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Caves Chateau listed as 'endangered'

CAVE JUNCTION — The Oregon Caves Chateau isn't going to fall down or anything.

But it did land on the annual list of Oregon's Most Endangered Places, a list put out by the nonprofit organization Restore Oregon.

The stately building at the "Marble Halls of Oregon" is like any other 81-year-old structure.

"It's structurally fine, everything is working fine, but it's in need of some maintenance, as well as restoration," said Sue Densmore, executive director of Friends of the Oregon Caves. "It's still a wonderful place to stay."

The chateau is the centerpiece of the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, 20 miles east of Cave Junction, which expanded from 488 acres to 4,488 acres earlier this year after a bill was approved in Congress.

The list of endangered places includes historic buildings that have significant cultural and economic interest and are judged worthy of investment to preserve their structure and their use. The names on the 2016 list were announced at a recent Restore Oregon banquet in Portland.

Places nominated, which include a railroad depot, a school, a museum and a U.S. Forest Service guard station, will receive a grant for upgrades.

The chateau, complete with Port Orford cedar siding, wood-shingled roof and stone foundation work, was built in 1934, and is both a National Historic Landmark and on the list of Historic Hotels of America.

The six-story hotel offers a fine-dining room, a 1930s-era coffee shop and 23 rooms. A centerpiece is the large marble fireplace.

Densmore said her organization is working with the National Park Service to raise money over the next two years for the work at the chateau. The 100th anniversary of the Park Service is 2016, and it will match 80 percent of funds raised by the organization, Densmore said.

The first order of business is rebuilding three balconies that no longer are functional. Plumbing, wiring and wall surfaces also need work.

Vickie Snitzler, superintendent at the Caves, said the balconies were closed decades ago because of damage from snow loads.

Snitzler emphasized that the chateau is not falling apart, it just needs work.

“Folks shouldn’t be discouraged from staying at the chateau,” she said.

The chateau is open for lodging from early May until early November.

In addition to the chateau, the Oregon Caves Historic District covers 6 acres and includes the chalet where the visitor center is, the guides’ dormitory and the ranger residence. The entire district is on the National Register of Historic Places. Last year when the Caves celebrated its expansion, it added new exhibits, including one large replica of a section of the caves where people can learn more about species of flora and fauna unique to the caves, Snitzler said.

New signs along Caves Highway also have gone up, done in the style of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. Another new sign was built at the intersection of Redwood Highway and Caves Highway in Cave Junction.

In 2010, Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau received a $7,500 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to restore the vintage Monterey furniture, which is still in use at the Chateau.

Even before the chateau's nomination to the endangered places list, Friends of the Oregon Caves was raising money for restoration.

Those who want to donate to the Chateau Restoration Fund can do so at friendsocac.org or oregoncaveschateau.com.

Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com.

The Oregon Caves Chateau has landed on Oregon's Most Endangered Places list. Mail Tribune file photo