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In southwest Oregon, far from frantic modern life, at the end of a steep and curved mountain road, there are ancient marble caves with giant caverns and fantastic formations, highly accessible to visitors. Right beside the entrance to the Caves, there’s a magnificent 1930s-era lodge, named “The Chateau”by its builders – welcoming you for a rest, a drink, a meal, musical or literary entertainment, and maybe an overnight stay.
The Oregon Caves Chateau, a National Historic Landmark property on the National Register of Historic Places, is compable to Timberline and Crater Lake Lodges. Like those lodges were in the past, it too is badly in need of protection and preservation. Designed and built by private citizens, the Chateau opened in 1934. It remained privately owned and operated until 2003, when the National Park Service bought it.
It’s up to us - we cannot let this unique landmark decay into ruins. We must restore the Chateau to its original glory, shore up its structure, and modernize its systems if it is to thrive and survive. Restoring the Chateau is important, for Oregon, for today’s visitors, and for future generations. It’s a key element of our history and promotes the economic vitality of Southwest Oregon
The Oregon Caves are members of an exclusive club, only 5% of the all caves in the world are marble. The Caves meander for three miles, deep under the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Sometimes called “The Marble Halls of Oregon”, the caves formed as rainwater from the ancient forest above dissolved the surrounding rock. The highly complex geology found here supports unusual and rare plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. Since 1909, the National Park Service has protected the Oregon Caves from damage while still permiting millions of visitors to see their wonders.
Douglas fir, cut from adjoining hillsides, supports the structural beams. The stairway is a work of art: two large logs form the stringers, and the three-inch oak treads, were cut in the valley below. Madrone, fir and maple were also used to finish the Chateau, a masterpiece of woodworking. Native marble blasted from the site, became part of the the magnificent fireplace in the lounge, and the Chateau boasts the world’s largest public collection of handpainted Monterey furniture valued for its beauty and craftmanship"One of the most architecturally exciting lodges in the entire Parks system...crossing the span of a woodland ravine, has a stream running through the dining room, and the Chateau makes exceptional use of the land's natural contours. The lodge was designed and built by local folks with an emphasis on natural materials. Much of the building's original siding of shaggy Port Orford-Cedar bark is still intact after 70 years.” PBS special – Great Lodges of the Pacific Northwest.
The Oregon Caves Monument currently attracts over 90,000 visitors annually but, at its height in the 1970s, attracted over 200,000, a decrease that may well be at least partially attributable to the Chateau’s decline. A recent NPS economic study documents the Monument’s local economic impact at $5.18 million per year. That model notes that even a 10%increase in visits and overnight stays would bring an additional $6.68 million each year to the entire SW Oregon region, since the Caves is considered a gateway (attraction? Venue?)
In order to stay open for visitors, the Chateau is in need of extensive deferred maintenance and historic restoration. The National Park Service has prioritized the deferred maintenance needed by the Chateau, along with addressing safety and accessility issues at a higher level than previously, in some part due to the voices and influence of citizens and leaders in Southwest Oregon, but that timeline still delays funding until 2019!The Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau is a non-profit, citizen-led NPS partner committed to developing the resources needed to support the NPS's commitment to achieve the structural and interior restoration of the Chateau and its associated historic collection of Monterey Furniture in accordance to the Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. The restoration of the Chateau will engage local and regional communities in construction and craft activities, creating significant economic benefit during the project. A rehabilitated and upgradedChateau will attract more visitors and lodgingbusiness to the Monument, creating even more significant economic benefit, so critically needed by Southwest Oregon.
Visit the Oregon Caves and Chateau. You are in for an amazing treat!Talk to your friends about the Chateau – the treasure that it represents, but also its needs, and the risk of letting the Chateau fall into disrepair and irrelevance.Get involved in our upcoming Campaign for the Chateau. We need volunteers to help with fundraising, and we need your financial support. It’s up to us. Please contact Sue Densmore, Executive Director of the Friends at 541-944-1139, or [email protected]