Emerson J. Griffith became Oregon’s WPA administrator and obtained funding from the WPA for $246,893 with additional funding from the Mt. Hood Development Association.
Gilbert Stanley Underwood, referred to as the “Parkitect,” is famously well known for designing several prominent National Park Service Lodges including Bryce Canyon Lodge, Zion Lodge and Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Lodge. Described as “the standard for architecture on public lands,” his rustic style was characterized by natural local materials and a design that blended into the landscape. His original design for the lodge focused on a central headhouse, which holds the 800,000 pound great stone chimney. The headhouse is flanked by two uneven wings where the dining room, guest rooms, and other facilities are located.
William I. Turner, Forest Service architect, used this term Cascadian Architecture to describe the design of Timberline Lodge because the roofline, with the steep pitch of the headhouse roof, mimicked the nearby peak of Mt. Hood. The overall design combined with the use of regional native materials created Cascadian Architecture.
The first phase of the lodge was to frame and roof the lodge in four months’ time. Considering the altitude of 6,000 feet, the short summer season, and harsh alpine climate, this project was a challenge. Daily, there could be between 100 and 470 workers onsite at a time. The WPA program aimed to employ and train as many people as possible. As a Federal Arts Project and a Master/Apprentice program, an additional purpose of the Lodge project was to purposely pair skilled artists and craftspeople with unskilled workers so as to teach them traditional skills in arts, crafts, and construction trades. Wages were 90 cents an hour for building trade laborers, 75 cents an hour for common laborers, and 55 cents an hour for unskilled laborers.
Margery Hoffman Smith, the assistant state director to the Federal Art Project in Oregon, was the interior designer for the lodge. Murals, paintings, and carvings for the lodge were commissioned from some of Oregon's most accomplished artists, including Darrel Austin, C.S. Price, Howard Sewall, Charles Heaney, Erich Lamade, Florence Thomas, Virginia Darcé, and Douglas Lynch. Smith integrated designs for wood furnishings, wrought-iron detailing and textile patterns to create a unique mountain resort. Two important objectives of the WPA were to develop independence through training and to encourage private enterprise. In 1976, Smith remembered: "Carpenters became cabinet makers, blacksmiths became art metal workers and sewing women wound up expert drapery makers."