The Rich History of Mountain lake Lodge
Passing in 1986, Mary Moody Northen offers some history and her love for Mountain Lake Lodge.
Discover the colorful history of our 2,600 acre nature preserve - a playground for families, romantics and adventurers seeking a peaceful escape in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Our story dates back to 1751, through the filming of the film "Dirty Dancing" to the recent rebirth of the Mountain Lake Lodge. In the early 1800's, the property was a stop along the public stage coach line providing lodging for passengers and during the Civil War, General George Crook and his Union soldiers passed through. Vacationers started visiting Mountain Lake in the mid 1800's and many of the original cabins are here today. This a special place immersed in the history of Pembroke, VA and the spirit of the mountains.
- In 1751, Christopher Gist of the Ohio Land Surveying Company became the first known European to lay eyes upon Mountain Lake.
- Henley Chapman, an early commonwealth attorney who helped frame the Virginia Constitution in 1829, was the first owner of the lake.
- The original name for Mountain Lake was Salt Pond. Settlers used to "salt" their cattle in the basin of the lake, and the mountain is still known as Salt Pond Mountain.
- The original Lodge dates back to 1851; by 1857 Salt Pond was operated as a pleasure resort by the new owner, General Herman Haupt of Pennsylvania, who renamed it Mountain Lake.
- Stagecoach travelers were the primary customers of Mountain Lake at this time.
- The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad built nearby in the 1850’s attracted visitors to Mountain Lake.
- In 1864, after the battle of Dublin during the American Civil War, Union General George Crook marched his troops over Salt Pond Mountain to the present day Union, West Virginia. Many supplies were abandoned due to the strenuous haul, thus dubbing “Mini Ball Hill” north along route 613.
- The Porterfield family owned the Lodge for more than 30 years in the early 1900s.
- During the years following WWI and before the Great Depression, Mountain Lake was known for music, dancing and entertainment. From 1922 to 1925, an all-female orchestra played in the ballroom. Guests rode up the mountain each season in the “Buzz wagon”.
- Mountain Lake Camp for Girls, operating from 1928 to the late 1930’s, offered young women swim lessons, diving, boating, horseback riding, cooking and crafts.
- Originally a guest of Mountain Lake Lodge, William Lewis Moody of Galveston, Texas purchased the property in 1930.
- The adjacent Mountain Lake Biological Station, run by the University of Virginia, was founded in 1930 by Dr. Lewis and Dr. Bruce Reynolds; the first on-campus summer session was held in 1934.
- In 1936, Mr. Moody erected the large, native sandstone Lodge that stands today.
- The Fur Farm operated at Mountain Lake by Christiansburg resident Roy D. Harmon from the mid-1930’s to 1950’s, crafting fur goods out of mink and fox. The farm was located at present day “Salt Pond Stables”, known then by locals as “ole Pres Fields”.
- Upon Mr. Moody's death in 1954, the hotel was purchased by his daughter, Mary Moody Northen.
- Beginning in 1983, the Mountain Lake Workshops were collaboratively created by local and regional community members. Highlighted workshops include Howard Finster's Workouts 1985, John Cage's New River Watercolors beginning in 1988, and Lynne Hull's Environmental Habitats in 1999.
- After her death in 1986, trustees of her estate established The Mary Moody Northen Endowment, which presently owns and operates the resort. The foundation was established according to Mrs. Northen's will to preserve the Lodge and surrounding land as a place where people connect with nature, as she had as a young woman.
- In 1986, the hit film, Dirty Dancing was filmed at Mountain Lake, where the hotel served as the backdrop for the "Real Kellerman's Resort."
- In accordance with Mrs. Northen's ambitions, the Mountain Lake Conservancy was founded in 1989.
- In September 2008, as the lake level dropped to unprecedented levels, the remains of Samuel Ira Felder were discovered in the bottom of the lake by guests. The record tells that in 1921 Mr. Felder fell overboard while fishing one evening on the lake with friends. His body never resurfaced, creating an unsolved mystery for many decades.
- In fall 2012, the Endowment commenced a renewal of Mountain Lake Lodge, upgrading the lodging facilities and expanding its outdoor recreation programs.
- In 2018, Mountain Lake Lodge was named Hotel of the Year by the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA)