There is one place we visited on our road trip that I really must tell you a little about . . .
It's a ski lodge on Mount Hood and if the weather is clear you can see this magical view across the Cascade Mountains; it was the location for an iconic US chiller 'The Shining', but that has nothing to do with it's real history . . . which is much more interesting.
Timberline was built when America was struggling to pull itself out of an economic depression; thousands were unemployed, businesses had failed, families were finding it hard to make ends meet and people were sleeping on the streets. Sounds familiar, dosesn't it?
However, I not talking about present day USA, this was the early 1930s and a federal agency, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) was set up in 1933 to create projects to provide jobs for thousands of desperate Americans. In the state of Oregon a small team of experienced foremen were employed to teach the skills needed to hundreds of labourers who lived in a tent encampment on the lower slopes of Mount Hood. They were paid and decent wage and given three nutritious hot meals a day. They learnt new skills that would enable them to get work in the future.
But above all else, in less than 18 months the workforce of men and women created not just a building but a work of art; using craft skills in timber and stone they made a building which is timeless, it sits on the mountain side, becoming part of the landscape - afterall it is made of the same rock and timber as its surroundings.
All the furniture, fittings and interior decor was also hand crafted and are unique to Timberline; the drive and imagination behind the designs was an interior designer from Portland, Margery Hoffman Smith. She had just over a year to complete the task, there was no time to draw up ideas and dither around, under her guidance teams of older women made applique curatins and rag rugs from scrap fabrics; joiners made sturdy functional furniture; artists created murals from broken tiles and carved wood. Old telegraph poles were given a new lease of life as newel posts for the staircases, each one carved with a forest animal. Old railway tracks were skillfully forged into fire-dogs for the huge fireplace at the heart of the lodge.
This is part of a mural by Douglas Lynch, it is carved linoleum which has been coloured with transparent glazes of oil paint. Like everything else at Timberline, this artwork has been lovingly restored to near it's original condition by The Friends of Timberline.
Every single room in the lodge is furnished in much the same way as it was in 1937 when President Roosevelt opened the building (of course there has been a few modernisatins to the bathrooms and other modern facilities added but they are styled in keeping with the original decor.)
We were lucky there was a room available, so we stayed for just one night - it was my birthday. We had a little room with a view towards the summit of Mount Hood. This was the telephone in our bedroom, the watercolour above it is one of many botanical studies of local plants which were painted by a German artist who had been living in a cardboard box on the streets of Portland, existing on dried beans he soaked in cold water.
The furnishings may not be the original fabrics, hand woven by the eager to learn team of workers from Oregon wool and linen thread, but they are in the spirit of Timberline and all the curtains and cushions are still hand stitched by local makers.
Every square inch of Timberline is a legacy of a huge team effort and an example of what can be done in difficult times to raise morale by making something beautiful by hand.
You can read more about Timberline Lodge here.
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