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The Chateau at the Oregon Caves: Hip and Historic
The Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument is one of the National Park's Great Lodges and a National Historic Landmark. The six-story hotel located on the monument has a fine dining room, a 1930's era coffee shop, and 23 rooms. Each of the rooms in the Chateau has its own unique charm. The Chateau is currently closed and undergoing a large scale rehabilitation project so there is currently no lodging or food service at the park. Cave tours will continue as scheduled during the spring, summer and fall.
The Chateau was completed in 1934, at which time the Chalet became the gift shop and guide residence. The original concessionaire that operated the Chalet and Chateau (now often called "the Lodge") had invested significant money into the projects and as a reward was given test contract to run the cave tours as well. Many year have passed since the original local company was the concessionaire, and the National Park Service began providing cave tours in 2001.
The Monterey furniture within the Chateau is unique. It was constructed by the Mason Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles and is all hand-made, mostly from Oregon alder wood. Each of the craftsmen had their own design, generally a floral pattern, which they painted on many of the pieces they made.
After all these years the original collection is in remarkable condition - with respect to 85 years of wear. The upholstery all needs to be replaced and some designs have faded or had alterations. These pieces will be refurbished. Donations of over 100 pieces will help fill out the collection but many more pieces are needed. Once the restoration is complete, the Oregon Caves Chateau will be the only lodge in the National Park Service with it’s original furniture - plus donations of additional pieces in each room.
Please take a few moments to walk through the Chateau when it reopens, even if you are not staying there, and see the beautiful interior of the building. As you do, listen to the voices of the past speak to you from every piece of wood and stone. Look around and thank the people who envisioned, built, and operate(d) to become an important part of the historical and cultural legacy of southwest Oregon.
The Design of the Lodge
The design of the buildings, using local material in a rustic fashion, is in keeping with most of the old lodges found in National Parks and National Forests. Landscape architect Arthur Peck suggested the traditional look of the district, and Grants Pass carpenter and self-taught architect Gust Lium followed suit when he designed and built the Chateau. The rocks are the same marble as that which comprised the cave and the bark which covers the structures is from native Port Orford Cedar trees. The rustic design of the cave's historic district set a precedent which was followed in constructing other buildings in several state parks and the Siskiyou National Forest
Statement of Significance
The prime significance of Oregon Caves’ Chateau lies in its designer’s extraordinarily creative use of the limited building site and how he allowed the site to dictate major architectural choices. Inseparable from that is the extremely high integrity of the building, the furnishings and the site. Of local significance is the importance of the development of Oregon Caves, fostered by local businessmen who formed the Oregon Caves Company–the monument’s concessionaire–to stimulate the depressed economy in the area.
Today’s visitor to the Chateau is still enchanted by the rustic sense of place that the builder and the landscape architects created. Entering the area is very much like traveling back into the 1930s. Trout still swim in the pools. The Chateau is more weathered, but the furnishings are entirely original. Even the smell of the aging fiberboard wall panels inside the Chateau contributes to that undeniably nostalgic feeling.
A Vision for the Chateau
The Chateau will be operated by Aramark when it re-opens. Local employees will continue to provide services critical to the use and enjoyment of the Oregon Caves National Monument, supporting education and respecting the history and diverse natural beauty of this unique environment while giving our guests the best in service and hospitality.
In 2002, the former Concessionaire, the Illinois Valley Community Development Organization ( IVCDO) recognized the need to keep the Chateau open and operating as a cornerstone of our local commerce. After a one-year trial period, the National Park Service awarded the IVCDO with a 10-year concessionaire contract to continue the progress. The Oregon Caves Outfitters was established as the entity under which the IVCDO would manage the operation.
Each season, the Chateau employs and trains over 40 local seasonal employees, and offers locally produced products and artwork from our talented pool of local artists and food producers. Our guests at the Chateau thus support not only the existence and restoration of the Chateau structure itself, but also contribute to the local economy of the Illinois Valley.