Payette Lakes Inn
c. 1940’s by Onffroy, Roland – Copyright is held by the Idaho State Historical Society
Payette Lakes Inn served as centerpiece of exclusive lakeside club
Building to be nominated to national historic register
“By 1915, the club had a list of more than 300 members, which they printed in the newspaper.” – National Register of Historic Places nomination
Photo courtesy ASM Affiliates
photo caption: The Payette Lakes inn is shown during its prime.
By Tom Grote for The Star-News Aug 11, 2016
The Payette Lakes Inn was built to handle the surge of tourist traffic that happened when the Oregon Short Line Railroad was extended to McCall in 1914, according to the building’s nomination to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The inn and the casino located inside of it was the focal point of the Payette Lakes Club, a resort founded by John P. Congdon and Harold W. Arnold with Judge (and later mayor) Samuel H. Hays of Boise as president.
The club’s motto was “An Organization to Promote Happy and Healthful Vacations.” The club was to become a “model summer village with a central casino, dancing hall, bowling alleys and café on the first floor, and inn rooms above.”
Individual cottages or tents would surround it and the club had “many plans for the pleasure and healthful exercise of the members” who could buy some of the 507 lots on 110 acres that made up the club.
Membership in the club started at $200 and included a lot with conditions that the buyers could not build “a hotel, a saloon, disorderly house, manufacturing or business establishment, or as a school, hospital or charitable institution.”
Payette Lakes Club lot owners could also get a permanent summer home built on their property for an additional $200, with two bedrooms and a porch used as a kitchen and dining room.
By 1915, the club had a list of more than 300 members, which they printed in the newspaper. The list was a “who’s who” of high society in Boise and southeastern Idaho, including the lieutenant governor, ex-lieutenant governor, U.S. senators, and judges.
Construction on the inn began in August 1914 and cost $20,000, almost $500,000 in today’s value, according to the national register application.
New York Clubs
Modeled after the clubs in the Adirondacks of New York, the Payette Lakes Club reflected rustic elegance and served for many years as a social center for club members, locals, and visitors.
Completed by July 1915, the clubhouse also boasted a new board tennis court. Electricity was extended from McCall and a new sidewalk that extended to the lake from the clubhouse was illuminated with lamps, creating a “white way.”
An advertisement for the inn from 1915 said the “salient features” included a fine, bracing climate, good fishing, a commissary run for club members, with “city prices,” beautiful scenery, and a “finely appointed permanent club house.” Boats, bathing, tennis, and other sports were offered.
Other activities that one could enjoy while visiting the Payette Lakes Club included nature hikes, ball games, dancing in the boat house, horseshoe-pitching contests, card games such as bridge, swimming parties, boat races, potato races, and “Kensingtons,” or potluck dinners. Dances were also held daily in the new clubhouse.
The clubhouse was kept open all year to accommodate hunting and fishing parties, and a golf course was installed behind the clubhouse.
In addition, a portion of the grounds was devoted to use by the Boy Scouts, as well as the YWCA, free of charge. The summer of 1919 was reportedly the busiest season at the inn, with an average of 85 meals a day served in the dining hall.
The 1930s was a time of economic downturn in the region, but the Payette Lakes Inn managed to persist, according to the national register application.
Guests still registered, it became a popular honeymoon destination, and there were occasional conventions, banquets, and conferences. Pressures tightened, however, and the management of the inn changed hands many times.
In 1948, the manager of the inn, Maurice Stone, was held on an illegal liquor charge and the new Shore Lodge in McCall began to compete for the inn’s business. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were very few advertisements for the inn in newspapers and it was left vacant for at least a portion of this time.
In 1958, a church group called Missions Expanding, Inc., took over the inn, and began operating a church camp there.
The church group operated the camp, now called “Miracle Heights,” until about 1980, after which the inn remained vacant, deteriorating steadily.
The inn’s nomination for the national register will go before the Idaho State Historic Sites Review Board on Sept. 17, Tricia Canaday with the State Historic Preservation Office said.
Once the review board approved the application, it will be sent to the National Park Service, which oversees the register. Prospects are good the listing will be approved by the end of the year, Canaday said.
Owners of property on the register can do whatever they want with their property as long as there are no federal monies attached to the property, according to the park service website.
The owners are eligible for federal grants for historic preservation as well as tax credits on money invested in the property, the website said.
link to: IdahoHistoryPayetteLakesInn.doc
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Payette Lake Star
McCall, Valley County, Idaho, Thursday, June 8, 1933 Volume 16 Number 23
Payette Lake Inn Opens Friday June 9th
Mr. W. H. Daniel, new manager of the Payette Lake Inn announces the opening of this popular resort for Friday, June 9th.
The Inn has been thoroughly cleaned, states Mr. Daniel, and he is prepared to give his guests the best of service at prices in keeping with the times.
Mr. Daniel says it is his desire to cooperate with the people of McCall and invite them to call on him at any time to help make this the best season we ever had.
He is using both the press and the radio to put the name of his resort and the beautiful lakes around us before the public as a delightful place to spend their summer vacation.
The Payette Lake Star: Published Weekly on the Shores of Beautiful Payette Lake. Idaho’s Most Popular Summer and Winter Playground
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Payette Lake Inn
The Payette Lakes Inn built in 1914 by Fenton C. Cottingham, was located on the stage road overlooking Payette lake. The chalet-style Inn featured dormers white railed balconies, flower boxes, 3 big fireplaces, 50 rooms, a sun parlor, and a 300-foot esplanade connecting with the lake. It was a very large establishment for dancing and dining in 1914 and is a significant part of the history of recreation in McCall. During the summer of 1939, the cast and crew filming Northwest Passage stayed at the inn.
The Idaho Heritage Trust is providing a building condition assessment for the Historic Preservation Commission of McCall.
Facebook link w/more photos: Photo courtesy of the Central Idaho Historical Museum Collection — in McCall, Idaho.
Photo Gallery (Idaho Heritage Trust Facebook)
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Payette Lake Inn
Interior photos by Gary Ertter
page updated Nov 13, 2020