While the folks come to hear the music at the fall concert series at Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville, the star of the show is the rambling lodge itself.
The lodge sits in a grove of tall oaks on a bluff overlooking the lovely Meramec River Valley. It was built during the Roarin’ 20s as a playground for rich St. Louisans. The lodge had a swimming pool, nine-hole golf course and riding stables on 2,000 acres.
Gleaming hardwood floors and vintage light fixtures are remnants of the luxurious past, as is the stunning dining room where arched windows and French doors look out onto the countryside.
Bob Bell, whose family now owns the lodge, says it was considered the fanciest resort west of the Mississippi when built in 1922 because it had indoor plumbing and electricity.
Bell schedules the acts for the fall music series. Concert days have settled into their own rhythm. Guests arrive in mid-afternoon and grab one of the rockers on the long screened-in porches or gather on the shaded stone patio looking out over the Ozark hills, a view that glows in autumn.
Dinner is at 6 and is served buffet-style. Guests sit at the original tables covered with white linen and graced with fresh-cut flowers. Ceiling fans whirl overhead. The Friday night entrée is rack of pork; Saturday is what Bell calls the “world renowned prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes.”
Showtime is at 8 in the “living room,” the expansive lobby which has a bar, a middle atrium where guests can gaze down on the band, and a stone fireplace. The main floor has couches and chairs that accommodate 225 with nary a bad seat in the house.
The 52 rooms for overnight guests are in two-story wings that lead from the lobby. On the first floor, two rooms share a bath. On the second floor, there is a communal bathroom.
The concert series begins in September with acoustic sets by singer-songwriters Guy Clark on Sept. 15 and Leo Kottke on Sept. 22.
The series then moves onto classic rock acts with Mark Farner, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad, on Sept. 29; Marshall Tucker Band, with an opening act of Brewer & Shipley, Oct. 5-6; Little River Band Oct. 12-13; Dave Mason Oct. 19-20 and Poco Oct. 26-27.
The season always ends with a performance by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils (Nov. 2-3).
Bell says the music lineup appeals to an older generation, which also describes the performers, themselves.
“A lot of these musicians don’t play much anymore,” Bell said. “This is kind of like their last refuge, and they absolutely love it. It takes them back to their 20s as well.”
Concert-only tickets start at $40. The average price for an overnight stay is $350 a couple and that includes lodging, dinner, concert and breakfast. For more information, visit www.wildwoodspringslodge.com or call (573) 775-2400.
Written by Tom Uhlenbrock, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks.