Great Depression–era joblessness combined with spectacular unspoiled natural scenery inspired the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to select Petit Jean Mountain as the site for a mountain lodge, beginning their work in 1933. The crowning glory of that effort is the Mather Lodge, situated atop the mountain with a view to the Petit Jean valley below. Signaling arrival to the grounds of the lodge is a stone water tower, squat and rough, medieval in appearance, complete with heavy wrought-iron hardware on its plank door and crenellated at the top, further extending the Arthurian feel to the structure. Scattered about nearby are several cabins, some CCC era, some of more recent construction. The CCC cabins are small hipped-roof stone cottages, taking their formal cues from Craftsman-inspired architecture of the period. The older portion of the main lodge has been fitted out in an Arkansas version of a style more closely associated with Rocky Mountain or perhaps Adirondack examples. The structure is adorned with peeled log struts holding up the deeply overhanging roof eave. The exterior is sided with split logs on the upper guestroom portion, while the lower area is formed of native stone, battered and rough as it rises from the earth. The portion of the building enclosing the public spaces is constructed entirely of native stone, complete with a massive chimney rising up the side and through the roof. The dark, compact interior spaces of the original sections of the building are almost sacred in character, with the sanctum sanctorum now dubbed the CCC Room in honor of the original builders. Simply furnished, the space is webbed vertically and horizontally by peeled log structure, consistent with the ponderously heavy hearth and chimney along the stone perimeter walls and on axis with the entrance. The overall effect is that of a club or private academy, more than a vacation lodge; the space seems a world apart from the woodsy, green, natural environment outdoors. By contrast, the 2012 addition offers much more open, glassy, high-ceilinged spaces. Again outfitted with peeled logs (though here straighter and more machined in feeling), the space attempts to bring the necessities of a modern lodge and the provision for food service to the standards of current consumer culture.
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Mather Lodge, Petit Jean State Park
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