The spectacular building known today as Bear Mountain Lodge has enjoyed a varied and colorful history. The grounds of Bear Mountain Lodge were first homesteaded by Lillie and Samps Dye around 1910, when Silver City was a teeming metropolis of 3,200 hardy souls.
1918 the Dyes sold their land to Maggie and William C. Franks, who ran it as a cattle ranch. In the mid-1920's, along with her ranching duties Mrs. Franks provided care for an emotionally disturbed boy from back East. When Harvard psychologist Dr. Walter C. Langer visited Silver City to consult with her about the boy, he met and soon married the Franks' daughter Juanita.
Together, the newlyweds developed plans for the Rocky Mountain Ranch School for unruly "mentally peculiar" children. They constructed the main building, laundry house with two bedrooms, and garage for a total of $20,000. The school opened in 1928 with seven students in enrollment.
Economic hardships during the Great Depression soon caused the Rocky Mountain Ranch School to close, and after several years back east in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Juanita returned alone to her beloved Silver City.
In 1932 the resourceful Juanita reopened the school, this time as a country club and hotel. The grounds sported a swimming pool, tennis courts, children's playground, and a compact golf course with five greens. Saddle horses carried guests on riding expeditions into the Gila National Forest. Sunday chicken dinners at the Lodge became a special treat for Silver City's inhabitants. Juanita operated her country club until 1936, when she sold it to new owners and the property became a dude ranch. With only brief interruptions, Juanita remained an active and well-respected resident of Silver City until her death at the impressive age of 103.
From 1936 to 1959 Bear Mountain Lodge changed hands several times, almost always serving as guest lodging. Weddings, receptions, banquets, and memorable visits from awe-struck tourists have been regular events at the Lodge throughout the years. One local couple reminisced about the numerous times they were contracted to deliver up to a hundred dressed chickens for some grand festivity on the grounds.
Beginning in 1959, and continuing for 41 years, the Lodge was owned and operated by Myra McCormick and her husband Fred as the Bear Mountain Guest Ranch. Fred died in 1978, and Myra, an avid birder, eventually donated the property to the Nature Conservancy in 1999 with the stipulation that they continue to operate it for a minimum of ten years. The Nature Conservancy thoroughly remodeled the historic structure and operated it as requested before shuttering it late in 2009.
As soon as the Nature Conservancy closed the Lodge, the present owners, drawn by its striking beauty and spectacular surroundings, began hatching plans to purchase and reopen this exquisite jewel on the edge of the Gila Wilderness.
Now once more, Bear Mountain Lodge stands ready to provide comfortable lodging and unforgettable experiences to all those lucky enough to seek it out.