Mountain Architecture: An Alternative Design Proposal
for the
Wy'East Day Lodge, Mount Hood Oregon

by Thomas P. Deering, Jr.



Figure 4.9: Government Camp on Winter Tournament Day, c. 1930. Structures visible in this illustration are, from the left: the Mountain View Inn, the Battle Axe Inn, the Battle Axe Inn Annex; and in the center, the Government Camp Hotel and Annex (burned, October 1933). (McNeil, Wy'east, "THE Mountain", p. 213)

During the seven years in which the several hotel schemes were being proposed for the north side of the mountain, popularity of the southern slope for recreation was steadily rising. The accessability that helped make the Cloud Cap site a desirable location for a tourist hotel also brought winter sports enthusiasts to Government Camp in record numbers. A Winter Sports Association was formed in 1931 under the direction of Berger Underdahl to stimulate winter sports oriented business. One of the many activities it sponsored was a winter sports carnival at Government Camp which attracted over 14,000 people, 2,000 of whom were turned back because of a lack of parking (Figure 4.9).

Government Camp itself is lower in elevation (3,800') than Cloud Cap as well as some six miles from the timber line and the open snowfields of Mount Hood's south side--or as some would say, six miles from "the mountain"--which is presumably why none of the hotels had yet been proposed here. A hotel needed to be situated at or near the timber line, whether on the north or south side, to provide the requisite scenic wilderness surroundings to attract a viable number of tourists. Until this point in time, Cloud Cap was the only alternative. Underdahl did however propose a road from Government Camp to the timber line in 1934, with a hotel at its terminus, but the idea was rejected by the Forest Service with "indifferent tactlessness." (13)

Figure 4.10: The "Chateau" at the Oregon Caves National Monument. G. A. Lium, 1934. (Oregon Historical Society, Neg. No. Orhi 76628)

The next attempt at a hotel for the south side was more fruitful however. Emerson J. Griffith, a Portland businessman who had little going for him in this venture aside from undaunted self confidence and the ability to select effective and appropriate business partners, decided to try his hand at promotion of a timber-line hotel. Because his financial resources were limited, he teamed up with architect John Yeon, Jr., who already had a well developed design in hand and, possibly more importantly, could provide beneficial contacts within Portland's inner business circles. Griffith had already commissioned a design by another Portland architect in the French Norman or "Chateau" style--"'Chateau' in the sense of a large domestic building, but plain compared to the usual connotation of 'Chateau'."(14) (It is interesting to note the confusion over the notion of "Chateau" with respect to both this project and this time period. One resource speculates that the "Chateau" Griffith describes refers to the recently completed Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument (Figure 4.10), whereas Yeon claims that "there was no allusion to the style of the Oregon Caves building; quite the opposite." (15) One must also recall that the Chateau Style had been adopted not long before as an official national style of the Canadian Railroad Hotels--see Chapter II.) But Yeon had other ideas. he persuaded Griffith to abandon his "Chateau" scheme, which had been planned for a site near Government Camp, in favor of a design which Yeon had prepared on his own for a site much higher on the mountain--at Timberline.

The scheme Griffith finally promoted was the second hotel design which Yeon had developed for Mount Hood, but it bore little resemblance to his earlier Cloud Cap project. In the intervening three years, Yeon, at the age of twenty four, had become well acquainted with the vocabulary of the International Style, which was gaining acceptance within the architectural profession. He chose to overlay its concepts of rational order and purity of form on the more romantic architectural qualities of traditional Picturesque mountain structure: asymmetry, variety of form, the drawn out plan, and broken roof lines. The site chosen for the building offered a precipitous view over the rim of Salmon River Canyon, 300 yards east of the present Timberline Lodge. The structure was to be primarily of concrete with large rectangular windows set in grids or long horizontal bands. "The whole interior was to be of wood, and that would be the dominant sense of the building from within. The broad fireplace wall subdividing the lounge (fireplace both sides) was of stone." (16)

Figure 4.11: Proposed hotel near the original Timberline Lodge site. John Yeon, December, 1934. (Courtesy of John Yeon)

Photographs of the model show a single wing extending north from a stepped, five-story main mass with a gentle curve that straightens out to follow the contours of the canyon rim (Figure 4.11). The upper floors of the wing were also stepped back from those below and covered with a variety of roof types--pitched, gabled, and flat. Weir notes that, "had the hotel been built, it would have been one of the first significant expressions of the International style in the entire region."(17)

Griffith, however, was unable to stir sufficient interest to fund the project. This is not particularly surprising in light of the number of previous proposals left unconsummated. He was not entirely defeated, however. In May of 1935 he was appointed regional administrator of Roosevelt's newly formed Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the first work relief project he initiated was a large public recreation complex for Mount Hood. The way was now clear for the design and construction of the first-class hotel so many had strived for over the previous ten years.

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Master of Architecture Thesis
(M. Arch - University of Washington - 1986)

Extensive copying of this thesis is allowable only for scholarly purposes,
consistent with "fair use" as described in the U.S. Copyright Law.
Any other reproduction for any purpose or by any means
shall not be allowed without my written permission.

Copyright 1986 © Thomas P. Deering, Jr.