Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's "Only" a State Park

We concluded our stop at Petit Jean State Park (near Morrilton, AR) with a tour of the Mather Lodge.

As we walked through the new lobby and restaurant waiting area, we could see the results of the $4.3 million renovation and addition.
The renovation work replaced a portion of the lodge's 1960s-era dining room with a more rustic-style design that was a perfect match to the old portion of the Lodge that was preserved.

The lobby and restaurant will feature exposed log construction, use of natural materials, and extensive glass window walls to provide a full view of the natural beauty surrounding Mather Lodge.

"An expanded kitchen, the addition of a 50-person room for meetings and small banquets, a relocated guest registration desk, enhanced 24 guest rooms, and a new lodge swimming pool" were among the new additions to the Lodge, which re-opened in May of this year (petitjeanstatepark.com).

After breakfast in the Lodge's dining room, we toured the old portion of the Lodge, entering from the outside door in the photo (right).

The history of the Lodge was summarized in rexnelsonsouthern fried.com: "During the Great Depression, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were established at Arkansas’ first six state parks. CCC Company V-1781 was formed on Petit Jean Mountain on July 15, 1933. The company employed World War I veterans.

"A rock bridge crossing Cedar Creek was built, and Mather Lodge was constructed. Also constructed were roads, hiking trails, cabins and two recreational lakes.

"Mather Lodge, which was completed in 1934, is the only CCC lodge in an Arkansas State Park. In 1939, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed an architecturally compatible addition to the lodge."

The dining room (the room with the tables in the two photos below) and kitchen were added in the 1960s.

Looking from the outside entrance (photo on the right), the lobby is the room in the foreground and the dining room is in the background.

The next four photos show some architectural details in these two rooms in the old section of the Lodge.

As we walked through the older part of the Lodge as well as the newly-completed renovation and addition, a reminder kept running through my mind.

It was strangely similar to that announcement made before the showing of some 1950s horror movies: "Just keep telling yourself: 'It's only a movie.'"

Now the content of that message was not the same, but I kept reminding myself:
"Remember this is 'only' a state park."

The Mather Lodge far exceeded our expectation of a lodge in any state park. It was reminiscent of the lodges in some of the major national parks.
Mather Lodge and other historic treasures in Arkansas' Petit Jean State Park "stand as a tribute to the craftsmanship and conservation achievements of the close-to-his-heart 'Tree Army' of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal created during the Great Depression" (arkansasstateparks.com).

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