fall on the mountain each winter--upwards twenty feet or more.
Two other secondary entrances were proposed on the south and east sides leading into the lower levels of the headhouse (Figure 4.21). Each supports a substantial canopy roof, the most rustic in style of any of the exterior elements--reminiscent of the twig style Adirondack Great Camp structures or the rustic National Park buildings.
The interior was described as much more rustic in character than the exterior perspective drawings would indicate:
The Two Architects Collaborate to Refine the Design
By the time Stonaker had presented Underwood's schemes in visual form, Turner et al. had already had some time, by way of the letters from Underwood and Stonaker, to analyse their intentions. Turner immediately noted two major problems with Underwood's design. With references to Stoneaker's letter he describes them thus:
To accommodate these objectives, Turner suggested retaining Underwood's headhouse, but with a hexagonal as opposed to octagonal configuration. The two wings could then project at a broader angle of 120 degrees from each side, streamlining the building against prevailing winds from both the east and the southwest directions. Reorientation of the main entry to the south was proposed to allow a better fit to the site as well as show off the scenery to its best advantage.
For the interior, Turner favored hewn logs over the more rustic round and peeled proposed by Underwood. The hexagonal headhouse shape could be reflected in the columns and the flatter surfaces could then also be made available for carvings dipicting events of local historical interest.
Ironing out the differences between Underwood and Turner was not easy, due in part to their opposing stylistic approaches. But what may have been a more significant obstacle was the cumbersom communication and decision making network which surrounded the project. It involved not only Turner in Portland and Underwood in Washington, but also Underwood's assistant Stanley Stonaker in Los Angeles and Regional Forester C. J. Buck in Portland (the two with whom Underwood communicated with directly). To this were added WPA administrator Emerson J. Griffith and Forest Service chief engineer Norcross--both of whom more often listened to Turner's point of view. Curiously, Underwood avoided dealing with Turner directly.
With respect to the criticisms of Underwood's scheme, Turner's points prevailed. Underwood clung to his headhouse plan and rustic stylistic intentions, but eventually gave in, with little, if any, bitterness towards Turner's changes, which had been argued largely from a pragmatic point of view. Underwood preferred his octagonal headhouse scheme over Turner's hexagonal "spider plan", (as Underwood called it), because he saw it as "not only more practical from the operating standpoint but [that] it will make a far greater design from the standpoint of beauty and simplicity." (41)
When Underwood did finally accept Turner's suggested changes, he offered several additional refinements: that "the hexagon be reduced to seventy feet [in] diameter"; "that a 'stub' wing . . . . be added . . . to bring the sweep of the [headhouse] wigwam roof down toward and close to the ground toward Mount Hood" (this would have been a third wing radiating from the headhouse in opposition to the other two); and that "long low sweeping roof lines [be used to] make the building grow out its site more naturally and [that] this feeling should be expressed at all ends of the wings. There should be no 'raw' terminations at the ends." (42)
These suggestions were heeded by Turner except for the stub wing which would have only re-created the snow deposition problem of the original headhouse scheme.
Further communications between Turner and Underwood through Regional Forester C. J. Buck brought a resolution of the essential elements of the design by the beginning of April 1936, only three months after the selection of the architects. Underwood was very pleased with the "splendid" work Tim Turner and his colleagues were doing in Portland, but still felt that the design was too sophisticated:
. . . . There is still a little stronger note of sophistication than seems best in a design which should express the crude and honest effort of the early pioneer. . . . . These studies are beautifully presented, but I think the enthusiasm of the designer has gone too far toward a style rather than toward a straight forward simple expression of function. There is a little too much 'architecture' in the designs.
He was however, willing to let the Portland members of the team handle the project from there on out, "it does not seem necessary to send the plans back to me again. Unless you are in doubt about some detail, I am sure they can be completed without another review." (43)
Underwood's continued reservations about the "sophistication" of the design may have been somewhat inappropriate considering the intended image of Timberline Lodge. The building was to be much more than an expression of the "crude honest effort of the early pioneer." It was, as a WPA project, to be a significant expression of contemporary craftsmanship--that of 1936 not 1836. The men and women who built and furnished the Lodge, and the men of the Forest Service who were responsible for the design were putting forth their skills to create a structure that was a reflection of present attitudes--those that held out hope for better social and economic times through real cooperation. Nostalgic reflection on the arduous but successful efforts of the pioneer movement west had its place, but not as the basis for the primary design aesthetic of Timberline Lodge, the gem project of the WPA.
The final design, sketched by Linn A. Forrest of the Portland Forest Service office (Figures 4.22 and <4.23), reflects a nearly equal hand by both Turner and Underwood. Between the beginning of April 1936, through the ground breaking in June and on into the summer, Turner concentrated his design efforts on the interior. Underwood aparently had little to do with the architectural design of the interior beyond his initial proposal describing a central stone chimney surrounded by a promenade and the gallery arrangement of the headhouse. The rest was left to Turner, who undertook the responsibility with considerable enthusiasm.
The elements of the design which gives Timberline Lodge its essential form are clearly attributable to Underwood. Turner's first four schemes, so enthusiastically endorsed by Griffith were all but abandoned in favor of Underwood's headhouse approach. Turner affected his hand in the design by way of the details and smaller issues, whereas it was Underwood's concepts of architectural form and scale (for the overall design) that prevailed. The drawings shown in Figures 4.24 through 4.28 were produced by Turner's office and depict the Lodge as it was designed. The sketch of the headhouse interior (Figure 4.29) was drawn somewhat later, after the Lodge was built.
To review, the specific contributions to the final Timberline Lodge design by each of the two architects is summerized below. Compare Turner's first four schemes (Figures 4.12, 4.13, 4.14, and 4.15), Underwood's scheme (Figures 4.19, 4.20, and 4.21), and the final design (Figures 4.22, 4.23, 4.24, 4.25, 4.26, 4.27, 4.28, and 4.29):
During the design phases, Turner and Underwood were constantly negotiating over the design. Turner's ideas often won out, with the unfortunate side effect of leaving planning for the Lodge as a hotel (Underwood's forte) rather neglected. As a result, the Lodge does not work well from a hotel management standpoint (See Chapter III). In fact, the bar was ommitted from the plans altogether, only to be created as an after thought out of a lower-level wood storeroom. Turner and Griffith in Portland had apprently "lost sight of the primary reason for building the Timberline Lodge," an interesting change of events considering the early emphasis by the MHDA on operations and away from style. (44)
"Cascadian" is the style label that is most often applied to Timberline Lodge, although when spoken of in broad terms both the words "rustic" and "picturesque" are used. Indeed, the Lodge is both rustic and picturesque, but those terms do little to acknowledge the unique character of Timberline Lodge. The term Cascadian was evidently applied to Timberline Lodge when it was first built, as explained by Emerson Griffith in an unpublished paper "Timberline Lodge - An Experiment":
"Cascadian" is a local term. Timberline Lodge was really the last significant structure to be built in the tradition that started in America with the "rustic" Adirondack Great Camps and developed to maturity with the expansion of the National Park system. At the time that Timberline Lodge was built, contemporary attitudes about architecture were changing. With the onset of the Second World War and the acceptance of the new tenets of Modern architecture as hope for the future, the old way of building in the mountains was coming to an end. No other structure of the likes of Timberline Lodge nor any of its predecessors was to be built. Timberline Lodge markes the end of an era. In recognition of this, on November 12, 1973, Timberline Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of Cascadian architecture.
Late in April 1936, as the architects were finalizing the details of the design, the Forest Service cut a road to the new Timberline Lodge site. A significant amount of snow was still on the ground, and it became evident that the original site chosen for the Lodge, 300 yards east of the present site, on the edge of the Salmon River Canyon, would not be satisfactory. Dangerous cornices had built up during the winter signaling the existence of a potential ongoing hazard for any nearby winter recreation activities. (The original site was very near to where John Yeon had proposed his 1934 hotel shown in Figure 4.11). The new, present site was surveyed in May, through eighteen feet of snow in places, and ground breaking for the Lodge took place a month later, on June 13, 1936. By August, the stone foundation had been finished and the two wings were ready for roof framing. Work at the time was just beginning on the hexagonal headhouse, but all three sections were roofed before the first substantial snowfalls of autumn. Fortunately the snow was unusually late that year--none to speak of until December.
Near the end of August, Griffith submitted a report to the WPA detailing a revised budget for completion of the Lodge. Costs had been very much higher than anticipated, and the original estimate of $138,000 was replaced by a substantially greater figure of $500,000. Still to be added to that amount was the cost of furnishing the Lodge with craft work which at that point had not begun. Haggeling over the new budget delayed delivery of some of the construction materials, but work continued. By the middle of September, 443 men were working on the Lodge.
The first monies for furnishings and accessories were approved shortly after a September visit by WPA administrator, Harry Hopkins, who was delighted with the project. "We have built Lodges in the national parks and other recreation areas, but nothing like this." (46) This was a sharp contrast to the opinions of others who were extremely concerned over the skyrocketing costs. (47) Nevertheless, Hopkin's visit was timely, as it re-established the worker's enthusiasm in the project and allayed concerns over the intrinsic value of the Lodge itself. Approval of the $500,000 budget by Hopkins was also assured.
The first allocation for furnishings (from the Professional and Womens Project) was, on the heels of Hopkins' timely visit, approved routinely. The application noted the following work:
Under the supervisiory direction of Margery Hoffman Smith, work on the furnishings began shortly thereafter.
By the end of 1936, the bulk of the architectural work had been completed and primary emphasis shifted to the design and fabrication of the multitude of hand-made interior furnishings. Margery Hoffman Smith had been hired in March to oversee this work, but is was not until November that her full talents were to be realized. Since the arts and crafts portion of the project was funded separately, execution of the various tasks was, for the most part, independent from the architectural work. Because of this, "Mrs. Smith enjoyed full and complete authority to direct her project as she saw fit and to use her designs and ideas in whatever way her judgement deemed appropriate. . . . . Divisions of labor and supervision were hers to decide and she drew all designs for furniture, accesories, and most of the decorations. When designs were turned over to workers to execute, Mrs. Smith supervised the execution closely and she did not hesitate to have the work done over if it did not come up to her standards." (49)
Work under the direction of Mrs. Smith was divided into three catigories: ironwork, woodwork, and sewing. Ther ironwoork had begun in January with the hiring, on Turner's recommendation, of Orion B. Dawson,* an extraordinarily skilled smith from Portland. The work which he had started in the spring was halted upon Mrs. Smith's hiring, however, as much of it needed to be redesigned to fit her overall interior design scheme. The two largest and most visible projects for the Lodge were a pair of seven foot tall iron gates for the entrance of the diningroom (Figures 4.29 and 4.30), and the hardware for the main entry door (Figure 4.31). Other projects included fireplace andirons and equipment, light fixtures, and miscellaneous pieces for structural connections and furniture. Not including the incidental work, some 181 individual pieces of ornamental iron work were made for the Lodge. The seven-hundred-pound brass and bronze weathervane, one of the last items installed on the Lodge, was also made in O. B. Dawson's shop.
The woodworking project was placed under the direction of Ray Neufer, a cabinet maker and wood carver, also from Portland. Numerous pieces of furniture, from beds to writing desks were produced under his supervision. In addition, a substantial number of carvings were mandated for placement throughout the Lodge. Geometric "Indian" designs by Mrs. Smith were reproduced in many of the lintels, including over the main entry (Figure 4.31). On the exterior, animal heads were carved into exposed beam ends. The interior carvings ranged from bas-relief panels, such as over the diningroom fire place, to animals intimately carved into the stairway newel posts (Figure 4.32).
The last of the projects Mrs. Smith was to initiate was for sewing. A work force, entirely of women, was hired through the Professional Womans Project, many coming from projects that had already been initiated in Portland. Mrs. Smith had designed for each guest room a color scheme by which the appropriate draperies, bedspreads, and hooked were to be made (Figure 4.33). In all 119 rugs and 912 yards of fabric were produced, of which, unfortunately only ten of the rugs survive. (In 1975, however, a CETA workshop was organized to restore the interior of the Lodge, and many of the missing items were recreated.)
Two other major art projects were also initiated for the Lodge. Although a point was made by Mrs. Smith to avoid any of the typical historical murals and paintings found in other WPA projects, several painting projects were commissioned. Karl Feuer was hired to produce 130 watercolors of local wild flora, and a variety of others, including C. S. Price, were retained to paint various subjects in oil on larger canvases.
The other art project was a commission given to Virginia Darce for a large three paneled work depicting Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox Babe. It was executed in "opus sectile", a kind of glass inlay, occasionally referred to (incorrectly) as glass mosaic (Figure 4.34). The panels can be found in the Blue Ox bar (the afterthought mentioned above, named after the work), which bring a colorful warmth to the grotto-like room.
Ski Chalet and Dedication
First mention of a ski chalet was made in mid-March of 1937, a point at which the Timberline Lodge construction process was well underway. The ski chalet was to provide the extra rooms necessary to make Timberline Lodge viable as a commercial hotel. The plan first appeared formally in a project application drawn up by Griffith listing necessary work to finish the Timberline Lodge project. Of the $372,000 requested, $147,000 was for the ski chalet. An evaluation of the Timberline Lodge project, requested by the WPA Washington administrators noted that by June 1937 a total of $796,500 had been spent on the project, excluding the arts and crafts project. (50) The report concluded with a recommendation to fund the requested projects, all except the ski chalet--it was felt that the main lodge should be completed and in use before the need for an additional facility be mandated. In addition, there was concern that a separate housing facility might drive prices for the rooms in the main lodge "beyond the means of people in modest circumstances, and the work done by [the] relief people might benefit a smaller section of the population than the background of the project makes desirable." (51)
Despite Griffith's repeated pleas, the ski chalet was never approved, although at least two designs were prepared for it. The drawing shown in Figure 4.35 illustrates a scheme very much in the character of Timberline Lodge which was to be placed several hundred feet down the hill directly south of the main lodge. Figure 4.36 is of another scheme apparently somewhat smaller, dated March, 1939, for the same location.
At about the same time, word came that president Franklin D. Roosevelt would be dedicating the newly completed Bonneville Dam late in September. Griffith proposed that the President also make a stop at Timberline Lodge, as it too would be completed, or nearly so, by that time. A dedication of the Lodge by Roosevelt would not only be a significant gesture for the Lodge and the many workers who helped build and furnish it, but it would also virtually guarantee prompt WPA funding for finishing the project.
Roosevelt was persuaded to include the Lodge in his itinerary, which caused quite a frenzy back in Oregon. Although the exterior was essentially finished, much was left to be done to the interior. None of the guest rooms was finished and many other projects were just getting underway or only partially complete. Money and special officials came from Washington to assure preparations for the presidential visit. Seventy-five new workers were hired and many long hours were spent in the rush for completion.
On September 28, 1937, FDR dedicated the Lodge "as a monument to the skill and faithful performance of workers on the rolls of the Works Progress Administration," in the words inscribed in the bronze plaque placed at the entrance to the Lodge. The actual wording of the plaque was conceived by Griffith, whose understanding of the dedication of the WPA workers to the Timberline Lodge project was no secret:
The Magic Mile Chairlift and Silcox Hut
As an early addition to the Timberline Lodge project, the Magic Mile chairlift, then the longest lift in the world, was built just east of the Lodge. It opened on November 26, 1939, six months after its pre-construction dedication by the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway. Built entirely above the timber line, the single-chair lift made Timberline the Northwest's first world-class ski area. The lift was only the third to be built in the world (after the two installed in Sun Valley a year earlier), and the first with metal towers (53) (Figure 4.37).
For its upper terminus, a rugged shelter was constructed in the same Cascadian style as Timberline Lodge. Named Silcox Hut after the Secretary of Agriculture, Ferdinand Silcox, it served both as the machinery shed housing the lift's upper bullwheel, and as a large warming hut and snack bar for skiers and sightseers. Its location, at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet, halfway up Hood's gentle southern flank (See Map 3.2), leaves it very exposed to the heavy winter snows and high prevailing east and southwest winds. Over the years it has suffered greatly, partially from the weather, but, mostly from misuse and vandalism. It is a long mile away from Timberline Lodge and has been essentially unused since the Magic Mile lift was relocated in the early 1960s. Figure 4.38 shows Silcox Hut as it will appear after a recently initiated restoration project is complete.
The first operator of the Lodge was a corporation of local individuals which included several prominent Portland business men, among others, Emerson J. Griffith, Jack Meier, and Aubrey Watzek. Business at the Lodge was good for the first couple of years, at least until the beginning of the Second World War. By the summer of 1942 visitation was down by fifty percent, and on Labor Day of that year the Lodge shut down for the duration of the war. From the point at which it reopened, in December of 1945, until the middle of the 1950s when the current operator, Richard L. Konstamm took over operations, Timberline Lodge suffered from neglect, misuse and bad management. The Lodge had been closed twice since the war, the second time for non-payment of power bills. No fewer than eight managers had attempted to make Timberline Lodge turn a profit, which happened only twice. (54)
Konstamm saved Timberline Lodge. After a considerable amount of hard work and tireless dedication, the Lodge under his management was again a viable hotel and winter sports facility. A new "ultra modern" double chair lift (Pucci) was built during 1955, immediately after Konstamm took over the facility. Three years later, a long awaited year-round swimming pool was added to the end of the Lodge's west wing.
By 1962, demands on the ski lift facilities were such that a new Magic Mile chairlift, with nearly four times the hourly capacity, was built to replace the then 23 year old existing lift. The lower terminus of the new lift was moved to just west of the Lodge, consolidating the ski area all to the west, both above and below the forest timber line. The new upper terminus took skiers to above 7,000 feet. An intermediate terminal also was built to allow economical operation of the lift in marginal weather.
Housing of employees had always been a problem at Timberline, but in 1964, an opportunity arose to purchase the Thunderhead Inn at Government Camp, a more than adequate solution to the problem. At that point seventy-five percent of the potential guests requesting rooms in Timberline on weekends were being turned away. New separate facilities for the 116 employees was a welcome change.
Throughout the nineteen-sixties the Timberline Lodge complex continued to grow. Another lift, the "3", opened just below the Lodge in 1966. The same year, the parking lot was enlarged to accommodate up to 1,800 cars. In 1971, to expand the Lodge, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved $961,000 to finance a new 19,500 square foot convention wing to be added to the existing east dining room wing. The design had been prepared by three associated architectural firms, Farnham Peck & Assoc.; Fletcher and Finch; and Zaik/Miller of Portland. Construction began in the summer of 1972.
Work went smoothly on the new C. S. Price wing for the next year-and- a-half, with a scheduled completion date set for January, 1974. But an exceptionally heavy snowfall during the winter of 1973-74 slowed work considerably. By March of 1974, 320 inches of snow had accumulated behind the Lodge. "The new wing had changed wind patterns, causing snow to build heavily on the northeast corner [much as Turner had predicted in his criticism of Underwood's original headhouse scheme 28 years earlier]. The passageway from the new building to the old was being pushed out of position." (55) The official damage report, issued later in the summer, placed the loss to the Lodge and the new wing at $300,000, nearly one-third the original appropriation. The damaged parts of both sections were eventually rebuilt, incorporating a new copper roof with steam heat coils to prevent ice formation. Since then, snow accumulation between the Lodge and the new C. S. Price wing has had to be monitored constantly, and dug out when necessary with snow-cats to prevent a reoccurrence of the 1974 destruction. Snow regularly attains great depths behind the Lodge as can be seen in Figure 4.39 which shows the east wing some years before the new addition was built.
The same summer the convention wing was finished (1974), Konstamm was in the process of renewing the lease for Timberline Lodge with the Forest Service. Despite the several improvements during the previous years, the ski resort was not as yet a completely viable commercial operation. Several proposals for facilities that would have helped the situation had not come to fruition, including a proposed new day lodge and a building for housing employees, both of which were intended to be built concurrently with the convention wing. Konstamm needed an assurance that his further investments would be met with a reasonable amount of return, at least at some point. The Forest Service, on the other hand (owner of Timberline Lodge), was less interested in profit margins and primarily concerned about protecting the interests of the public.
As a remedy, an environmental statement was prepared, and the final, upon which the design proposal for this thesis is partially based, was presented in October of 1975. Of the four alternatives for action outlined: maintaining the "Essential Status Quo", "Restricted Use", "Other Moderate Development", and "Maximum Development", the moderate course was adopted as satisfying the stated objectives (see Chapter III).
For the purposes of this thesis, the history of Timberline Lodge ends here. A further description of the actions taken in response to the environmental statement is contained later, in the Epilogue.
What follows is a visual inventory of Timberline Lodge as it exists today. Construction subsequent to 1975 had little effect on the exterior of the Lodge itself, thus contemporary photographs should convey a view of the same environment that existed when the environmental statement was prepared.
* Note (June 10, 2004): Dolores Dawson Ford writes, "My father was the supervisor of the iron work in the lodge and designed and forged the dining room entrance gates. His name, listed as Oliver B. Dawson, is in error. It should be Orion B. Dawson. I remember my father being upset when the article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXXVI, No. 3, September, 1975, appeared with his name wrong. (He had not been given the opportunity to proof read his article)."
Master of Architecture Thesis