The History of St. Bernard Lodge
December 6, 2018 by: Sharon Roberts
We often refer to ourselves as “a historic bed & breakfast in Chester, California.” But what exactly makes the St. Bernard Lodge so historic? Trust us, the designation is more than just clever marketing! The St. Bernard Lodge is a truly historic property with deep roots in the Chester community.
The small town of Chester, California came into being near the near of the 19th century. It got its name from its two founders, who both hailed from Chesters of their own. Burwell Johnson was from Chester, Vermont and Oscar Martin was from Chester, Illinois. Chester started off as a mere post office stop back in 1894 but continued to grow and expand as dam construction, the timber industry, and ranching brought more settlers to the area.
The St. Bernard Lodge was established by Carl Fink, in the 1920’s. If you’ve stayed with us, you might have noticed the lodge’s charming, Old-World feeling. Well, we have the Fink brothers to thank for that. The brothers were born in the small town of Junkerath in Northeastern Germany and moved to the United States throughout the early to mid 1920s.
Carl, the oldest brother, discovered the Chester area later in the decade when working with a surveying crew. He acquired the property from the Baccalas, a pioneer ranching family, and decided to open up a restaurant in the still developing area. He named it the Deer Creek Café, after deer creek which runs close by. Carl ran the Café for several years before being joined by Mike.
Mike first settled in Los Angeles originally with his mother Elizabeth. Mike established the St. Bernard Café on S Figueroa Street. It was the finest Bavarian-Swiss open air beer garden in Los Angeles with dining and dancing. Mike visited Carl often and enjoyed the mountains. He joined Carl sometime in the early 1930’s at the Deer Creek Café. There are many stories on how Mike ended up with the Café and re-named it St. Bernard Lodge. Ada, Mike’s sister and nephew Walter immigrated to the U.S. and worked for Mike for a few years before they had a falling out and Ada went down the street to work with Ernest and his wife Gertrude at the Deer Creek Lodge. Once again there was a falling out between Gertude and Ada. Ada and her son moved back closer to St. Bernard Lodge sometime in the 50’s and built Black Forest Lodge.
Many guests have stories to tell about visiting St. Bernard Lodge and being greeted by several St. Bernard Dogs. Some have very fond memories and other remember being a little scared. Besides the dogs, kids could see the fish in the back ponds.
Originally Mike had Pascha I, his favorite St. Bernard Dog, mounted and displayed at the front of the lodge in the late 1930’s. Pascha I was poisoned in Los Angeles. This may have been a motivator for Mike to move to the area. Many years later Pascha II was killed while Mike had the St. Bernard Lodge and was also mounted next to Pascha I. The dogs remained at the front of the lodge until the mid-60’s, when current owners Marge and Dick Miller removed them. The display windows are still at the front of the lodge with a collection of cute stuffed St. Bernard dogs.
Over the years, the St. Bernard Lodge has been a restaurant, bar, and lodging establishment before officially becoming a small, 7-room bed & breakfast in the early 2000s. Unofficially, it may have been a favorite hang-out of the mafia during prohibition and later housing a brothel on the back of the property. Today our charming bed & breakfast is the perfect retreat during your adventures throughout Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lake Almanor Basin. We offer stables for your horses, fine dining in our tavern, and some of the finest hospitality in the entire Chester area. At the St. Bernard Lodge, we are proud to be such a foundational part of Chester’s history and we hope to continue to play a role in our beloved town as it continues to grow, change, and thrive.
Planning a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park? Book a stay at the historic St. Bernard Lodge in Chester, California!