Thursday, August 20, 2009

Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood

I just visited one of the most fantastic building projects on my travels - Timberline Lodge, one of the US's National Historic Landmarks, on the flank of Mount Hood. With crystal clear skies and views way beyond distant Mount Jefferson and the Sisters beyond (see above), it was the perfect day for a visit to this amazing, creative and inspiring solution for severe unemployment during the great depression. The building is like a piece of elaborate jewellery. Everywhere you look, inside and outside, there are encrustrations of tastefully crafted elements - carvings, mosaic tiles, textiles, ironwork, stone, glass.An initiative of Franklin D. Roosevelt, under the Works Progress Administration, Timberline Lodge was a breakaway from the bridges, roads, dams and other major public works of this government section. Construction of the ski lodge created jobs for artists, designers and carpenters and the project was completed ahead of schedule in 12 months from breaking ground (involved digging down through over 2 metres of snow first) to final curtain hanging. All workers, of average age of 56, were paid 90cents/hour and worked 4 weeks at a time on the remote site, throughout the year until the building was completed in 1937, for US$1 million.

Thanks to the guiding hand of head designer, Marjory Hoffman Smith, all materials for the construction and decoration of the building were sourced from within a 500 mile radius. Marjory was also responsible for tying all of the trades together - stone masons, carpenters (who learnt new skills of carving, furniture-making and woodworking on the job), blacksmiths (Mr Dawson and his wheelchair-bound coworker), weavers, artists. Everything for the building was created by hand - the furniture, light fittings, locks and hardware, upholstery and curtain fabric (hand woven or appliqued), rugs and carpets, timber shingles....

Watercolour paintings of wildflowers within a 1 mile radius of the building inspired the internal colour schemes. Unique painting on carved linoleum form wall panelling in one of the large meeting rooms. In the Blue Ox Bar, originally destined for wood storage but much more appropriately a cosy subterranean drinking hole, colourful glass murals line the walls designed by a woman artist.
Maybe we can talk to Kevin (Rudd, our PM) about building creative structures employing all talents - architects, designers, textile artists (weavers and rug makers), blacksmiths, artists, carpenters, wood carvers and furniture makers - instead of more highways as job creation in difficult times.
Having walked up the mountainside for a view over the roofs, to see the wildflowers and watch skiiers descend the small remaining snowed gully, we returned to the Ram's Head Bar on the upper floor of the double-height central dining/lounge space for a delicious early dinner and drinks. The main central space is of such a massive scale. Timber poles and beams and the central stone fireplace column made me feel like a hobbit. Here is the link to the slide show of my photos

If you fancy a stay at this great spot, check out their website

Toni, my new cycling chum, arranged to meet her blacksmith friends up there who have worked on some of the metalwork reconstruction and new works who gave us a more personal and fun tour of the grand building. There was a week long blacksmithing event in the nearby town of Government Camp so it was perfect timing. Lisa and Andy are a young blacksmithing couple, recently released from apprenticeships with star blacksmith, Darryl (the lodge's head smith), and now have their own business, Firelight Forge -

Off to Portland via the Columbia river tomorrow (in the mega truck) to catch a bus back to Astoria to resume the ride south. I've got a train booked from Eugene so I wont even get to tip my toe over the border into northern California, but I will catch my flight home before my visa expires. I hope Toni can keep up with my tight schedule. She's been enjoying lots of time off the bike and is a little worried about the rumours of steep undulations along the stunning (so we've been told) coast.

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