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Trout Lake Inn Gains Historic Status

Amusement hall added to National Park Service register

After more than a century as a center of entertainment for residents of the community, a structure in Trout Lake has gained historic status.

In October, the venerable Trout Lake Country Inn -- built in 1904 as an "amusement hall" -- was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.

Gil Martin, who has owned the building since 1988, said the business is important to the Trout Lake community.

"It was a center of entertainment for Trout Lake from way back," Martin explained. "To gain the historic recognition, the building has to have significance. The significance here is to the community."

The Trout Lake hall is reportedly the longest-running commercial building under continuous operation in the history of Klickitat County.

"For many years, the hall was the local gathering place and served as the central recreational and entertainment outlet for this isolated community," read a portion of the narrative describing the significance of the building.

The structure was built by brothers Herman and Henry Thode in 1904, with its grand opening on July 4 of that year. It was originally known as the Guler Amusement Hall. The business name was changed to Trout Lake Tourist Club in 1910, and it remained under that name until 1963.

The Guler post office was located in the hall from 1926-1936.

The one and one-half story, 4,600 square foot structure rests on "solid piers of large local lava rock spaced every six feet around the perimeter," according to Martin.

In June, the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places from the Washington office of Archaeology & Historic Preservation approved the designation. The state agency then sent the application for the Trout Lake facility on to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., which handles the register of National Historic Places.

The building was granted the national designation on Oct. 15.

The building was regarded as a national historic structure because it met two key criteria for National Register listing.

The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; and

The property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction.

According to Martin, a great deal of research, time, and paperwork went into earning the designation.

"I applied last winter. It was a pretty involved process," he said.

Martin purchased the building in 1988, and operated it as the Trout Lake Country Inn. In addition to the restaurant and the tavern, Martin began offering overnight lodging, as well as featuring plays and hosting events such as wedding receptions.

"I started renting rooms. No one else did before that," he pointed out.

In 2000, the inn was closed and converted into a private residence. It had not been open to the public for the last five years.

That changed in July of this year, however. Martin continues to own the building, but he has leased it to Dave Wampler, a Trout Lake resident who is now operating the inn as a restaurant and tavern featuring live music and lodging.

Wampler said he was pleased the building had been recognized.

"I think it's great. The building deserves it," Wampler said. "It's the site of the original settlement in Trout Lake."

Wampler, who has lived in Trout Lake for 20 years, said he had wanted to open a place in town for a long time. He has a specific concept of what he wants the inn to be.

"I wanted to help create a sense of community in Trout Lake," Wampler explained. "There really is no gathering place; no place to go to sit by a cozy fire. I liken the inn to Trout Lake's living room."

Martin said there were likely to be economic benefits associated with the historic listing.

"It creates interest, and there will be an official sign. There are not that many historic buildings in the area that I know of," Martin explained. "I'm proud of the designation. I wanted to do this 15 years ago."

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