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Jon and Dee Tullis.
A Mountain of memories posted on 06/01/2022

It takes very little time at Timberline Lodge to begin to appreciate its majestic grandeur and its testament to those craftsmen who created the iconic building. But if one could spend nearly four decades there, as Jon Tullis did in his career, some of the smaller details can also stand out.


Tullis, who retired this year, noted one of the designs on the rock face of the main lobby’s chimney as just such a detail.

“One in particular resembles a circle of clasped hands,” he wrote in an email to The Mountain Times. “I believe it is called ‘Working Hands.’ I hope that’s true because that’s what it symbolizes for me – all the folks who have worked here, and the teamwork that it took to build the Lodge. That’s a perfect symbol for the spirit of Timberline.”

Tullis began his career at Timberline in 1984, after moving from New York state and introducing himself to the lodge’s operator, Richard Kohnstamm, following a day of skiing. Looking back, he described it as a “perfect fit” and how he played a part in the Lodge’s ongoing and continuing place in history.

“Well, among other things, I think it means that I have spent my career at a special place, doing something that I really enjoyed, and I like to think it was something worthwhile and that mattered,” Tullis wrote. “It puts me in the fine company of all the others who came through Timberline, from the dreamers, to the builders, the artists, the architects, the athletes, the visitors and certainly those that have worked to preserve Timberline Lodge and keep it thriving. It is quintessential Oregon. I am proud to be a part of its heritage, and proud to have contributed to its preservation. I hope the Lodge will be cherished for many generations to come.”

Tullis added that the Lodge, dedicated in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression, continues to be operated as it was originally intended, as a ski lodge and gathering spot. That type of use for a historical building can offer challenges, as Tullis wrote about in the Winter 2022 edition of “Timberlines,” a publication from the Friends of Timberline organization.

“Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s WPA Administrator called it ‘social usefulness’ and I think we are still carrying that out to this day,” Tullis explained. “So you see as operators of the business, we are the keepers of that culture. We would never want it to be a museum, like so many other landmarks are, you know, where people simply get the velvet rope treatment. We are in the hospitality business. We want people to enjoy it the way it was intended to be enjoyed. We are  preserving not just the  Lodge, but its original mission. That’s what the phrase ‘preservation through use’ is all about. Yes, it can be challenging in a place that gets so much wear and tear, but once you fully realize the mission of ‘preservation through use,’ how you operate it, care for it, and preserve the place becomes very logical, and very achievable. It feels right.”     

Tullis, who has relocated to the Oregon Coast with his wife, Dee, particularly hopes that two of his contributions to the Lodge, the singer/songwriter series held in the main lobby and the Mountain Music Festival held outdoors at the historic amphitheater, will return after the coronavirus pandemic and continue on.

“I hope that can be resurrected,” he wrote. “There is something about live music that really blows magic into this place. And lots of fond memories are made. I sure have a lot.”

Tullis also noted that when he first started working at Timberline Lodge, it felt more like a bed and breakfast establishment, while they frequently held special events, such as art fairs, ski races or snowboarding competitions, to attract visitors.

“Nowadays, we simply don’t need to do those any longer because we are packed, particularly on peak winter weekends,” he wrote. “So that’s just one thing that has changed. With increased visitation comes increased pressures and the challenges of traffic congestion and everything else that comes with capacity crowds. That’s one thing I think our land managers and everyone who works in the tourist industry really need to get right in the coming years. We need more recreational infrastructure, more parking and more alternative transportation solutions. I’m a big fan of smart planning, and we have some catching up to do.

“But having said all that, I can also tell you what has NOT changed, and that’s Timberline Lodge as a place,” he added. “In this fast-paced world where it seems that everything is accelerating and changing before our eyes, the old-world charm and the sense of permanence that Timberline Lodge provides is precious. It looks and feels a lot like it did some 80 years ago. That really resonates with people. Long live Timberline Lodge, jewel of the Cascades!”

Tullis plans on spending time hiking, fishing, volunteering in his community and enjoying sunsets in his retirement.

But he’ll also explore his musical passion by hosting a two-hour radio show on KMUN, 91.9 on FM radio and also streaming online (www.kmun.org).

Tullis’ story from the “Timberlines” publication can be read at https://www.friendsoftimberline.org/uploads/1/2/9/8/129876921/webfot47new.pdf.

By Garth Guibord/MT




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