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Salish general manager digs for clues about the historic lodge's past

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SNOQUALMIE - Sam Johnson may be looking for your memory of the Salish Lodge and Spa.

Every now and then the general manager of the luxury resort will come across a memento of the lodge's historic property. Those mementos have made their way through the years and around the county, and Johnson has been searching for them to help him tell the story of the Salish.

"It's fun to track this stuff down and bring it back," said Johnson.

The lodge, which was built in 1916 and first called the Snoqualmie Falls Lodge, started out as a one-floor restaurant. It was considered a halfway point for those traveling the old Sunset Highway that linked Seattle and Snoqualmie Pass before Interstate 90 was built. The lodge gained notoriety for its country breakfasts and many travelers have memories of visiting the restaurant and taking in spectacular views of Snoqualmie Falls.

While the interior has been routinely updated through the years, little else was changed at the Snoqualmie Falls Lodge until the 1980s when Puget Power, the precursor to Puget Sound Energy that owned the building, decided not to renew the lease to the owners of the restaurant. Johnson said the move drew some ire from Valley residents who saw Puget Power as a powerful organization that was putting a local family out of business.

"Some people were pretty upset," he said.

The lodge was remodeled as a hotel and reopened in 1988 as the Salish Lodge, becoming the Salish Lodge and Spa in 1996 when the spa was added. The lodge now has 91 rooms and there are plans to build an extensive addition across the street.

During his time managing the Salish, Johnson has found small mementos of the lodge's past. Most are simple trinkets or odd items that were sold at the old restaurant or the gift shop at the Falls. Some were sent to him but he has started to seek out additional items by word of mouth, or by looking on eBay.

Although Johnson has found items such as an old restaurant place mat and a whiskey bottle with an elaborate painting of Snoqualmie Falls on it, the most striking artifacts are photographs and post cards that show the lodge in its early years. Before the extensive modernization of the lodge, the restaurant used to have a simple wooden sign to greet visitors, many of whom arrived in automobiles that indicate the era the photos were taken. He even has pictures of the Falls before the lodge was built, showing the clump of wild pine that stood where the hotel and restaurant now stand.

All the more surprising is that these artifacts have been found around the nation. People will send Johnson letters and packages with items they have found after years in storage. Recently, Johnson received a photograph from an Oregon man who visited the Falls with his friends in 1938 on their "senior (high-school) skip day."

He is looking for more. What in the past may not have been considered very valuable could be of priceless sentimental worth to the lodge. Napkins, dishware, tables, newspaper clippings; anything that can be attributed to a historical time at the Salish or the Falls will have a memory to share. Johnson is putting out an informal call to local community members who may or may not know of such gems in their homes, especially since so many Valley families have worked at the Salish.

"Every family seems to have had someone work here," Johnson said.

Once he amasses a decent collection, Johnson would like to exhibit it in the lodge. Right now, the pieces take up a couple of shelves in his office, but even the few items he has reminds Johnson of the past. He himself visited the lodge as a child and he hopes others can start to make their own memories of the lodge by sharing in the memories of others.

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