Second in a Soap Lake Centennial series featuring
Soap Lake Entrepreneur and Former Mayor, Marina Romary
The Notaras Lodge is deeply rooted in the history and tradition of Soap Lake. It sprang from the creative mind and muscle of Marina Notaras Romary—daughter of city pioneers, George and Joyce Bender Notaras. George and Joyce ran the Lakeside Cabins and Hotel, located just across the street from the James Cafe. It was there that Marina—and her six siblings-- grew up and where compelling memories were made: "When my dad came to Soap Lake, he bought the Lakeside Cabins and Hotel. As I was growing up, that hotel building was everything. It was a pool hall, a card room, a plumbing shop, a tavern, and of course, a place out back where
we could get ice cream cones.
I grew up knowing how to do thirty sheets on a line, perfectly hung. When the clothes line was in the right place—the sheets dried in 10 minutes in the Soap Lake sun."
James Café —Notaras family collection
Second from left: Joyce Notaras; fourth from left: John Pappas; fifth from left: Jimmy Arvan
It wasn’t until 1983—after great success with Don’s Restaurant and The Businessman’s Club--that Marina found her chance to put her family back into the lodging business. There had been a log home built in Moses Lake. "I read about it in the newspaper and I went to see it. When I walked down the massive stairs I told the
log man, Norm Rolf, 'Boy, I hope you can do this for me sometime." So, when he finished that house, he came out to the Businessmen’s Club. We had a bottle of Cutty Sark that we were drinking that night. When we finished that bottle—we just went out and started digging the hole for the Lodge.
"Bonnie Guitar and I went up in the mountains above Winthrop and bought 300 logs out of a fire burn. They’d been debarked and had been standing dead for 12 years. I had a black man working for me, Tommy Thompson. He had muscles as hard as this table. He hewed every log in the Lodge—not just the main building, but the whole place.
Tom-Cat we called him.
Over the years, my brother in law, Jim, helped me a lot—as did my friend, Kurt Graham. There was so much work to do.
"My log men were special to me; they were out of Alaska and they were a real motley crew. They lived at the building site; they ate there; they played there.
Usually, they’d just cut the logs down to fit. But, I said, why don’t you just leave the cuttings for me—I could make a table or something. So, they left them and I made tables into which I would epoxy Soap Lake memorabilia. We furnished a lot of that hotel with those tables."
The Notaras Lodge was famous for its themed rooms: the Bonnie Guitar Suite; the Norma Zimmer room; the John Wayne room; the Greek Sunroom; the Ben Snipes and Charlie Russell Rooms; the Outlaw Room and The Sagebrush Annie Room.
"When the logs were about half way up, Bonnie Guitar’s daughter, Paula, and I climbed a ladder one night and went over the top. We were standing at the north corner of the Lodge, and she says, 'Marina, why don’t you name your rooms.' I said, 'What a great idea. Let’s name this room the Bonnie Guitar Honeymoon Suite.' And, then, the whole idea just took off. One day, I remember, I was sanding logs and here comes KXLY TV from Spokane. I showed them the Bonnie Guitar suite. I had been fixing the bed to play Dark Moon whenever anyone climbed into it. The reporter says to me, 'What if you can’t get it done?' And, I said, 'Well, I’ll just put Bonnie under the bed!' And what do you know, they put that on TV!"
The John Wayne Room and the Greek Room brought back more fond memories for Marina: "I had a swing in the John Wayne Room with a seat covered in lamb’s wool. I remember that Melody Arvan brushed that seat for eight hours one day—an entire shift. I never did learn the stories of that swing—but, I am sure there were some!
The Greek sunroom was all windows with specialized glass so that you could sun bathe through them. There was also a Pac Man machine so you could tan and play Pac Man. The guests just loved it. I had all my mom and dad’s stuff in that room—much of it epoxied into the tables. It was all so beautiful.
In 1998, the main building of the Notaras Lodge burned down. It was a devastating blaze caused by a flawed relay switch in the Bonnie Guitar suite. "After the fire—it was hard. The logs in that main lodge building werespecial to me. Someone suggested that I should just sand the burn off of them.
"But, it wasn’t a reasonable job, so we took the building down. I had two more log buildings already built and I was working on another. So, I took the fire money and finished that last building. The foundation for the building that burned is still there. I don’t know if the new owners will ever build on it or not, but, it could be built on. That fire was a major one for me in so many ways."
With this loss, the main building of the Notaras Lodge joined a parade of Grant County buildings lost to fire. In Soap Lake itself, the Lodge was preceded in fire by the famous blaze at the Siloam Hotel, a fire at the Lakeshore Cabins, and a fire at Marina’s own Businessmen’s Club. In this and many other ways, the Notaras Lodge has stood a proud legacy to the many storied lodging establishments of Soap Lake’s past.