A recent Facebook post by the Daggett Historical Society in Daggett, California, sent me down a rabbit hole regarding the weirdly shaped house called Ski Lodge Roof House, Ski Slope Lodge or Russian House along Route 66 in town.
The historical society posted last month on Facebook:
Last night’s DHS meeting was on what is probably the only extant California Welcome Center dating to the 1926 construction of Route 66. It sits directly across from the site of one of the original Agricultural Inspection Stations – the one used in the 1940 movie The Grapes of Wrath. It is down the street from the only Route 66 Inspection Station still in existence – the one that was built in the later 1940s to replace the earlier Inspection Station that this Welcome Center sat across from. A 1920s service station, that also served the original Inspection Station, sits next to the Welcome Center. Today the Welcome Center is better known as the Ski Slope, Ski Lodge, or Russian House, and is one of the most photographed structures along the desert section of Route 66.
I had always taken note of the house when we passed by it — it’s hard not to notice — but had forgotten to do more research about it.
The Desert Gazette had this to say about the house:
Originally opened about 1926 as a visitors information center and gas station. In the late 1930’s it became the home of Mojave Deserts “Poet Laureate” Alice Richards Salisbury. (Private residence, please do not disturb occupants)
This home was once an office for a land development company. Built around 1926 the building was designed to attract the attention of travelers and to interest them in purchasing lots in the area.
The old California Agricultural Inspection Station mentioned in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was located in Daggett right across the road from the ski lodge building, formerly the Minneola Land Development Company sales office.
Route 66 Times added:
Sometime after the real estate business moved out Marie Millet apparently bought the building and moved in and used it as a home. The little building with it’s Ski Lodge style roof is commonly known as the former Ma Millet’s Cafe by Route 66 travelers. Marie (Ma) Millet turned her house into a cafe to feed travelers and the inspectors that worked at the nearby agriculture inspection station. That business was successful enough that the Millet’s eventually built a new house next door to live in while the cafe continued in this building.
Quinta Scott’s book “Along Route 66” found more information on Ma Millet’s Cafe, including the fact it served all-you-can-eat meals for 50 cents and that it closed in 1947, the same day Kelly’s Restaurant opened in town.
After that, Google searches for information on the house run dry. A search of the National Register of Historic Places in Daggett reveals the property is not listed. Perhaps that should be rectified.
(Image of the Ski Lodge Roof House in 2006 in Daggett, California, courtesy of The Lope)