After Bagnell Dam was completed, enterprises moved to the west side
of the Dam and re-opened, pioneering tourism. Very few of the original
buildings of that generation have survived, although the White House,
built in 1932, has been recently renovated.
Named for a man-made sand beach on the banks of the Osage River
at the foot of a steep hill, Osage Beach was platted in 1928, by
real estate developers who sold lots even before the Dam was completed. Two small towns, Zebra, originally on the Osage River and named
for the striped appearance of nearby bluffs, and Damsel existed
here. Eventually both were incorporated into Osage Beach. The Grand
Glaize Bridge was finished before the Dam and was nicknamed The
Upside Down Bridge because the framing structure was underneath
to offer people an unimpeded view of the Lake.
This historic log building was completed in 1930 for Union Electric,
by Stone and Webster Engineering Corp. and designed by Louis La
Beaume, a noted St. Louis architect and partner in the architectural
firm of La Beaume and Klein. His design was two years in the making
and was approved by Union Electric (UE) President Louis A. Egan,
whose name the lodge informally bore in its early years. Early documentation
refers to the lodge as an administrative and entertainment facility
for UE during the first few years of the Great Osage River Project.
The Adirondack styled 6,500 sq.ft. lodge floorplan contained twenty-nine
rooms. The building was constructed from Western white pine logs,
brought into the area by rail from Pacific Northwestern United States
logging companies. Egan forwarded La Beaume’s plans to Oregon
and the structure was cut and assembled.
Only after Egan's personal inspection of the completed building
in Oregon, was it then marked, disassembled and transported by train
to Missouri. It was finally reassembled at the present site using
only square wooden pegs and overlapping corner saddle notchings
to hold it together. Stone for the patios and fireplace were hauled
from local area quarries. The building was completed in about 3
months at an approximate cost of $135,000.
The Lodge contained all of the modern conveniences of the time.
The two story living area and dining room had an oil burning furnace
with a 1930 state-of-the-art air cooling machine, a kitchen, servant
quarters, a bar with an ice-making machine and an annunciator with
call buttons in each room to request service. The five guest rooms
had private baths and were named after the towns that were relocated
or flooded by the rising waters: Linn Creek, Zebra, Passover, Arnolds
Mills and Nonsuch. In 1930, the Dam was still under construction,
so the view from the Lodge was only wooded valleys and grassy fields
along the narrow little Osage River.
The sprawling dragon shaped Lake of the Ozarks was over a year
from being open to the public and as yet to be named. In 1945 UE
sold the Lodge, a UE built hotel, pleasure boats, forty thousand
acres of lakefront property and eight hundred miles of shoreline
to Cyrus Crane Willmore for $320,000. Willmore was one of the more
important St. Louis real estate developers, creating much of what
is the modern St. Louis landscape. Willmore’s dream was that
the newly created lake would soon be a vast vacation land. He knew
that the chance to escape the city and still retain many of the
city conveniences would appeal to wealthy St. Louisans. The new
lake would provide a class of wealthy urban sportsmen a way to recapture
a type of pioneer lifestyle through hunting and fishing.
The Egan Lodge served as his primary residence until his death
from heart disease just four years later. Although the building
remained in his estate and unoccupied from 1949 until 1969, the
local residents have, since, always referred to the property and
building as the Willmore Lodge. The property was sold in 1969 to
Harold Koplar (developer of Lodge of Four Seasons) and again in
1988 to North Port Company (developed what is now Osage National
Golf Course). UE re-acquired the building and adjoining property
in 1996 in order to insure the Lodge would be retained as a National
Historic site and to protect the integrity of the shoreline from
the Lodge to Bagnell Dam. The repurchase took place upon the bankruptcy
of North Port Company and only amounted to the building and about
thirty acres of undeveloped shoreland property. This time, the winning
bid price was $1.06 million. During that same year, UE officials
proposed that the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce use the building
for its offices, develop a visitor center and repository for the
Lake’s history. The Chamber would pay for restoration costs
and UE would provide the facility and grounds to the Chamber on
a long term lease for $10.00 a year.
As the Lodge is preserved as a historic site, it will house the
history of its region. Local historical organizations and area residents
will join UE to tell the story of the Osage River, the monumental
engineering project that became Bagnell Dam, and the development
of Lake of the Ozarks.