Nestled within the Blueridge Mountains and on the Appalachian Trail, the Bears Den Lodge has a long and colorful history.
1933 - Bears Den was built by Dr. Huron Lawson, a professor emeritus in obstetrics and gynecology at The George Washington University, and his wife, Francesca Kaspari, a soprano singer, as their summer home. The couple traveled to Europe and designed the home to replicate a faux Medieval castle. Dr. Lawson used the local stonemasons and built the home in three stages, with the last to be the turret in the back. The curved living room was designed for its acoustical properties and for Francesca's recital room. There are also two small stone structures near the day-use parking lot. One was used as a ticket booth because Dr. Lawson created a petting zoo and charged five cents as admission and for visitors to picnic and access the overlook. The other stone structure was, and still is, the well house.
1960s - The Lawsons enjoyed their summer home until the late 1960s when they died. The Assateague Island Realty Corporation, owned by the Rodenbergs, purchased 620 acres of land from Route 601 down to the west side of the ridge almost to the Shenandoah River and planned to develop it for a country club-like community. They built one home and the foundation for others, as well as a swimming pool, but they didn't get much further than that. Clarke County turned them down for their proposal because of septic issues and disapproved of the swimming pool. Without the permits, they knew the venture would not be profitable, so they put the entire track of land on the market for $1 million.
1984 - Bears Den sat empty for 20 years, although there was a caretaker living in it on and off and the overlook continued to be popular with visitors. At the same time that the Lawsons died and the Rodenbergs failed at their development attempts, much of the Appalachian Trail (AT) was still situated on private lands, especially in northern Virigina. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the National Park Service were working together to move the trail off roads and private lands and into the forest. Part of the Rodenberg land was perfect for achieving that goal. Ultimately, after a lot of back and forth, the AT was rerouted into the forest and became known as the infamous "Roller Coaster" and the PATC bought 66 acres that included the lodge and cottage on April 3, 1984. Then, on June 12, 1984, the ATC purchased the property from the PATC at cost.
Today - The ATC is still the owner, but has had different entities manage the property over the years. In 2007, the PATC took over management and works cooperatively with the ATC to operate Bears Den Trail Center as a nonprofit organization. Bears Den offers an array of services, including a hostel with full services, accommodations for group or private party rentals/retreats, a primitive campground and a rustic cottage for rent. The 2,184.2-mile AT is just 150 yards from the lodge.
Where did Bears Den get its name??
That remains a mystery, so take your best guess!