Margery Hoffman Smith
Image (c) Portland Art Museum.
In our latest issue 98: Together we include an article by the historian Sarah Baker Munro, about Margery Hoffman Smith and Timberline Lodge. Timberline Lodge sits at 6000 feet on the slopes of Mount Hood, a volcanic mountain in the Cascade Range of the western United States. It was constructed as part of the public works programs set up during the Great Depression. Margery Hoffman Smith was an interior designer. Once the Works Progress Administration approved the lodge project, she worked with regional and state art administrators to select art for it. Smith worked with the design themes selected for the lodge – nineteenth century pioneers driving their covered wagons over the mountain to the lush Willamette Valley, local flora and fauna found in the forests and streams nearby, and symbols associated with Native Americans who have considered the mountain sacred for generations.
Image: Margery Hoffman Smith (c) Marian Wood Kolisch, Courtesy Oregon Hist. Soc. Research Lib., Org. Lot 1048, box 1, folder 29.
Smith supervised the wood shop and blacksmiths’ shop, suggesting and modifying designs for chairs, tables, beds, iron gates, wrought lamp bases, and light fixtures. Through Smith’s inspiration unemployed women, mostly single, widowed or divorced, were put to work weaving upholstery for couches, chairs, and bedspreads. The workers also wove material for some draperies, sewed others into appliquéd hangings; and made hooked rugs. The lodge opened to the public in February 1938. Hear Smith talking about the project in an interview from 1964, saved by The Smithsonian:
Since 1979, the lodge has employed a full-time curator to manage the collections and continue to work with local craftspeople. The lodge is a National Historic Landmark and unique in the country as an icon of the WPA and it continues to thrive. According to a 1941 article in The Weaver, ‘A harmony such as is seldom seen exists between the lodge, its furnishings and its setting. Only an artist would have the fine feeling for proportion that characterises Timberline Lodge. That artist is Mrs. Margery Hoffman Smith.’
Watch a virtual lecture about Timberline Lodge with Sarah Baker Munro from the Tacoma Art Museum.
Read the full Selvedge article, Modernism on the Mount, in Issue 98: Together.
Sarah Baker Munro is author of the book, Timberline Lodge: The History, Art and Craft of an American Icon.