Motorists who brave the narrow, winding, two-lane road to the Oregon Caves are greeted upon arrival by the sight of a six-story, bark-clad lodge perched over a canyon that drains the stream flowing from the caves.
The 83-year-old lodge, known as the Oregon Caves Chateau, is one of Oregon’s three publicly owned historic lodges. The others are at Mount Hood and Crater Lake. The chateau has been on the National Park Service list of National Historical Landmarks since 1987.
An organization called The Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau works with the Park Service to preserve and improve the cultural natural resources of the monument. Their first project is restoration of the chateau while “maintaining the charm of the 23-room lodge and its historic collection of Monterey furniture.”
Grants Pass carpenter and self-taught architect Gust Lium designed and built the chateau using local material in a rustic fashion, a style common to most other old lodges in national parks and forests. He used local marble like the kind found inside the cave, and bark siding from native Port Orford cedar trees.
The Oregon Caves National Monument is now 108 years old.
Sources: Harrison, L.H., “Architecture in the Parks – A National Historic Landmark Theme Study,” National Park Service http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/harrison/harrison24.htm 2001.
— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.