silver pines lodge

Silver Pines is Historical “Gold”

Home of Idyllwild’s original movie theater, the inn dates back 93 years.

Julie Pendray Hotels & Resorts

silver pines lodge
The original facade of Silver Pines Lodge still greets visitors today.
PHOTO BY JULIE PENDRAY

Huell Howser, the late TV host of California Gold, has vacationed there. Scenes from Peter Fonda’s Wild Angels were filmed there in the 1960s.

Silver Pines Lodge in Idyllwild oozes history.

What began as a mountain furniture store for settlers eventually became a square dance destination, a tavern, a soda fountain shop, the town’s first movie theater, a lodge for community gatherings, a retreat center and  its current iteration, a collection of cabins with creekside views. In the 1930s, the property featured a tobogganing run along the Strawberry Creek flood plain. That creek still gurgles and the same original facade of the lodge building welcomes visitors as it has for 93 years.

Located on Cedar Street, two blocks from downtown, Silver Pines dates to 1924 when a master carpenter, Hal Holcomb, constructed the building and began selling his handcrafted pine and manzanita tables and chairs. When his mother-in-law decided to cook for the locals there, she called her restaurant the Rustic Shop Tavern. She later sold it to the namesake of Foster Lake, Paul Foster, a Los Angeles physician, and he leased the space in the 1940s to a Twentynine Palms couple, Prudence and William Underhill, who began public movie screenings and offered the lodge as a meeting space.

PHOTO COURTESY OF IDYLLWILD AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Silver Pines Lodge began as a master carpenter’s workshop and store.

PHOTO COURTESY OF IDYLLWILD AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
“Ma Poates” used to feed the locals at Rustic Shop Tavern, now Silver Pines Lodge.

PHOTO COURTESY OF IDYLLWILD AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
California Civilian Corps, which built many of the campgrounds and trails around Idyllwild, anticipating dinner at Rustic Tavern.

Subsequent local owners Glenn and Nina Froehlich renamed the building Rustic Theatre, installed theater seating and scheduled films every night in summer. In 1952, the Froehlichs built and opened the current theater on North Circle Drive, using the name Rustic Theatre there.

In the ’50s, when square dance groups from all over Southern California came to the venue, it was known as Hillbilly Lodge. A later owner switched the name to Silver Pines because of the moonlight shining on pine needles, according to current owner, Chris Singer. Since 1952, the property has been used primarily as an inn and has undergone several renovations. Singer has owned the 1.5-acre destination for 23 years. She continues the tradition of offering the lodge as a meeting place for local organizations.

“The best part of owning a place with so much history is that people come back and tell you all the happy memories they have of Silver Pines and you know you’re making memories for a new generation that will come back in 20 years and tell their stories,” says Singer. “I always have people telling me that my place has ‘such good energy’. I’m proud of that.”

Singer, 55, began coming annually to Idyllwild as a baby when her family came from San Diego for church camp.

“When I was an adult and had two babies of my own, I wanted to escape what had become a ‘rat race’ and also have a job where I could have my kids with me,” she says. “So I bought an old hotel. It was difficult, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

She has taken her business from an 11-room inn to 43 total units in Idyllwild.

PHOTO COURTESY OF IDYLLWILD AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The lobby of the Silver Pines Lodge.

She now offers Silver Pines Village on Cedar Street for guests wanting a more modern, upscale but still mountain themed experience, and she does bookings for 10 privately owned vacation rental homes at various secluded spots in town.

Singer is known for her decorating flair, most notably seen in her more elegant but still woodsy Creekstone Inn at the top of North Pine Crest Avenue, which has been used by groups such as Cinestory screenwriters’ retreat and Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. Singer and her staff are renowned as valuable resources for visitors, offering trail information plus free use of the National Forest Service Adventure Pass, which is required in some local hiking areas. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS SINGER
Vista Cabin at Silver Pines Lodge.

Each unit at the lodge property has a creek view. Most have fireplaces and are pet friendly; half have kitchens, as do some of the Village units. The Village is two doors from Ferro, an Italian restaurant known for its live music. Some of Singer’s private vacation rentals have spas and enclosed patios or yards for dogs.

“My vision is now to begin to modernize where I can,” Singer says. “I can’t make the rooms bigger than they are, but they all have new plush carpet, memory foam mattresses, and we’re slowly starting to refurbish bathrooms again. I would really like to position the inn as a place for hikers, mountain bikers and rock climbers.”

Silver Pines Lodge, 25955 Cedar St., Idyllwild, 951-659-4335; silverpineslodge.com.

Historical research provided by Bob Smith, volunteer archivist for Idyllwild Area Historical Society.

Silver Pines is Historical “Gold” was last modified: February 20th, 2017 by Julie Pendray