The Battle Axe Inn, in Government Camp was for many years the hub for much of the activity on Mt. Hood’s South side. Many mountain rescues were headquartered from the old inn, as well as community gatherings and parties. Many a cold and tired skier found warmth and rest in front of its grand rock fireplace.
The Battle Axe Inn was the dream of Everett Sickler, who since working as a young man in the hotel at Yellowstone, wanted to run a resort hotel of his own. He got the idea for the design of his inn from a building in a Johns Mansfield roofing ad. In 1925 Sickler hired Hood River contractor Albert Krieg and his son’s to handle the construction of his new inn. Sickler originally wanted a log structure, but Krieg, in an attempt to help save money, built the structure with lumber and then used slabbed logs for the siding, thus giving it the look of log building. The cost for the building, a whopping $3600.00. He and his wife Belle Pierce Sickler opened for business that winter.
The building was a quaint lodge with a dining room and rooms. The interior was wood, with log beams and a large rock fireplace and was decorated with early pioneer and native artifacts. The grand staircase was a circular style with a huge log center pillar. The furniture was made by local craftsmen in a rustic style.
The following year Sickler hired the Krieg’s to build the Battle Axe Inn Recreation Hall, located just up the street from the inn. It was a huge structure 50’ x 90’ three story building. After purchasing the entire stock of ski’s from the Marshall wells company in Portland, the Rec Hall was used as a ski shop with rentals. The Rec Hall was also the location of the infamous toboggan slide. The slide included a two track run and a cable system for returning the toboggans to the top of the hill. Speeds were said to reach up to 60 miles per hour when the conditions were right. Many times a toboggan would leave the track causing bodily harm. Because of liability insurance costs, the toboggan was finally closed down.
The inn was always a financial struggle for the Sicklers. In 1929 Henry and Margaret Villiger, after a trip to Government Camp by automobile influenced by their daughter Marcel and her friend Gertrude Jensen decided to purchase the inn for $23,000. The depression set in and business was so slow the payments had to be adjusted from $350. Per month to $30. Per month. At some time during this era the rec hall, located up the street was moved down and attached to the inn, to solidify the business operation. At this time the rec hall, or Annex housed a coffee shop, a taproom, grocery store, laundry with dorm rooms upstairs.
Henry Villiger passed away in 1938, and Margaret continued to operate the business until 1947 when Gertrude Jensen bought the business for a reported figure of $85,000. Gertrude took over with grand plans. She hoped to re-open the old toboggan run, and a cafeteria. She hired well known skier Hjalmer Hvam to operate the ski shop, Chester Chin of Chin’s Buffet in Portland to run the cafeteria and her son to operate the toboggan run.
Because of overwhelming operating costs and costly repairs, and complicated further by Gertrude’s health troubles, she moved back to Portland and eventually turned the business back to Margaret Villiger. Mrs. Villiger in turn sold to Warren Huff, who operated it for two years until Monday, November 7, 1950 when the grand old inn met its end.
At 4:30 in the afternoon the dreaded call went out that the inn was on fire. Government Camp’s method for fighting fires was a community effort, and many old buildings were lost to fire. The fire crew from the Zigzag Ranger Station as well as the fire department from Sandy were summoned, but it was too late to save the building and their attention was directed to saving the adjacent buildings. It was a huge conflagration, fueled by the fuel oil tanks situated next to the building, and it’s wooden structure. The fire was so hot that it peeled the paint from Hills Place across the street and it melted the pavement on the road in front of the inn.
The official cause of the fire was said to be a worker with a blow torch was working on some plumbing when he was called away. The grand old Battle Axe Inn, a landmark inn Government Camp for over 25 years was gone.