Pin Oak lodge reopens at Lake of the Ozarks

Three years after fire, carefully rebuilt structure welcomes convention

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon cuts a symbolic ribbon officially signaling the end of a two-year construction project to rebuild the Camp Pin Oak dining lodge in Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon cuts a symbolic ribbon officially signaling the end of a two-year construction project to rebuild the Camp Pin Oak dining lodge in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Photo by Ceil Abbott.

On a perfect October afternoon Friday, Governor Jay Nixon officially reopened the Camp Pin Oak dining lodge in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The re-opening of the historic building officially brought to a close a $1 million project to recreate the lodge to historic accuracy.

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The Camp Pin Oak dining lodge in Lake of the Ozarks State Park re-opened on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, approximately three years after it was damaged by fire.

The lodge, built in the 1930s, was on the National Register of Historic Places and burned to the ground in September 2010. Although residents living across Lake of the Ozarks from the site reported the flames, because of the lodge’s remote location, firefighters were unable to reach the structure in a timely manner.

Constructed by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, a division of the Works Progress Administration, the lodge was one of more than 100 structures in the park that are considered national treasures. It caught fire during a lightning storm in the middle of the night. A week later, Nixon traveled to the site and held a press conference to pledge to the public that he would do whatever necessary to have it rebuilt.

Later that fall, the Missouri Department of Economic Development presented State Fair Community College with a $1 million grant to set up a program in which students could earn college credit by working on the project.

In reopening the site Nixon said, “One week after the fire which struck this camp, I stand in the shell of this iconic building and pledge to return it to its original grandeur. Today, thanks to collaboration and partnership throughout state government and with our education partners, we can look forward to 70 more years of camping, adventure and the great outdoors at Camp Pin Oak.”

Over the past 18 months, some 10 or so students enrolled in a program to learn construction skills by working on the project alongside three instructors.

As much of the original structure that could be salvaged was cleaned and reused. To replace the destroyed portions, the group used material salvaged from other historic structures that had been torn down. Although the building is nearly an exact replica of the original, some modern construction techniques and material were used to bring the lodge up to today’s standards for safety.

Construction on the new building was completed in late summer and state park crews spent the next month or so cleaning up and landscaping the site.

On Friday, Nixon cut a symbolic ribbon reopening the building for public use.

Over the years, Camp Pin Oak has been the site for an endless string of national campouts by Girl Scout, Future Farmers of America and other youth organizations.

In opening the rebuilt lodge to the public, Nixon recalled that his wife, Georganne, was one of the young Girl Scouts who participated in those campouts.

“Today, we are celebrating the reopening of Camp Pin Oak Lodge as a place for Missouri families and young people to enjoy the outdoors and create lasting memories,” Nixon said.

Nixon also noted it was particularly apt that as soon as the opening ceremonies were over, the lodge would be used as the site of a Missouri Parks Association convention.

Nixon also noted the project was so painstakingly done with salvage material that even the picnic benches, which serve as dining room tables, were built out of trees that had been blown down in a storm at Edmund A. Babler State Park in St. Louis County.

The rebuilt lodge includes a large dining room with enormous stone fireplaces at each end, a modern kitchen, a laundry room and modern restrooms. The hall, which accommodates 135 people, is completely handicap accessible and is centrally heated and cooled.

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