Despite recent heavy snow on Siskiyou Summit, construction workers hammered and sawed to try and meet the anticipated May opening of the new and improved Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge off Exit 6 on I-5.
The Southern Oregon landmark, which had been in operation for 60 years, burned to the ground in the summer of 2006 due to a hood fire in the restaurant's kitchen.
Ron and Donna Bergquist, who bought Callahan's in 1996, initially thought they might reopen this summer. But they changed their minds, deciding instead to add 15,000 more square feet that will be completed in stages.
The change slowed down the permitting process and New Age Builders of Medford weren't able to start construction until September 2007. Workers finished framing on the fourth floor, but the lodge is still missing a roof.
"I'd love to have a month of sunshine so we can get the roof on," said Bob Taylor, construction manager. "We have about 10 guys working full-time, when they can. The May opening date would be a lot easier if the weather would cooperate."
Change is good
The lodge's exterior will look very similar to the original, including the three gables and wooden carved bear, who welcomed visitors at the front desk. The old bear was lost to the fire, so Ron's brother-in-law had another one made.
When the four-story lodge reopens in May, all 19 rooms will include decks and Jacuzzi whirlpools, while 17 will also include fireplaces. The second phase of the construction project includes converting Bergquists' current living quarters into three more suites, one being a family suite with two bedrooms and a living room.
The living quarter is the only section that survived the fire. Ron said he and Donna plan to build a house on the 50-acre property.
A solar water heating system, the largest in Southern Oregon, will be installed to heat the whirlpools and meet the needs in the kitchen.
The dining room, smaller than the original, will include a two-sided fireplace like before. However, inspectors determined that the original fireplace that appeared to have survived the blaze was not structurally sound, so it had to be rebuilt.
The banquet room, which can be sectioned into three separate areas, is nearly tripling in size, allowing 150 people to share a meal together or 200 to meet in conferences.
Ashland artist Bill Phillips, the official artist for the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, agreed to hang his artwork in the lodge's gallery-like hallways.
The first phase, which includes construction, restaurant equipment and all the furnishings, will cost a little more than $3 million. It was financed by Commercial Investment Trust, which Ron says is a combination of Small Business Association and conventional loans.
In incremental steps, the Burgquists want to add several small, Alaskan trapper cabins, and later, larger loft-type cabins, bringing the total suites available to 31 units.
"But that's way in the future," says Ron.
Remaining the same
Big changes are taking place at the lodge, but some things will remain the same.
All those extra rooms will require additional staff, expanding 35 employees to 45. But Wally Crum, who has poured drinks at the lodge for nearly 25 years, will continue to ask, "Do you want that shaken or stirred?"
Musician Ken Hart will be back entertaining guests in the bar and Pacific Crest Trail hikers can still pop into the shop for a quick shower and pitch their tents on the lodge grounds.
The Bergquists also plan to continue offering popular dinner, bed and breakfast weekday packages.
"The people around here just loved those," said Ron.
The couple wants guests who come to the lodge to feel like it never burnt down.
"We're trying to keep it looking as close to the original, but with improvements," he said.