In the summer 1968, Sam Sperry, a rookie reporter for the Seattle Times, landed a plum assignment: to cover the opening of a brand-new resort in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. And so, he and his wife set out to experience Sunriver Resort, A Destination Hotel for the very first time. It wouldn’t be their last Sunriver escape – far from it.
“We got there on Friday night when it was already dark,” recalls Sperry. “We got to the Lodge and in the dining area they had set up a table about 20 feet long, four feet wide that was laden with just about everything you could ever want to eat. That stood out.”
The luxurious Lodge itself was impressive from the very beginning. “It was just like it is today – there may be a few minor changes that I haven’t noticed,” Sperry says. “But it had that same kind of rustic grandeur. It’s been beautifully maintained over the years.”
The next morning, Sperry attended a press briefing where John D. Gray, one of Sunriver’s founders, discussed plans for the resort and answered questions. Also on hand was Sunriver’s landscape architect and a forester. “They talked about how the footprint of Sunriver would exist with the national forest on three sides and the Deschutes River running through it and how they would manage the resort’s development over time,” Sperry remembers. “You came away feeling that these were folks who knew what they were doing and were passionate about this place.”
The feeling was contagious. Over the next several decades, Sperry returned to Sunriver “at least a dozen times,” bringing his family along for summer adventures and relaxation in the fresh Central Oregon air.
“We went to Sunriver probably a dozen times as our kids were growing up,” he says. “They learned how to ride bikes there and all kinds of other stuff. We really got to watch Sunriver grow.”
What is it that keeps Sperry (and family) coming back to Sunriver? “I liked the fact that you could really get away,” he says. “There’s a nice pace to Sunriver. And it’s stayed the same over the years, whether it’s 1976 or 1983 or just last summer when we had a big family reunion at the resort with all our kids and grandkids. It’s quite an accomplishment to not just have a vision for something, but to carry it out over time. It all seems to click in a special way.”
Sperry also loves that Sunriver has maintained its own distinct architectural vibe over the decades. “They talked about their architectural ideas [in 1968], and they really stuck to that,” he says. “And yet, there isn’t a cookie-cutter feel. The way that buildings are set back from the road, the fact that things aren’t jammed together – it’s another feature that makes you feel like you’ve gotten away from it all.”
50 years after his Seattle Times article went to print, Sperry is still spreading the Sunriver word. “It’s the kind of place you tell people ‘If you haven’t been to Sunriver, you gotta go, because it’s great.’”
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