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Callahan's Lodge near Ashland is phoenix in the making

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007
AFTER: the new plan

ASHLAND — Two million dollars lost in building value would be enough to deter anyone. Anyone that is, except for Ron and Donna Bergquist, owners of Callahan’s Lodge. When it came to rebuilding their Southern Oregon landmark after a September fire, there was no question in their minds. For 60 years Callahan’s was the local place to get engaged and married as well as a place to take out-of-town visitors for a taste of rustic Oregon.

Their connection with the lodge runs deep. As a young adult, Ron Bergquist sold restaurant equipment and designed kitchens. He remodeled the kitchen in Callahan’s Restaurant in 1959. Ron recalls the yummy smells of the authentic Italian cooking emanating from the dining room. Originally built in 1947, the lodge relocated in 1965 to its present location in the geographic center of I-5 in the Siskiyou Mountains after the original location was bulldozed to make room for the expanded freeway. The Bergquists purchased Callahan’s in 1996, added the 12-bedroom lodge and expanded the restaurant. Ron had experience in the hospitality industry, having founded the Shari’s restaurant chain.

The 2006 fire decimated the structure, leaving only the two central fireplaces and chimneys. But in destruction the Bergquists saw an opportunity to update. When it opens in late fall the lodge will have 24 guest rooms, most with their own whirlpool tub, fireplace and deck. At 150 banquet seats, the restaurant will have three times the seating capacity, while an elevator will make the new lodge accessible to everyone.

“The surge of community support and interest has been daunting,” says Donna Bergquist. In the days following the fire people showed up at the site to offer their memories of the former building. Some were moved to tears at the loss of the popular lodge. Rebuilding was a must.

— Colleen Moran

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