This historic log building was
completed in 1930 for Union Electric, by Stone and Webster Engineering
Corporation and designed by Louis La Beaume, a noted St. Louis architect and
partner in the architectural firm of La Beaume and Klein. La Beaume's resume
included work on the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (the 1904 World's Fair),
being a member of the St. Louis City Plan Commission, and president of the St.
Louis Art Museum. His design and plan was two years in the making and was
approved by Union Electric President Louis A. Egan, whose name the lodge
informally bore in its early years. Early documentation refers to the lodge as
an administrative building, although the amenities and interior layout indicates
a plush retreat and entertainment facility for Union Electric during the early
years of the Great Osage River Project.
The Adirondack styled 6,500 square
foot floor plan contained twenty-nine rooms. The building was constructed from
Western white pine logs, brought into the area by rail from Pacific Northwestern
United States logging companies. Egan forwarded La Beaume's plans to Oregon and
the structure was cut and assembled. Only after Egan's personal inspection of
the completed building in Oregon, was it then marked, disassembled, and
transported by train to Missouri. It was finally reassembled at the present site
using only square wooden pegs and overlapping corner saddle notching to hold it
together. Stone for the patios and fireplace were hauled from local area
quarries. The building was reassembled and completed in about three months at an
approximate cost of $135,000.
The Lodge would contain all of the
modern conveniences. The two story living area and dining room had an oil
burning furnace with a 1930 state-of-the-art air cooling machine, a kitchen,
servant quarters, a bar with an ice making machine, and an enunciator with call
buttons in each room to request service. The five guest rooms had private baths
and were named after the towns that were relocated or flooded by the rising
waters: Linn Creek, Zebra, Passover, Arnolds Mills, and Nonsuch. In 1930, the
Dam was still under construction, so the view from the Lodge was only wooded
valleys and grassy fields along the narrow little Osage River. The sprawling
dragon shaped Lake of the Ozarks was over a year from being open to the public
and as yet to be named.
Under a cloud of much
scandal, Union Electric sold the Lodge, a Union Electric built hotel,
pleasure boats, forty thousand acres of lakefront property, and eight hundred
miles of shoreline in 1945 to Cyrus Crane Willmore for $320,000. Willmore was
one of the more important St. Louis real estate developers, creating much of
what is the modern St. Louis landscape. Willmore's dream was that the newly
created lake would soon be a vast vacation land. He knew that the chance to
escape the city and still retain many of the city conveniences would appeal to
wealthy St. Louisans. The new lake would provide a class of wealthy urban
sportsmen a way to recapture a type of pioneer lifestyle through hunting and
fishing. The Egan Lodge served as his primary residence until his death from
heart disease only four years later. Although the building remained in his
estate and unoccupied from 1949 until 1969, the local residents have, since,
always referred to the property and building as the Willmore Lodge. The property
was sold in 1969 to Harold Koplar and again in 1988 to North Port Company.
Union Electric re-acquired the
building and adjoining property in 1996 in order to insure the Lodge would be
retained as a National Historical site and to protect the integrity of the
shoreline from the Lodge to Bagnell Dam. The repurchase took place upon the
bankruptcy of North Port Company and only amounted to the building and about
thirty acres of undeveloped shoreland property. This time, the winning bid price
was $1.06 million. During that same year, Union Electric officials approached
the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce with a planned use for the site. Union
Electric proposed that the Chamber use the building for its offices, develop a
visitors center, and historical repository for Lake History. The Chamber would
pay for restoration costs and Union Electric would provide the facility and
grounds to the Chamber on a long term lease for $10.00 a year.
Upon execution of the lease on
January 8, 1997 the Chamber began planning for the restoration of the building
and grounds. Funding for the extensive building restoration, exterior lighting,
expanded parking, and rebuilding a new roadway to the facility was by donations
and a $500,000 NAP (neighborhood assistance program) Grant. Community interest
was so great that the NAP monies were collected in less than two years. Union
Electric will be an active partner in this effort by providing, among other
things, material, pictures and artifacts to the museum section of the building.
Other lake area historical organizations, as well as the Lake residents will be
invited to contribute Lake history to the museum.
As the Lodge is preserved as a
historic site, it will house the history of its region. Local historical
organizations and area residents will join Union Electric to tell the story of
the Osage River, the monumental engineering project that became Bagnell Dam, and
the development of the Lake of the Ozarks."
Source: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1998; prepared
by Laura Johnson, Preservationist, with Benjamin Cawthra, Historian.
List of Works Consulted
Carole Tellman Pilkington,The Story of Bagnell Dam,Lake Area Chamber of
National Register of Historic Places,NPS form 10-900-a,section 7.
Buford Foster,That's The Way It Was,1978
T. Victor Jeffries,Before The Dam Water,1974
AmerenUE,Bagnell Dam Construction Photos,1929-1931
Video Productions Unlimited,Current Photos,1990's