Motherlode Lodge headed for auction

Owner of 14-room lodge plans to sell it in late March

January 27, 2009 

WASILLA -- The Motherlode Lodge in Hatcher Pass is up for sale again. But this time around, the longtime Valley landmark is going on the auction block.

The 14-room lodge includes a bar, a large dining room, a sauna, its own well and sewer treatment plant. Originally built as the Little Susitna Roadhouse in 1942, the lodge sits three miles below Independence Mine State Historical Park, with an as-yet undeveloped ski area just down the road.

The Motherlode is a rare property that merits the unusual sales method, owner Jill Reese said.

Reese likes the control an auction provides, compared to a more traditional real-estate listing. She can set the price and knows exactly when the sale will close. The auction is scheduled for March 26.

"People know there is only going to be one opportunity to purchase that property," said the longtime Mat-Su real-estate broker.

Reese has moved to Anchorage and is trying to sell her Valley properties, she said. The person managing the lodge recently gave notice and the lodge closed to the public a few weeks ago, though private bookings continue, Reese said. Reese, who bought the lodge in 1991, put the Motherlode on the market in 2006 for just under $2 million. That price included the liquor license, which she plans to sell separately this time, though the winning bidder on the lodge gets first dibs.

Chugiak event planner Carol Hart took over lodge operations about two years ago with the goal of owning the lodge, but she recently decided to move on, Reese said.

Hart didn't respond to a call for comment this week.

The lodge is one of two on the east side of Hatcher Pass, a popular local skiing, snowmachining and hiking destination that has grown more popular in recent years with the paving of the road leading to the pass. The Motherlode also went through some changes in the last two years, with the funky feel -- a large bar area with pool tables and a monthly jazz night -- replaced by a more genteel vibe and upscale menu.

Every operator brings a different personality, Reese said. But the overall character of the place remains -- a mountain lodge parked on the tundra halfway up the pass road that's played host to hordes of hungry and thirsty hikers, snowmachiners and skiers, not to mention the likes of Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin and Lisa Murkowski.

Want cell phone reception? Maybe in rooms 9 and 10.

"That's what makes the lodge so much fun," she said. "There are just so many quirky things about it. It just has such a personality up there."

Reese declined to publicly disclosing a minimum bid, but said she will share with serious bidders a "reserve amount" that makes clear the kind of offer she hopes to get. The auction location will be announced. For more information, go to www.denaliauction.com or call Reese at 907-891-0196.

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