Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Oregon Caves Chateau turns 75

Yesterday we were at an Ice Cream social to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Oregon Caves Chateau, an NHL located in the Oregon Caves Monument, at the end of the road south of Cave Junction, Oregon. It was neat event, buoyed by the presence of Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski, the First Lady (and Oregon Trust Advisor) Mary Oberst, Representatives from the Congressional Delegation, the State Legislature, County Board of Commissioners and the National Parks Service, among many others that included the Friends of the Oregon Caves, former residents and workers. The Caves, and the Chateau, have an ever-growing fan base, to be sure.

As I've mentioned before, I've been working with the Friends to design and rehab a "Model Room" at the Caves, taking what was formerly the much-altered Manager's Suite and using it as an experiment to develop a viable alternative to the original (and hence historic) fiber-board/Celutex wall and ceiling coverings that were installed in 1934. These panels (in both 4x8 sheets and, in the hallways, about 18"x24" tiles) were installed directly over the studs, without any insulation, fire rating, or sound-proofing. You can see the "Before" picture above. And, if you have ever spend a night at the Chateau, I don't have to tell you how that lack of performance effects what the hospitality folks call "the visitor experience." The Manager's Suite had been modified (painted white, rather than the original brown/tan (turned orange by 1950s-era fire retardant) so working with NPS and Oregon SHPO we decided to remove it and explore a visually-compatible, more functional, alternative. In this case, after insulating the walls for both energy and acoustics, we took drywall with a chamfered bead and textured the finish. We're still messing with the paint scheme a bit and haven't quite perfected the "pickled" trim, but we're getting there. Refinished wood floors, historically-based lighting, and other details will, presumably, all improve the visitor experience. So will the revamped plumbing and electrical systems, but neither are as photogenic.

The Governor and First Lady cut a ribbon, to formally "open" access to the Model Room and the assembled crowd trekked up the stairs to see how we'd done. Afterwards everyone had Oregon150 Ice Cream (graciously served by the Governor), locally made cookies, and good conversation.

This project is the first step in what is a hoped for full systems and structural upgrade for the Chateau (Congress and Parks Service willing), to be paired with room-by-room restoration based on this model. New textiles and finishes (most from Oregon-based companies) will blend with the huge collection of historic Monterey Furniture that was part of the Chateau's original design. Stay tuned.

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