Multnomah Falls Lodge

Multnomah Falls Lodge

Multnomah Falls Lodge ca. 1920
Multnomah Falls Lodge January 16, 2005


View Multnomah Falls Lodge in a larger map

Multnomah Falls Lodge

When the Historic Columbia River Highway opened in the Multnomah Falls section in 1915, it attracted concessionaires who catered to motorist’s needs. In addition, some amenities were available at the nearby OWRN station house. Yet many early HCRH motorists wanted more. They were accustomed to having Sunday dinners of chicken, rabbit, or salmon at several places along the highway. These included Chanticleer Inn, Crown Point Chalet, Latourell Falls Chalet and its successor, Falls Villa, Bridal Veil Lodge, and Forrest Hall. Some even kept a few rooms for road weary travelers. So, in 1925 the city of Portland commissioned local architect A. E. Doyle to design a structure. Doyle had already completed several structures in Portland, including, the Multnomah County Central Public Library, the Meier and Frank Department Store, the U.S. National Bank Buildings and the Benson Hotel. He created a 2-1/2 story rustic masonry lodge for a site below the falls and near the highway. The firm of Waale-Shattuck constructed it for $40,000.

The lodge exterior was in the “Cascadian” style, using native split fieldstone laid irregularly and varying in shades from black and gray to brown and red. Its encounter English’s form includes a steeply pitched cedar-shingled gable roof with dormers and massive chimneys. It was completed in 1925, and provided both meals and lodging for travelers. By 1927, the building was enlarged, and in the next 65 years has undergone several remodeling, both inside and out, but still retains its original charm and character. Since World War II, it has provided meals ranging from simple snacks to elegant dining, and houses a gift shop: public restrooms and an interpretive center. The lodge is by no means “rustic” in the same sense as Civilian Conservation corps and Works Progress Administration buildings constructed in the gorge in the 1930s. Instead it has a sense of restrained elegance that catered to wealthy Portlanders who ventured out of the city in their motor cars to “rough it” the country

The lodge marks the beginning of the footpath that takes travelers to the Multnomah Falls Footbridge, to the top of the falls, and eventually another 6 miles to the top of Larch Mountain. The area between the lodge and the footbridge, along with adjoining stone walks, benches, and interpretive displays, has been remade and remodeled continually since the 1920s. Beginning in the late 1980s, Multnomah Falls Scenic Area came under the jurisdiction of the newly organized Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, with planning strategies for its future coordinated with similar U.S. Forest Service activities at other sites in the gorge.

Excerpted from Historic American Engineering Record, Multnomah Falls Footbridge (Benson Footbridge), HAER 0R-OR-36-I.

Historian: Robert W. Hadlow, Phd., September 1995.
Transmitted by: Lisa M. Pfueller, September, 1996.

Multnomah Falls Lodge Website