“Every piece in every cabin is unique.”
With little money and no electricity, self-taught craftsman Henry Steiner, his wife, and their eleven children scavenged lumber and river rocks, and used hand tools and pulley systems to build log cabins on Mount Hood during the Great Depression. Set among picturesque woodlands and along streams, the pitched-roof homes are designed in the timeless and artistic Oregon country style.
On August 12, the annual Mount Hood Steiner Rhododendron Cabin Tour will open the doors to a few of the famous storybook homes as well as the only surviving church built by Steiner. Tickets ($50) will go on sale at 8 a.m. on July 1 at mthoodmuseum.org. In past years, the 300 tickets sold out within a few hours.
The stops on the self-guided tour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 12 are located along a one-mile route, making each of the seven destinations accessible by walking, biking, or driving.
Historians have documented that the Steiner family of carpenters and masons built 100 cabins, most of them on the wooded grounds between Brightwood and the government camp from 1928 to 1952. The majority of the homes have survived, despite harsh weather, fires and neglect.
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Some of the cabins have been carefully maintained by the descendants of the original owners. A few of them are vacation rentals, including one that was recently renovated and was on the 2022 tour.
Thirty owners have participated in the Mount Hood Steiner Cabin Tour at least once since the fundraiser began 18 years ago, says Lloyd Moser, tour organizer and curator of the Mount Hood Museum and Cultural Center, which is open year-round at the state campground.
The goal of the tour is to raise awareness for the protection of historic structures and to support the non-profit museum.
Resourceful stainers cut Douglas fir trees into logs for walls and beams, and shaved cedar into exterior planks. Branches collected in the forest with hand tools were carved into cabinets and furniture. Naturally curved large branches became exquisite stair railings, and the flat side of split logs were transformed into steps and stair benches.
For decoration, bars of wood formed a wagon wheel design or were arranged like a sunburst under gable tops. Other distinguishing features seen in most Steiner cabins include arched front doors, clothes pegs made from gnarled tree roots, boughs used as door latches, and basalt rock, collected near the site, for fireplaces.
Moser says every piece in each cabin is unique.
Moser says first-time tour-goers and repeat visitors will encounter new details about the Steiners’ story and respected work. “The owners are sharing their cabins and are always restoring or updating something,” he adds.
The Littlebrook cabin was first shown on tour as it was, untouched since the 1950s. This year, tour-goers will see it restored, from foundation to surface. Inside are authentic 1930s furniture and decor, including a refurbished fridge and range.
Another cabin returns for the tour this year revealing improvements in the kitchen, with a copper sink and granite counters, and new lighting fixtures throughout the house. Inside a different cabin – there are four in the round – is a collection of artifacts from Germany’s Black Forest.
New to the tour is the first Rhododendron home cabin, which was likely built in the 1890s and still occupied, as well as a private frame, 1940s two-story home built by Henry’s eldest son, John Steiner, which fronts Henry Creek.
The 1937 St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, which was built by the Steiners and has moved twice, will also be open for tour participants to visit. The church has been privately owned for nearly half a century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “Those who attended the church between 1937 and 1967 will be especially happy to see it today,” says Moser.
Henry Steiner moved to Oregon from Bavaria, Germany, in 1882 when he was five years old. As an adult, he worked as his own designer, engineer and contractor.
In addition to the 100th cabin, Steiner and his sons John and Fred built eight U.S. Forest Service summer homes and two churches: St. John’s Church in 1937 and The Hillside Church in 1947, which were destroyed by fire.
The three Steiners also built log bridges, barns, and a 1938 log house, called “Vogelbo,” in the Garden Home neighborhood of southwest Portland, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
They were also hired, along with other local craftsmen, by the Works Progress Administration to work at the 1936 Timberline Lodge, which is on the National Historic Register.
Steiner homes were part of larger architectural movements seen in the rural regionalism of the campgrounds in New York’s Adirondack region in the early 1900s, the National Park Service’s “Parkitecture” lodges in the 1920s, and rugged structures built by the civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
For Steiner cabins, the tasks were divided among family members. Henry drew the floor plan on butcher’s paper, with rooms shaded by tall old trees and sash windows to make the most of the view.
The older children cleared the ground, cut the trees into logs, and laid the one-inch-thick plank floors. Molly, Steiner’s wife, and the young children assembled naturally curved trees for rocking chair bases. Windows are closed with installed latches. Sinks, basins, glass, and hinges were the few store-bought items.
Henry Steiner died in 1953. Margareta (Molly) Anne Schwein Steiner, also born in Bavaria, died in 1936.
The Steiners’ grandson and John’s son, Dick Steiner, told The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2016 that while the driving force for some of the cabins’ comfortable features was a lack of money, the family had the ability to make the most of other items. Builders threw away.
Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum in 88900 episode of the government camp in the government camp Open 9am-5pm daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas). The nonprofit museum has interpretive exhibits, educational programs, and lectures explaining early exploration, pioneer history, and “notable individuals who helped.” Shaping the history of the mountain“, according to the museum’s website. There are also historic happy hours and other social events.
Museum members can buy Hood Steiner Mountain Cabin Tour $40 tickets ($10 off the price for the crowd). Museum membership, which includes many benefits, can be purchased during the purchase of tickets for the tour.
For more information, call the Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum at 503-272-3301 or visit mthoodmuseum.org.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072
firstname.lastname@example.org | @Janet Eastman
More about Steiner cabins
• The process of restoring Mount Hood’s one-of-a-kind Steiner log cabins takes time, talent and handy tools
• Step into a one-of-a-kind log home designed by craftsmen of the legendary Steiner family in Southwest Portland
• A 1947 log home on the Sandy River in Troutdale is on the market for the first time
• Open the twisted tree doorknob and enter Steiner’s Cabins: Oregon Country Style Tour
• The Mount Hood Getaway, made by Steiner, the millionaire’s boat heir
• John Steiner, the master craftsman who worked on the famous Steiner cabins, has passed away at the age of 99.