New Corbett inn owners plan health spa
It still stands. But the missing pieces of the View Point Inn draw the eye far more than what remains.
The rotted floorboards gape with absent planks, while exposed rafters span the musty darkness. Outside, shingles slide off the partially-destroyed gabeled roof — now garbed in tarps and plastic sheeting. The east wind has the run of the second floor.
But if everything goes according to plan, this historic hotel on East Larch Mountain Road will someday host a new wellness spa inspired by far-east practices and traditional Chinese medicine.
"Come for a week (and) be educated on healthful living," described Sheron Fruehauf, who's managing the rebuild. "Very low key and very small. For now, it's about being quiet," she said.
After more than 14 years in Corbett, Sheron and her husband, Heiner Fruehauf, snapped up the derelict property for $577,000 in late 2016.
Like most of the Columbia River Gorge, the View Point Inn is located inside a National Scenic Area, which restricts commercial activity except in more urban locales like Cascade Locks or Hood River.
That means the couple will need a special permit from Multnomah County to use the space as anything other than a residential home.
Currently, the Fruehaufs are working with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure their reconstruction plans won't jeopardize the structure's status on the National Register of Historic Places.
They also want an OK from Friends of the Columbia Gorge, an influential nonprofit organization that strongly opposed the previous owner's development plans.
"Anyone could make an issue, and if anyone does it could be harder to get a permit," Sheron Fruehauf explained. "The problem is we don't have the permit (yet), so we don't want to rock the boat."
Constructed in classic Tudor Revival style, the two-story building cost about $47,000 to build in 1924. Originally dubbed "Thor's Heights" and later known as the Palmer Tea House, the inn operated under its current name from 1927 to 1979, and again from 2007 to 2011 until it was destroyed by fire.
It's hosted everyone from Julius L. Meier — a one-term Oregon governor in the 1930s — to Prince Friedrich of Prussia, grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm. More recently, the inn was immortalized in the prom scene of the 2008 film "Twilight."
As a lodging space, the View Point featured an elegant dining room, massive river-rock fireplace and five guest bedrooms (though only one included a private commode).
Much of that pre-existing structure will be preserved during the rebuilding process, though the site's bathrooms and kitchen area are said to be fair game for more renovation.
"(We're) paying more attention to the main dining room area, especially the wainscot paneling around there, and the fireplace and the french doors," noted state Restoration Specialist Joy Sears. "The bathrooms are all going to be new."
No blueprints survive from the original design. In March, a contractor used two drone-mounted cameras to create fully-rendered 3D scans of the facility, which should be accurate to within 6 millimeters.
Sheron Fruehauf said those plans have already been handed off to the new architect. For now, the couple isn't courting controversy.
"We find a lot of people have strong feelings one way or another, and we just hope they can give us a fresh start," she noted.
In the meantime, the work site is attracting plenty of local buzz.
"(Heiner Fruehauf) was asked to be a Harvard University professor," said Michelle Smith, a real estate professional who runs the Corbett Connector blog. "He's a gentle, quiet man, but also intelligent and very kind. He does not like a big promotion."
"This brought some healing into the community," she continued.