Friday, December 30, 2011
Loring Wood and the Log Portal of Sutherlin
I buy lots of postcards on the internet. They provide a great source of graphics and with the new search sites, it’s pretty easy to pick up images that can guide restoration or rehabilitation projects. Sometimes, oft-times actually, I find images of long-gone structures that pique my curiosity. The amazing log gate at Oregon Woods Camp, near Sutherlin, would be in that category.
I picked this card up recently, which shows the 100’ long, 40’ tall log structure built from 32,000 logs taken from 464 trees, according to the sign. Illuminated by colored lights, visitors were encouraged to “buy a postal” or picture “if interested in nature.” Wow. Roadside quirk at its finest, and right here in southern Oregon.
The sign continues that the gate was built by Loring A. Wood, working alone, from a design that came to him in a dream. A quick bit of research on Mr. Wood (I absolutely LOVE the internet), finds that he was born in Nebraska in 1891, served in the US Army during WWI, and after a stint in Idaho arrived in Oregon and set up a roadside camp, Oregon Woods Camp, with his wife Amy just south of Sutherlin. The Arcadia book on Sutherlin, by Tricia Dias, describes Wood as a visionary. “He had a series of five dreams, from their details he constructed his fabulous archway [and] it became the entrance to his Oregon Woods Camp, which was Oregon’s first motel.” (Dias, 2011:109). Now, I don’t know if “first motel” is accurate, but clearly Mr. Woods had imagination. In addition to the gate, he built log models of boats (Dias reports that these included the U.S.S. Constitution and the Mayflower), and toured them around the nation. In May 1935, according to the Oregonian, Mr. Wood and the Constitution model, reported as being built from 18,000 pieces of wood,” were on exhibit in Portland, in a “tent on SW Broadway and Columbia” but the city council shut it down as a fire hazard.
I have gone through all my collection of Oregon motels and roadside camps on the Pacific Highway and can’t find any mention of Wood or his Sutherlin campground. Although Wood died in 1945 (and is buried at the Roseburg National Cemetery), I’ve yet to find his obituary or figure out what happened to fantastic creations in Sutherlin. Clearly it doesn't survive. Does anybody know?
As a side note, there is a gentleman named Loring Woods living in New Hampshire who operates a log home construction business, Log Restoration Worldwide LLC, that has a website called The American DREAM ( http://fixlogs.com/am_dream.htm). When I stumbled across this, between the name, the occupation and the dream bit, I was sure that there had to be some connection. There wasn’t. Mr. Wood, of Sutherlin, remains something of mystery. I’d like to think that his log ship models, at least, survive somewhere.