Monday, October 12, 2009

Come Learn About Timberline Lodge

On Tuesday night at 7 pm, Sarah Baker Munro will join us to talk about Timberline Lodge and discuss her book Timberline Lodge: The History, Art, and Craft of an American Icon, recently published by Timber Press.

Timberline Lodge, on the south slope of Mt. Hood in Oregon, is unique in America. It is the only twentieth-century public building of its size constructed and furnished entirely by hand with original craft work in wood (both carved and inlaid marquetry), wrought iron, weaving, applique, painting, mosaic, carved linoleum, and stained glass.

The lodge is an inn, but it is also a museum in the sense that it houses a permanent, catalogued exhibition of American design, painting, and craft work of the 1930s, created under extraordinary circumstances for a special purpose: to furnish and decorate a mountain lodge for skiers, hikers, and nature lovers.

Materials from the region were used: wood from forests for construction and for furniture, carvings, and marquetry; stone (andesite) from nearby slopes and quarries for the exterior and the fireplaces; locally grown flax and wool for upholstery, bedspreads, and draperies (recycled materials, including cotton and wool blankets, were used for the hooked rugs).

Timberline Lodge was built by hundreds of hands eager to work after months or years of unemployment in the 1930s. Ninety percent of the men and women who built and furnished the lodge were hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the federal agency created in 1933 to provide work for the hundreds of thousands of Americans idled by the Great Depression. The remaining ten percent were foremen employed by Lorenz Brothers, the supervising contractor for the WPA, or U.S. Forest Service personnel. Some of the WPA workers were skilled, such as some of the stonemasons, but others were taught skills to prepare them for jobs in the private sector.

According to WPA records, construction costs totaled $695,730. Of this amount, $20,000 had been donated by the Mt. Hood Development Association, headed by Jack Meier, who had proposed the project to the WPA in 1935, and $9,623 for truck and machine rentals was given by the U.S. Forest Service, which was the sponsoring agency. There were other expenses besides the actual construction, and it is generally agreed that when the necessary road building and the development of the grounds were added in, the total cost was probably about $1,000,000.

Sarah Baker Munro is past president of the board of Friends of Timberline Lodge (where she learned to ski as a child), and has been voted the historian of Timberline Lodge by Friends of Timberline. She received her bachelor's degree in art history and anthropology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and her master's degree in folklore at the University of California, Berkeley. Her interest in Timberline was renewed in 1975, after the nonprofit Friends of Timberline was formed to support restoration and preservation efforts.

As a member of a committee of volunteers from the Junior League, she learned about and met with original builders, artists, and craftspeople, most of whom are now deceased. The result of that research was a catalog published in 1978 that she coauthored with retired Portland Art Museum curator Rachael Griffin. Sarah has revised and updated the guidebook to the lodge through several editions.

She has appeared on several public broadcasting television segments related to lodges in the Pacific Northwest and Timberline specifically. In her free time Sarah enjoys art history, reading, tennis, and walking.

Sarah's book is both gorgeous and fascinating -- and what a treasure we have in Timberline Lodge. We hope you can join us for this event Tuesday night (10/13). Thank you to Friends of Timberline and Timber Press for the information in this blog post.

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