JEFFERSON CITY — Two 1930s-era state park lodges south of St. Louis are undergoing renovations worth a total of more than $2 million.
As part of a renewed push to chip away at a more than $150 million maintenance backlog at Missouri state parks, the lodge at Sam A. Baker State Park near Patterson is being converted into a multi-family cabin. The lodge at Washington State Park near DeSoto will be repaired and upgraded after being damaged by flooding of the Big River.
The two stone structures were built by workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program in 1933.
An estimated 4,000 men between the ages of 18 and 25 were posted to 22 camps in Missouri where they built picnic shelters, laid rock for stairs and built lodges for $30 a month, plus housing, food and clothing.
The landmarks at Washington State Park, located about 54 miles southwest of St. Louis, were built by CCC Company 1743, a unit comprised of African American men who originally started at a camp in South Dakota.
Known as Thunderbird Lodge, the building at Washington State Park is poised to undergo a nearly $1 million renovation. Once opened next summer it will serve as a camp store and a place where people can check in to their cabins.
Work is expected to be done next summer, said David Kelly, director of operations for the Missouri state park system.
The lodge at Sam A. Baker State Park, meanwhile, is being converted into a multi-family cabin after serving as a dining lodge and check-in point for other amenities in the park.
Kelly said there has been less demand for a dining lodge in recent years.
“When it comes to renting cabins, the larger ones that can accommodate big families are the most popular,” Kelly said.
Sam A. Baker State Park, located about 124 miles south of St. Louis, is Missouri’s third most popular state park.
Spanning more than 5,000 acres in the St. Francois mountains of southeast Missouri, the park drew more than 1 million visitors last year. There is access to the St. Francois River and Big Creek, equestrian trails and hiking and biking opportunities.
Renovation and restoration work on the lodge worth about $1.5 million is expected to be completed by next spring.
Funding for the work was approved by the state Legislature this spring. Last year, the department was given $9 million to attack the maintenance backlog. This year, the department has $16 million to work with.
“We’re focused on maintenance right now,” Kelly said.