The Santiam Pass Ski Lodge west of Sisters, which is being restored back to its original 1940s design, was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The national designation puts the dilapidated lodge on the official list of historic places across the United States worthy of being preserved.
Salem couple Dwight and Susan Sheets, who founded Friends of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge to renovate the vacant lodge, said the national placement will help immensely with grant applications to fund the project, estimated to cost between $2 million and $3 million.
The lodge also gained attention across the state last week when Restore Oregon, a nonprofit historic preservation group, put the lodge on its 2019 list of most endangered places in the state.
“It’s not just an old building,” Dwight Sheets said. “It’s an old building that truly has a lot of unique value to it.”
The U.S. Forest Service recognized the historic value of the lodge and officially nominated it last year to the National Register of Historic Places.
The nomination was sent to the National Park Service, which oversees the register.
In its nomination, the Forest Service highlighted the lodge’s rustic architectural style of the era. The lodge was built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps with locally harvested and milled lumber and stone quarried from nearby Hogg Rock.
Catherine Lindberg, an archaeologist for the Willamette National Forest, evaluated the historical significance of the lodge in an 1989 report that first advocated for the lodge to be listed on the national historic register.
“The lodge and its associated structures warrant continued careful preservation and future management in keeping with their historic values,” Lindberg wrote. “Architectural and cultural values should be specifically addressed in future management plans and decisions, so that these values will be protected for future generations.”
Lindberg’s report was the first to recognize the historic elements of the lodge, and got the process started to list the property nationally, according to the Sheetses.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Dwight Sheets said. “I think this is a real tribute to (Lindberg) and her work through the years.”
Dwight and Susan Sheets signed a five-year permit in May from the Forest Service to start work on the lodge, which opened in 1940 across from the Hoodoo Ski Area on U.S. Highway 20 in the Willamette National Forest.
Within five years, the couple expects the lodge to be open for daytime visits. There are no plans for overnight guests at the lodge, which sits on 26 acres near the top of Santiam Pass on Forest Service property.
The first step in funding the five-year project came earlier this year, when the State Historic Preservation Office awarded the nonprofit Friends of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge a $20,000 grant. The grant will be used to replace the lodge’s 75 wood sash windows that are broken and boarded up. When the lodge was last open in the 1980s, the windows gave visitors a clear view of the surrounding mountains.
Over the winter months, staff from Stayton Wood Windows will take the 75 windows to their shop and repair or replace the windows as needed. About five of the windows are completely destroyed and need to be replaced. Another 15 to 20 have significant damage, according to the Sheetses.
“Most of them were in great shape because they were boarded over,” Susan Sheets said.
Last month, Friends of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge received a second grant for $25,000 from the Kinsman Foundation, which supports historic preservation in Oregon. The latest grant funding will go toward the demolition of modern additions to the lodge that were added after 1958. Specifically, the plan is to remove an unnecessary three-story staircase, exterior hallway and open area near the entrance.
Removing the additions will bring the lodge back to its original character, the Sheetses said.
The couple plans to start the work in the spring.
“We wanted to have that done this fall,” Susan Sheets said. “We are thinking now we are going to have to do it in early spring, as soon as the snow melts, because there just isn’t enough time.”
The lodge has sat vacant since 1986, when it was last used by a church group. The Forest Service did not approve any permits to operate the lodge until this year.
The lodge was built between 1939 and 1940 and stayed open for 46 years. It attracted thousands of guests year-round who visited during ski trips, summer camps and hikes over Santiam Pass.
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