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History of Bridal Veil Lodge

In the year 1927, a weary traveler along the Columbia River Highway could shut down his sputtering engine at the Bridal Veil Lodge and Auto Camp. Fifty cents would get a good hot meal of roast pork, mashed potatoes, and vegetables fresh out of the garden. For another buck-fifty, you could pull the Ford around back and pitch a tent, or tuck in your family in one of the snug cabins or rooms in the lodge. In those days, a traveler couldn't count on finding a motel around every bend; much of the time, you either pitched a tent or slept in your car. The accommodations at Bridal Veil Lodge came about in an era when American culture was ever-increasingly revolving around the automobile.

Bridal Veil Lodge really had its roots in 1895, when Virgil Amend purchased the property from the Bridal Veil Lumbering Company. The family had come from Kansas, and soon built a house high up on the hill in the middle of 30 acres. Virgil worked at the Bridal Veil lumber mill, and he and his wife Lillie and children Minnie, Ida, Bessie, and Charlie lived and grew up on that house on the hill.

Twenty years after the purchase of the property, a significant event brought about new opportunity: the construction of the Columbia River Highway, then regarded as an engineering marvel, and unsurpassed in the spectacular scenery that greeted the motorist around every verdant bend. Restaurants and roadhouses began to spring up all along the route.

In 1926 the Bridal Veil Lodge was constructed of lumber harvested on the mountain above and milled at the Bridal Veil mill. The lodge exterior is faced in horizontal rough-planed siding, stained dark brown. Multi-paned casement windows cover the front, and a porch stretches the full length of the building, then adorned with planter boxes filled with geraniums, sweet peas, and flowering beans climbing up the fir-pole supports.

Inside, the large front room on the main floor (which was the restaurant) is constructed of rough-cut board-and-batten with hemlock floors, kept shining with periodic swathings of hot linseed oil. Small black painted tables with turned legs and simple chairs with rawhide bottoms were placed along the windows and throughout the room. A wraparound counter also seated customers.

Bessie Amend Brown and her young son Meredyth had recently returned to Bridal Veil. She cooked the meals and took care of the restaurant and lodge part of the operation. Her father, Virgil Amend, ran the auto camp, tended the gardens, milked the cows, and cut the wood for the outdoor fireplaces, cabin stoves, and lodge furnace and cookstove. They also sold grocery items and camper's supplies.

During the depression, income from the lodge kept the family afloat. During those hard times, bundle-toting hobos often stopped by looking for a handout. They were given an ax, a sledgehammer and a wedge, in order to split wood for their meal. Many of them "rode the rails," hopping off in Bridal Veil to wander up the highway in search of food. They weren't turned away at the Bridal Veil Lodge restaurant, even though existence was lean there, too, with often a long delay in making mortgage payments.

World War II closed the lodge, but the family returned to live there following the war, rearing another generation in that grand building, which during those years was not open to the public.

Virgil Amend's descendants returned to Bridal Veil Lodge in 1987, began restoration, and reopened the lodge as a bed and breakfast under the original name. The place has been kept much as it was in the early days, and guests are still seated for breakfast on the original restaurant chairs around the hand-crafted pine-plank table, surrounded by furnishings, photographs, and memorabilia of the days gone by.

©2003 Laurel Macdonald