Loggers working for the Edward Hines Lumber Company lived in comfort at the Bear Valley Lodge.
Built in 1939, the two-story facility, sometimes called the “Seneca Hotel,” housed single men who worked for the company. It replaced bunkhouses along the logging road, used for several years before.
The lodge had 45 small, simple rooms, each with a bed, table, chair and closet. Residents shared bathrooms and showers on each floor. A spacious lobby gave the men a place to relax, talk and play cards. A basement provided storage space for extra belongings.
Cooking was not allowed in the rooms, so the workers ate home-style meals in a “cookhouse” restaurant near the store at the south end of the lodge. Lunches were packed for the men to take along on their long work days.
A steam heat system kept the lodge warm during Seneca’s frigid winters.
The lodge closed in 1962, when Hines began to shut down its logging operations in the Seneca area.
Since that time, the former boarding house has been a private residence, a bed and breakfast and, for a time, vacant.
In 2014, Grayback Forestry bought and restored the building for housing for its employees, returning it to its purpose as a home for woodland workers. While the transformation included several modern upgrades and reconfiguring of some of the single rooms, great care was taken to preserve the historical ambiance of the nearly 80-year-old building.
The stately Bear Valley Lodge is a gem in the treasure chest of Seneca’s rich history and a reminder of its logging heritage.