Skip to main content

The Timberline Lodge: A WPA Project at Mount Hood, Oregon

Our two-week Oregon vacation was fantastic, making us wish to someday see more of this most scenic of states in the beautiful northwest.

Timberline Lodge near Mount Hood in Oregon

Timberline Lodge near Mount Hood in Oregon

The Great Depression

The rustic, scenic and totally unique Timberline Lodge located at Mount Hood in Oregon owes its existence to the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and the Great Depression.

There are still people alive (fewer as time passes, of course) who have first-hand memories of the Wall Street Stock Market crash in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression which followed. Those were terrible days! Many hard-working people found themselves out of work and out of money. Fortunes both large and small were wiped out in a matter of hours. There was a run on money and banks were forced to close. Recessions today pale in comparison to what happened in those dark days of American history.

Timberline Lodge and the WPA

The handcrafted lodge was built with the labor of hundreds of people eager to work after suffering the effects of unemployment after the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a government agency created to aid people and get them back to being self-sufficient by paying them a living wage as they worked on various projects. The WPA and other agencies such as the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) ultimately achieved not only that goal but created things of lasting beauty while employing millions of people all across the country.

Part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, the construction of roads, schools, dams, lodges and many other things of lasting value took place. People were actually taught new skills. In the case of Timberline Lodge which was created entirely by hand, people were taught stone masonry, woodworking, blacksmith, crafting and sewing skills if they were unfamiliar.

Design features were well planned. The sloping roofs are meant to accommodate snow in the winter. The overall design blends in well with the mountainous terrain surrounding the lodge, and artists of all kinds were employed in decorating Timberline Lodge. Touches of incredible beauty are seen almost everywhere one's gaze happens to land.

Here are some of the local materials that were utilized in the construction of the lodge:

  • The woods used included firs and Ponderosa pine as well as Oregon white oak.
  • Rocks for the exterior as well as interior came from nearby canyons and were chiseled and fit into place using blocks and tackles.
  • Fabrics were handwoven and the designs were painstakingly and lovingly created with the idea of keeping nature, pioneer and Indian themes as subject matter.

There is a feeling of warmth and charm inside of this place that is seen in few other locations. Timberline Lodge is truly a marvel of workmanship and design! It is amazing to think that it was built in about a year and a half without the use of blueprints!

Friends of Timberline

Except for a lovely patina that has made the wood and ironwork even more lovely over the years, that and the stonework stay pretty much the same as when originally handcrafted creating this beautiful lodge.

Naturally, the fabrics, hooked rugs, and less sturdy materials would not have stood up to the test of time as well.

Fortunately, there is a volunteer group of people titled the Friends of Timberline who wish to keep up the original designs as best they can. They have taken it upon themselves to hand-loom fabrics and replicate original patterns keeping the authentic old-time ambiance as when the artisans first did their work in the late 1930s.

Trillium Lake

In 1987 my mother, niece and I spent two weeks in beautiful Oregon. From Portland, we had traveled east along the Columbia River Gorge viewing the majestic waterfalls and other sites. From Hood River, Oregon we turned south and discovered Trillium Lake which stands in the shadow of Mount Hood.

Motorized boats are not allowed. This pristine body of water surrounded by forest is ideal for camping, picnicking, fishing and feeding ducks of which many were in abundance on the day of our visit.

We had heard about the rustic Timberline Lodge and wanted to see it for ourselves. At lower elevations, the scenery to and from the lodge provided the bubbling east fork of the Hood River tumbling its way over rocks and fallen logs plus verdant forested areas.

Scenery as the road up to Timberline Lodge rises in elevation

Scenery as the road up to Timberline Lodge rises in elevation

Driving up Mount Hood to Timberline Lodge

The road up to the Lodge winds around for about six miles. As the name of Timberline Lodge suggests, the trees became more sparse and were smaller as we climbed in elevation. As one gets above the timberline the landscape becomes stark and rocky. Only dwarfed and hardy vegetation exists.

Timberline Lodge sits at around 6,000 feet above sea level.

Saint Bernard Dogs

There were two Saint Bernard dogs who were permanent residents at the Timberline Lodge when my mother, niece and I visited there and they gave the Lodge that extra cozy touch of home—at least for dog lovers. Whether they had ever been called upon to rescue some of the skiers from mishaps while on Mount Hood, I do not know. They are bred and built to do such things!

We decided to take a break and enjoy some refreshments while at Timberline Lodge after touring the public rooms and listening to descriptions about how the lodge was created. A veggie plate and dip were ordered along with some liquid refreshments. It gave my mother, niece and I some time to enjoy more ambiance of this beautiful place.

Skiing at Mount Hood

Skiing is a year-round sport at Mount Hood in Oregon. As the snows which remain to cap that mountain year-round shrink in the summer months, people simply go up to higher elevations to enjoy that sport.

Many people were carrying their snow skis back and forth to the lodge from the ski slopes. Day and night skiing takes place here. A chair-lift ride can take one up to 8,520 feet above sea level to the Palmer Snowfield.

It would have been fun to have been able to spend more time at Timberline Lodge even staying there for a time but we had other destinations in mind for this vacation trip. Hiking would also be fun in that area!

Visiting this stunning lodge has provided a wonderful long-lasting memory for me.


Wikipedia: Timberline Lodge

Official Site: Timberline Lodge

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods