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home : education : schools May 26, 2018

5/10/2018 10:36:00 AM
New life for an historic lodge
By Sue Stafford

There is a true historic treasure just up the hill from Sisters and few people even know it is there. At FivePine Conference Center on Monday, May 14, at 7 p.m., Three Sisters Historical Society is hosting a presentation by the Friends of the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge on the restoration and re-opening of the lodge located at the summit of U.S. Highway 20, just 20 miles west of Sisters.

The rustic lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939-40. The lodge is one of six unique CCC-built structures of its type in the Pacific Northwest. It is truly one of Oregon's historic gems, representing a significant period in US history with unique architecture and builders.

In true CCC fashion, the lodge was built with local materials. Its seven-foot high stone foundation and a thirty-five foot high chimney were constructed from rocks quarried locally from Hogg Rock. The wood to build the lodge was milled from surrounding trees. It has over 60 paned windows giving the structure its distinction. Unfortunately, a number of the windows have been broken by vandals.

The lodge was a favorite all-season destination for many Oregonians for 46 years. It hosted thousands of guests annually for winter activities, summer camps, hiking, backpacking and travel rest. It served as a Presbyterian church camp for a number of years.

Black Butte Ranch homeowner Dann Boeschen, who now lives in St. Helena, California, remembers living with his parents at the lodge when they were the managers from 1945-48 and has many fond memories of his early years there as well as photographs.

The lodge closed in 1986 and has been vacant for 32 years. Having suffered from deterioration over the years, it will require a great deal of work to make it usable once again. The major utilities need to be restored. The exterior of the lodge will require siding, windows and a new roof.

The interior will retain its rustic feel but will require changes to meet code requirements and usage. Roads, parking lots, and walkways will be widened and repaved. Significantly, the major structural components of the building are still in remarkably good condition, according to the new proprietors.

The U.S. Forest Service has approved an application submitted by Dwight and Susan Sheets of Salem for a Special Use Permit to restore and operate the lodge. Both grew up in Salem and enjoyed the outdoors, especially the Santiam Pass area. Dwight was a general contractor in the 1980s but, at the age of 28, went back to college and earned a PhD. He has taught at the university level for 25 years.

Susan graduated from college with a degree in interior design and has consulted on numerous projects throughout the years. Her first love is music and theater, which she has directed and taught at all levels for more than 30 years.

"We both love the mountains of Oregon and are so happy to be a part of this exciting endeavor," said Susan. "We also have fond memories of the lodge from visits to it in our teens." They are especially excited about their plans to relocate to Sister and become part of the community.

The Sheets' goal for the lodge restoration is to bring back its historical look and feel to serve multiple purposes. Because of its close proximity to U.S. Highway 20, it will be a rest area and information center for travelers over Santiam Pass, providing needed all-season ADA facilities. It will be a warm rustic place for all to enjoy and learn about the history of the lodge and the surrounding area.

The lodge, its outbuilding, and the trails surrounding also offer an excellent setting for educational activities. It will also be available as a rental venue for community activities.

"We believe the project is a perfect blending of benefits for transportation, historical preservation, education, and community," Susan added.

The restoration of the lodge will take from three-to-five years. Funds for the restoration will come largely from grants, but private donations will also be needed, especially to serve as matching funds.

The project received a welcome boost when the lodge was recently designated by Restore Oregon as one of Oregon's Most Endangered Places. Restore Oregon works to raise public awareness of the cultural value of special historic sites in Oregon, provides direct consultation, distributes seed grants, advocates for pro-preservation public policy, and helps owners leverage additional grants and private investment to support their restoration.

The Sheets hope is that much of the work of restoration will come from people in the community interested in volunteering their time and skills to bring Santiam Pass Ski Lodge back. For more information go to

The May 14 presentation is part of Three Sisters Historical Society's observation of Historic Preservation Month and is free to the public.

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