The most common route to Big Bear Lake, the highway 18 and Arctic Circle, was built in the mid 1920’s. Workers were housed in a little known lodge built below the Dam on the south side of the highway. The Bear Lake Lodge also housed a Post Office from 1924 until 1931 with George Ringo as the owner/postmaster. With the completion of the Arctic Circle, the focus turned to the North Shore of the Lake and the little town of Fawnskin. Upon completion of the Arctic Circle, a bridge was built across the lake and dam, allowing tourists to drive around the lake.
Both sides of the lake saw increased development, especially during the 1920’s. There were many “camps” built on the north shore. They included Good Luck Lighthouse, Moon Camp, Lemke, Gray’s, Cluster Pines, Juniper and Stanfield’s Camp. The south shore also saw development with Holloway’s, Stillwell’s, Chad’s, Gordon’s, Lowe’s, Bluff Lake, Andrew’s, Eureka, Andrew’s, Bartlett’s, Barney’s, Boulder Bay, Carter’s, Lunde’s and Case’s.
As more tourists discovered Big Bear Lake, there was the desire for ownership in the mountains. As Los Angeles became more of a city, successful businessmen sought a refuge from the grind of city life. In Big Bear, they could embrace the rustic, but that didn’t mean they wanted their accommodations to be rustic.
Guy Maltby, a former boat builder from Michigan, had the perfect solution. Hired by the business interest that developed the Peter Pan Woodland Club, he built “cabins” on the land that members purchased as part of the club. Maltby knew that people wanted the look of a rustic cabin, without the headaches. So he used 5/4 exterior log siding that looked like logs, but allowed for the infrastructure of a house, including interior plumbing and electrical, as well as minimal insulation (as Big Bear was still a mostly summer destination when he started building) The one and two bedroom cabins were richly decorated with custom furnishings built by Maltby’s own factory to give the ambiance of a hunting lodge. Some of the hallmarks of Maltby’s designs include large porches, huge rock fireplaces using local rock and custom cast iron lighting fixtures.
Maltby’s own sawmill, the Bear Valley Milling and Lumber Company, milled the log siding for the cabins. The mill was located on Big Bear Boulevard and Sawmill Road in Big Bear City in 1928. They had six architects who designed hundreds of cabins.
Maltby’s masterpiece, the Peter Pan Woodland Club, was a world-class stone lodge with amenities rivaling the finest lodges in Europe. There was a library, a lounge, game rooms, a veranda extending the length of the building, a café, an oval swimming pool, a golf course, a theatre, and a spa with hot and cold healing radium water.
There are many historic homes still in the valley, from lodges with vertical bark clad siding to tiny miner’s cabins. If you are interested in more information about Big Bear’s mountain architecture, please visit the museum in Big Bear City.