The fire-damaged View Point Inn, summer 2017, shortly after its purchase by Heiner and Sheron Fruehauf. (photographer: Michael Lang)
Thursday, June 27, 2019
By Kevin Gorman
For over two decades, one property in the Columbia Gorge has seemed to be a lightning rod around scenic protection, historic preservation, commercial development, and community livability. But after years of land-use violations, neighbor complaints, fires, restraining orders, and lawsuits, a settlement agreement has been reached between the new owners of the View Point Inn and Friends of the Columbia Gorge to reopen the historic building in a manner that will protect the Columbia Gorge and benefit the community of Corbett.
A near-century of history in Corbett
Built in 1924 as a roadhouse for Columbia River Highway travelers, the View Point Inn served President Franklin Roosevelt and other dignitaries throughout the years. It is one of only a handful of buildings in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the others being the Vista House, Multnomah Falls Lodge, and the CCC-era structures at the Eagle Creek Campground. With the advent of Interstate 84, the Inn fell into disrepair until it was purchased in the 1990s for use as a restaurant and for commercial events. The activities at the Inn eventually violated National Scenic Area rules and disrupted the Corbett community. As lawsuits and employee grievances grew, the building caught fire (twice), the business was closed, and many believed the fire damage left the building beyond repair.
Balancing restoration, the National Scenic Area, and commercial viability
Corbett residents Heiner and Sheron Fruehauf bought the Inn in 2016 with hopes of restoring the restaurant and inn uses and opening a wellness retreat center. While the Scenic Area rules allow commercial activities as well as a residence on site, allowable expansion of the existing buildings for commercial purposes is limited. After an initial proposal that would have doubled the square footage, the Heiners and Friends’ staff began discussing solutions that would allow commercial activities in a way that would preserve the historic structure without impinging on Gorge resources or the Corbett community.
A settlement was reached in June that will maintain the existing footprint of the main inn building and allow a slight second-story expansion of the existing garage for a caretaker’s residence. The basement will host most of the spa rooms, and the inn and restaurant will be reopened. Under the settlement, expansions will not be allowed for commercial purposes beyond the footprints of the existing buildings, and the parking lot will be screened from the view of the adjacent Larch Mountain Road.
County approval still pending
The Fruehaufs’ proposal has been presented to a Multnomah County land use hearings officer, who will have the ultimate decision-making authority over the project. Friends of the Columbia Gorge applauds the Fruehaufs for working with the community and our organization to develop a plan that supports their growing business while protecting the sensitive and unique resources of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
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