A View from The Roof of Cloud Cap Inn – Circa 1900.
Cloud Cap Inn was built in 1889 and opened August 6th of the same year. It was built by William Ladd, a Portland banker and C.E.S. Wood a Portland attorney. It was Woods wife, Nannie, who named the hotel.
Prior to building the Inn they bought the road and created the Mt. Hood Stage Co. The road needed improvements before building could begin. Chinese laborers were employed in the project. A stretch of road referred to as “China Fill” was a 22-precent grade and was a challenge to the early automobiles attempting the trip. The original road didn’t follow today’s road. As you drive up to the Inn you can still see the old road intersect the new occasionally. It ran along the ridge between Evans Creek and Crystal Springs Creek.
The same architectural firm that designed Cloud Cap Inn designed the Forestry Building for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905. All of the logs came from around the building site. Cables were used to hold the building down during high winds. Wind did end up blowing down one of the original chimneys in the early 1900’s. Water was supplied to the Inn from Tilly Jane Creek, 1200 feet away.
Business was slow in the beginning. The Inn closed down in 1890 and Ladd and Wood turned over operation of the Inn to James Langille’s wife, Sarah, nick named Tansana, in 1891. Sarah ran Cloud Cap at a much simpler level and was able to operate at a profit. Her two son’s Will and Doug worked at the Inn as mountain guides.
A tradition was started where when a person made a summit ascent they were allowed to take their personal business card and thumbtack it to the ceiling. This was done by putting the tack through the card and backing it up with a silver dollar and throwing it up to the ceiling.
In 1894 Ladd brought telephone wire and equipment to install a phone system at the Inn. Will Langille installed the equipment and ran the wire.
Will left Oregon to join the Alaskan gold rush. Doug stayed on as guide until 1900 when he joined the U.S. Geological Survey. Sarah’s nephew, Horace Mecklem came to help out after her son’s left. Sarah then hired two European guides until 1903. Mark Weygant went to work for Sarah in 1904 and worked for her for several years. Sarah retired from operating the Inn successfully in 1907 and turned operation over to Horace Mecklem and his wife Olive.
The first automobile driven to Cloud Cap arrived in 1907. It was a one cylinder Cadillac. After the trip Mecklem used a Pierce Arrow as a stage from Hood River to the Inn, but the auto could only go to the China Fill, but it cut down the time from Hood River from 8 hours to 3.
Dorsey Smith assumed the operation of the Inn around 1910(?). Homer Rogers, who ran a lodge in Parkdale, bought the Inn in 1919 from Ladd for $5,000. And a long-term contract from the Forest Service was made.
In 1925 the government was planning the Mount Hood Loop Highway and considering building a newer and bigger inn, similar to Rainier’s Paradise Hotel. They pressured Rodgers to make improvements to the road or lose his permit. Homer ended up selling the Inn to a group of people headed by J.C. Ainsworth. They hired Dorsey Smith to operate the Inn until a new one was built.
The plans for a new Grand Lodge didn’t bring the funds needed by private investors. Enthusiasm for the project was briefly renewed when the Mt. Hood committee came up with plans for a tramway to the summit of Mount Hood. But opposition from the Mazama climbing club and groups concerned with the environmental affects and safety killed that project too.
In 1927 Dorsey Smith turned the Inn’s operation over to Noyes Tyrell, who operated the very successful Tyrell’s Tavern near Bonneville. He ran it until 1932 when it stood empty for about a year.
Boyd French Sr. leased it around 1934 until the war caused it to close its operation. The Mt. Hood Road and Wagon Company sold the Inn in 1942 to the Forest Service for $2,000. Dorsey Smith was the representative in the transaction, ending his long association with Cloud Cap. Boyd Smith used the Inn as a part time residence until after the war. Attempts to operate the Inn failed after that and in 1950 the Forest Service was considering tearing down the Inn, as it had fallen into disrepair.
The Crag Rats, a Hood River based climbing club, after a struggle with the government, secured permission to use the Inn as a clubhouse and a base for their snow surveys. The Crag Rats went to work repairing the old building and
maintain it to this day. In 1974 Cloud Cap Inn and Vista House were placed, by the state, on the list of historic places.
Cloud Cap Inn is accessible by car via a rough dirt road when it’s not closed due to snow. Hiking trails and camping are available in the area as well as majestic views of Mount Hood from the timber line at 6000′, the same elevation as Timberline Lodge on the opposite side of the mountain.