Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mountain getaway burns to the ground

Lehman Springs Hotel, a popular getaway in the Blue Mountains near Ukiah, Ore., since 1873, burned to the ground Aug. 8, 1957, along with 13 resort cabins built nearby. Charlie Nagele, general manager of Harris Pine Mills, was flying near the resort about 9:25 a.m. and saw the flames “shooting way up in the air — about 100 feet.” Nagele said the fire couldn’t have started more than 15 or 20 minutes prior to his arrival. There were no reported injuries, and the cause of the fire was unknown.

Approximately 20 firefighters from the Ukiah national forest station, Ukiah ranger station and Harris Pine Mills’ crews were rushed to the scene and were able to contain the fire by 11 a.m., saving the surrounding valuable timber from the flames. But the lodge and cabins were a total loss. Also lost in the fire were numerous early-day photos that showed the resort in its heyday. The photos had lined the walls of the lodge, recalling memories of another era.

The sulphur-rich hot springs that give the resort its name were discovered by Dr. John Teel, a pioneer doctor, in the early 1870s and named for John Lehman, a pioneer settler of the area. In pioneer times Lehman Springs and nearby Hidaway Springs served summer campers and vacationers from Umatilla County, and hundreds of people annually made the long trip from Pendleton by horse and wagon or stage line. Lehman Springs also served as headquarters for local hunters for more than 70 years.

Lehman Springs has led a troubled life since its heyday, however. The lodge, with 15 rooms, a large lobby, kitchen and dining room, and property were purchased in 1925 by Fancho Stubblefield; his family sold the resort in 1943, then repurchased it again a few years later. Lehman Springs was purchased in May 1956 by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Phillips from Jack Vanderlaar, who had taken over from Stubblefield and made many improvements to the property. The Stubblefield family regained it again in the 1970s, then offered it for sale in 1975 due to lack of funds. A restoration effort was launched in 1982. The resort was bought in 1988 by John Patrick Lucas and subsequently closed in mid-2009 for wastewater violations and sanitation issues. Fancho Stubblefield’s grandson, Fancho “Fee” Stubblefield, regained the deed to the property in 2012 and has since been trying to correct the problems. The resort still sits empty.

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