The College is preparing to begin construction on the new Moosilauke Ravine Lodge this fall. The existing lodge will close to the public this weekend, as it does every year to accommodate the Dartmouth Outing Club’s popular student-run first-year trips program. Once first-year trips are complete, the new lodge project will begin, replacing the much-loved but well-worn 77-year-old structure. The new lodge is expected to be ready for first-year trips next August, and to reopen to the public in the fall of 2017.
The new lodge, which has been approved by College trustees, will retain features that generations of Dartmouth students, faculty, staff, and alumni have come to love. The heavy timbers in the new frame will come from local forests, and some of the logs from the old building will be planed and re-used in the interior of the new one. The main floor will feature a massive stone fireplace, a commercial kitchen where students who work at the lodge will prepare meals for visitors, three private rooms for overnight guests, and a meeting room. On the lower level: a social space and library, a multi-purpose room, and additional restrooms. The lodge will be more energy efficient, enabling seasonal use to begin earlier each spring and continue later each fall, and will also be more accessible for all users, including those with disabilities.
Viva Hardigg ’84 has fond memories of the place. “You didn’t get your Dartmouth ski team sweats if you didn’t run up Moosilauke in an hour,” she recalls, so run she did, in the snow. She later became lodge manager and recalls happy times hiking, cooking for crowds, reading books on the porch, and listening to live music. She says she will miss the old lodge but believes the new one will be easier for students to manage and maintain, and will last for a very long time.
“What is so magnificent about the place is the setting, the mountain, and the fellowship that comes there. So what I hope to see in the next generation with a new building is some of the same esprit de corps and the same atmosphere that makes people want to come to this place, and gather around this common hearth,” says Hardigg. “What I find encouraging is the College’s commitment to the place, because it is such an exceptional experience for students who are drawn there.”
Connor Gibson ’16 and Georgianna Anderson ’16 are gathering memories about the lodge for an oral history project—a multi-media scrapbook of sorts—which they hope to make available online in September.
“There’s extensive literature and media out there about the lodge and its function at Dartmouth and the surrounding area, but we saw an opportunity to focus on the more nuanced narratives that people have of the space,” says Gibson. Working at the lodge this summer, he’s been creating a digital archive, using audio files of recorded stories overlaid with images and video. “We hope it serves as a resource for people to share memories from a place that has shaped much of the Dartmouth community and beyond.”
The original lodge will live on in cyberspace in another way, allowing future generations to feel as if they are actually walking through it. With help from David Kotz ’86, the Champion International Professor in the Department of Computer Science, two students, James O. Freedman Presidential Scholars Lily Xu ’18 and Alex Weinberg ’18, are capturing images of the existing building, which they will convert, using software, into a 3-D model that can be explored by the viewer.
“We want to make an opportunity for people to feel as if they are walking into the lodge, going downstairs, looking in the bedrooms and the kitchen, just as if they were there,” says Kotz. The project will take at least a year to complete.
Xu has spent a lot of time at Moosilauke, skiing and sharing dinners with friends and guests. “My happy place is there,” she says. “Capturing something like this that has so much history at Dartmouth will make it accessible even to people who can’t get up the mountain.”
The raw visual data being archived now may allow future generations of digital designers to create virtual versions of the lodge that haven’t even been imagined yet, says Weinberg. He says the project is teaching him a lot about computer science, as he and Xu experiment with a drone, taking photographs from every conceivable angle.
Dan Nelson ’75, director of the Outdoors Program Office, says there will be also be more tangible ways to preserve the experience of staying and dining at the lodge, as the new one takes shape.
“Memorabilia will be saved, safely stored, and reinstalled; interior log elements will be reused; timbers that can’t be reused in construction will be sawn into planks for wall paneling. The spirit of the old lodge will carry on, and so will some of what it was made of,” Nelson says.
The new lodge, like the old one, will provide “a gateway to the mountains, to connect people with the natural world, with one another, and with Dartmouth’s history in the outdoors. The more people do that, the more they care about preserving these experiences for decades to come, in a building that is simple, robust, and easily managed by students and nonprofessionals.”
A few openings remain for overnight lodging before the lodge closes on Aug. 22. Reservations are also being taken for farewell events on Aug. 20 and Sept. 7, with sing-alongs, storytelling, dancing, and dinner. The Sept. 7 “lodge-giving” features a Thanksgiving menu, and volunteers will help with cleanup and packing of memorabilia. After first-year trips end on Sept. 5, the construction zone will be roped off and hikers will be directed up the access road to the trailhead just beyond the turnaround.
Originally built in 1938 as a ski resort, and used since then as part of the first-year trips program, Moosilauke Ravine Lodge now hosts more than 90 percent of every incoming class at the conclusion of their trip.