CAMP ABBOT, THEN and NOW

Part 2

Camp Abbot’s Officers’ Club, now known as Sunriver’s Great Hall, was a major training exercise and accomplishment that remains a distinguished landmark after more than 70 years.

Camp Abbot's Officers' Club

Work began October 1, 1943, and took six months to complete. Designed in the style of a mountain lodge, a total of 63,000 manual hours went into the 511 log construction. The 40-foot hewed beams, as well as the logs and slabs, were all located on site.

The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests supplied additional material including the tree for the circular staircase. A total 150,000 board feet of lumber were put into the building.

Sunriver Great Hall circular staircase

Stone masons shaped ten tons of volcanic rock into the two massive fireplaces, one on the lower level, the other directly above on the mezzanine. Less than three months later, a “bush raising” ceremony was held at the Christmas Eve dance to celebrate completion of the roof.

When Camp Abbot was abandoned in June 1944 after the invasion of Europe, the Officers’ Club was the only significant building left untouched. The 5,500 acre property went up for sale in 1945. By 1950, it was used for a livestock operation, and, at one time, the Officers’ Club housed cattle.

Camp Abbot memorabilia, once displayed at the Sunriver Nature Center, is now at the Deschutes Historical Museum in Bend.

According to the Sunriver Nature Center Publication Camp Abbot, the main entrance was on “F” Street (now Center Drive), along with the café, recreation buildings, and “F” Street barracks. The post chapel was located on what is now a Sunriver Lodge parking lot.

Besson Commons sits between the Lodge and the Great Hall. On the walls inside the main doors of the former Officers’ Club are a plaque, pictures and descriptions to commemorate the 50th Anniversary (September 10, 1993) and remember the 90,000 soldiers who trained at the U.S. Army 3rd Engineer Replacement Training Center.

The Great Hall is now used for conventions, banquets, receptions, formal dances and music recitals. It has been used by movie and television companies on location. One script of Richard Boone’s “Have Gun, Will Travel” television series was adapted to focus on the unusual circular staircase built around the huge pine tree.

Officers' Club circular staircase

Camp Abbot’s review field was on part of the Great Meadow.

Soldiers dodged bullets on the obstacle course, now the 10th tee on the Meadows Golf Course.

The waterway behind the Lodge and River Lodges, now called Sun River, is all that remains of the canals developed by the corpsmen.

Sun River

The Civilian Conservation Corps camp site was in the area now called Vista Lane.

Soldiers practiced on bayonet courts and rifle and grenade ranges on the lower meadow between what is now Vista Lane and the Sunriver Airport.

The “L” Street barracks spread between what are now the 12th and 14th holes of the Meadows Golf Course between Circles 2 and 3 near the Wildflower condos.

With the addition of a roof and door to Camp Abbot’s sedimentation tank, the building is now used by Sunriver’s Public Works Department between the Sunriver Police station and the community recycle center.

Camp Abbot's sedimentation tank

The Army’s munitions dump proved too costly for the Sunriver Homeowners Association to dig up and remove all toxic asbestos and contaminated soil so in 2012 they built the concrete Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic and Recreation Center (SHARC) on Overlook Road to bury what remained.

Additional anti-tank range, mortar and firing ranges, and demolition areas spread north and west across the Deschutes into what is now the Deschutes National Forest.

The chemical training area took place east between what is now the railroad track and Hwy. 97.

Remnants of bridge abutment foundations built by the corpsmen between what are now the Sunriver Stables and Mary McCallum Park are better seen by floaters on the Deschutes.

Major General Alexander M. Patch used Camp Abbot as his base in 1943 to lead the Oregon Maneuver. One hundred thousand soldiers participated in large scale war games on 10,000 square miles in three central Oregon counties before their deployment overseas. In 1943, the U.S. Forest Service and the combat engineers training at Camp Abbot built the General Patch Bridge about seven miles south from Sunriver at what is now the Big River Camp Ground. Declared unsafe, it no longer remains. It was visible from the Robert D. Maxwell Veterans Memorial Bridge built in 1984 on South Century Drive.

Gen. Patch bridge

General Patch recommended Technician Fifth Grade Robert D. Maxwell of Bend to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in France in 1944. According to a plaque at the campground near the site of the former smaller bridge, the two men never met each other.

Patch Maxwell plaque

 

 

 

 

 

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About Lynne Schaefer

Lynne Schaefer has written two newspaper columns ("The Schussboomer" about skiing in California, and "Notes from Lynne's Journal" about Oregon wildlife); travel and garden articles for regional magazines copy for DVD tours of the High Desert Museum and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, both in Bend, Oregon. She has published three non-fiction books, A Traveler's Guide to Historic California, Christmas Trivia Quiz, and His Daughter's Remembrance.
This entry was posted in History, Human Interest, Oregon History, wwII and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to CAMP ABBOT, THEN and NOW

  1. Martha Blowe says:

    Lynne, beautiful history of The Great Hall ! Lovely pictures of all the magnificent wood and stone work and exciting written history you have done !!! Greatly enjoyed by all !!

    Like

    • Lynne Schaefer says:

      Thanks, Martha. The Great Hall is an impressive structure, isn’t it? And to think all that history occurred in our backyards!

      Like

  2. James Sigler says:

    A great article, I’ve looked high & low , for a good write- up
    On Camp Abbott & Sunriver history , it’s hard to bind
    I stay there , and look for
    Clues from another time ,

    Like

  3. Lynne Schaefer says:

    I’m glad you found the Camp Abbot article helpful. Thanks for your kind words.

    Like

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