The Oregon Caves Chateau
Part 1 - Exterior
Lobby entrance to The Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument. The lobby entrance is actually on the 4th floor of the 6 floor building. The double doors lead into the hotel lobby. The restaurant, coffee shop, and gift shop are on the next level down. Support services for the hotel extend two floors below the restaurant. Guest rooms are on the lobby level and the two levels above the lobby.
Photos taken June 6-8, 2004
Your virtual tour guide: Jess Stryker
Click on any photo in the tour to see a larger, higher definition version of the image.
Planning to visit the Chateau? See our primary Oregon Caves Chateau Information page where you will find an extensive list of the Chateau's facilities and amenities, maps and directions, the Chateau's direct reservations phone number, and a number of specific suggestions that will make your visit more enjoyable.
Oregon Caves National Monument Historic District:
The Oregon Caves Chateau is the crown jewel of a larger group of historic buildings called the Oregon Caves National Monument Historic District. There are 4 primary historic buildings of interest at the Oregon Caves National Monument Historic District; The Chateau (a hotel built in 1934), The Ranger Residence (1936?), The (new) Chalet (cave visitor center built in 1942), and the old employee Dormitory (1927, with major additions in 1940 & 1972). The Chateau, Dormitory, and new Chalet were designed and built by Gust Lium (1884-1965), a local contractor. The new Chalet replaces an older Chalet building that was at the same location. In addition Mr. Lium designed and built a number of cottages (1926), which were removed in 1988. The Ranger Residence was designed by Francis Lange of the National Park Service. My focus for this tour will be on The Chateau, which was designed and built as a visitor hotel for the park.
The Chateau is still open, and is in almost original condition. Very little has been modified over the years, even the original furniture is still in most of the rooms! The hotel is operated by Oregon Caves Outfitters which is owned by the non-profit Illinois Valley Community Development Organization (IVCDO), who intend to keep it as original as possible. The IVCDO is an excellent example of how a local community can come together to save and operate a local historic feature. The actual Chateau building is owned by the U.S. National Park service, it was purchased by the government in 2003.
Oops, almost forgot in my excitement over the buildings. There are also caves you can tour at the Oregon Caves National Monument!
Oregon Caves Chateau Virtual Tour:
The Chateau at Oregon Caves is a magnificent piece of architecture and construction. It is located in Oregon Caves National Monument, and the nearest town is Cave Junction, in Southern Oregon. At this point you may have noted that I have called it the Oregon Caves Chateau, and also The Chateau at Oregon Caves. So what's in a name? Not much difference between the two variations, but it has created some heated debate as to which is correct. The National Park Service documents use "Oregon Caves Chateau". I have a copy of one of the original drawing of the Chateau made by Gust Lium, he wrote on it Oregon Caves "Chateau". But if you ask around you will find plenty of support for The Chateau at Oregon Caves too! My approach will be to offend everyone by using both names throughout this tour.
This sketch of the Oregon Caves Historical District will help orient you to the site. I neglected to label the Ranger Residence. It is the white square located just below the Chalet, right under the red line between the Oregon Caves Chalet label and the building.
The 10-sided Oregon Caves Chateau building straddles a creek bed, with both ends dug into the side of the creek bed. If you think of how a dam is constructed in relation to a creek, the Chateau is essentially across the creek in the same manner. The Chateau building has 6 floors, the rear of the building is 6 floors above the creek bed. However due to the steep slope of the creek bed, the front of the building is only 4 floors high at the creek bed, and each end of the building is only 3 floors high. The result of the steep site means that every floor except the 5th and 6th floors has a ground level entrance. Since the main entrance to the hotel is on the side of the building, that level is labeled as the first floor. So there are 3 "basement" floors below the 1st floor! Please join me on a photo tour of this unique building!
To help clarify, here's what's on each floor of the Chateau, starting at the bottom:
- Lower basement. Equipment rooms.
- Upper basement. Storage and employee dining room.
- Courtyard level. Dining room, coffee shop, and gift shop.
- 1st floor. Hotel lobby, standard and upgrade guest rooms.
- 2nd floor. Standard and upgrade guest rooms, manager's apartment (now used as a guest room).
- 3rd floor. Small "attic" guest rooms.
Approaching the Oregon Caves Chateau from the day use parking lot you first notice the Chateau building through the trees on the right.
A few feet further up the road the side and rear of the Chateau come fully into view. At this point it becomes obvious that much of the Chateau is below you in the creek bed. A quick look at the back of the Chateau reveals it's most unique character. It straddles the entire width of the creek bed, like a dam.
After walking over to the stone wall at the edge of the driveway, you can look down at the back side of the Chateau. The gift shop window below you is apparent from the souvenirs displayed in the window.
Another look at the same rear wall (you can see the gift shop windows from the above picture at the bottom of this one.) Note the metal fire escape. Originally the building had wood balconies, but they fell off in a heavy snow, and were replaced with metal. The windows above the fire escape are guest rooms on the 1st floor (which has 3 floors below it, see the description of each floor
As the road passes by the side of the Oregon Caves Chateau, take a moment to notice the detailed use of strips of tree bark as siding. Almost all the materials used to build the Chateau came from the surrounding forests. The bark gives the building a very rustic appearance.
As you continue up the road it passes the Chateau and begins a horseshoe curve across the creek bed to the right. The road wraps around three sides of the Chateau. This photo is looking back at the side of the Chateau you just walked past. The windows are actually guest rooms on the 1st and 2nd floors of the Chateau.
Continuing on the service road you come to the Oregon Caves Chalet, located just upstream in the creek bed from the Chateau. The road passes between the Chalet and the Chateau. The Chalet is the Park Service Visitor Center building where the cave tours start.
The road continues to curve completely around the front of the Chateau, and soon the trout pond and courtyard level entrances to the Chateau Coffee Shop come into view below you on the right.
This wider view allows you to see more of the building. Notice the use of both dormer and shed style roofs on the building. Yes, in case you were wondering, it was raining when I took these photos. Rain is a pretty common occurrence here, some claim that native Oregonians have webbed feet! (I can attest that this is not true, as my wife Julie is a native Oregonian. I've checked, and she doesn't have webbed feet.)
Moving down into the hotel courtyard, this photo was taken looking at the building with the trout pond in the foreground. (The pond was originally stocked with trout.) Most of the rock work was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
during the Great Depression.
This is a photo of the Chateau taken from the porch of the Chalet (Visitor Center) up the hill from it. You can see the roadway that wraps around the Chateau.
Another look from a bit closer.
This is the main 1st floor entrance to the hotel lobby on the left side of the Chateau.
After you pass fully around the Chateau, the road continues a few hundred feet to the hotel guest parking lot. From there a small service road leads back down to the upper basement level storage rooms on the rear side of the Chateau. On the next floor up is the kitchen, the floor above it with the large plate glass window is the 1st floor lobby. The window above that (behind the tree branch) is a guest room (#210, the one we stayed in!) Hey look, it finally stopped raining!
A look at the full back wall of the Chateau. As you can see, the lower basement level doesn't have bark siding. The large plate glass window 3 floors from the bottom is the dining room on the courtyard level. The one above it is the lobby on the 1st floor.
Another view, this one centered on the gift shop windows on the courtyard level.
After a short hike down into the canyon behind the Chateau, it is now possible to get a good feel for the full 6 floor height of the building, and how it spans the creek bed. The lower basement level is just barely visible, it has painted concrete walls without bark siding. The 3rd floor (attic) windows are not visible from here, however you can see the 3rd floor fire escape door on the left side just below the roof peak. It's hard to get the feel in a photo for how massive the building seems from here. You have to lean your head way back to see the top of it.
A bit farther down the creek, you can see the water in the creek in this photo.
As you continue to hike down the creek trail the Oregon Caves Chateau disappears behind the trees.
A couple more photos of the exterior:
This photo was taken from a guest room window on the 1st floor, looking across the back of the building at the lobby windows. Note the rainwater cascading from the roof.
This photo shows some construction details. Note the use of small logs, rather than milled wood, for the roof eave supports. That's a bird nest on the supports under the eaves.
Wow, will the rain ever stop? Another photo of the Chateau taken from the Chalet. Notice the rock fire pit in the foreground, to the left of the picnic table.
This is the trout pond in the hotel courtyard, viewed from the door to the gift shop. Everything you see is man-made, the rock wall and waterfall were all built by the CCC. The road that wraps around the Chateau blends in and is hard to see, it is just above the top of the waterfall.
So if the building straddles the creek, where does the creek go? The answer is that part of the creek trickles right through the rooms of the building! A fake creek bed was built into the building and a small amount of water from the creek flows right through the building, between the dining room and gift shop. The rest of the creek water flows through a pipe that runs under the building.
Time has taken it's toll on some parts of the Chateau. The end of this beam has rotted out.
Now let's take a look inside the Oregon Caves Chateau!
Click Here to Continue the tour.
Oregon Caves Chateau Tour Index:
Oregon Caves Chateau Virtual Tour, Part 1, the Exterior.
Oregon Caves Chateau Virtual Tour, Part 2, Interior Public Areas.
Oregon Caves Chateau Virtual Tour, Part 3, the Guest Rooms & Ghosts.
Oregon Caves Chateau Virtual Tour, Part 4, the Landscape.
Oregon Caves Chateau Review.
Oregon Caves Chalet (Visitor Center) Tour
Photos and information on the historic Chalet Visitor's Center building.
The Oregon Caves Tour
. Photos from the park service Cave Tour.
Oregon Caves Chateau- Planning Your Visit
Brief history, extensive list of facilities and amenities, advice for visitors, maps and directions, reservations phone number.
Oregon Caves Chateau, References for more Study.
Oregon Caves Chateau- Planning Your Visit
All text and images by Jess Stryker, unless noted. Text copyright © Jess Stryker, 2007. Photos copyright © Jess Stryker, 2004.All rights reserved.
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