The South Sawmill Lodge: A Monolithic Family Project

The South Sawmill Lodge in Island Park, Idaho.

The South Sawmill Lodge hosts up to 22 people for reunions, gatherings, vacations, retreats in picturesque Island Park, Idaho.

Katie South

Bernard “Barney” Eugene South and Marjorie, his lovely wife, had a sawmill in Island Park, Idaho. Barney’s father had started the sawmill in 1922 on the head of Split Creek. By 1930 he had moved it to the Island Park Siding, a railroad siding and main crossroad in those days. About 50 people lived there year-round—more in the summer. It had a school, church, and commissary.

Panorama of upstairs loft.

Panorama of the semi-circular loft upstairs overlooking the downstairs main activity area. The Lodge has over 10,000 square feet of living space.

Dave South

That Siding was the home of the Targhee Tie Company and the South’s Sawmill. It was a pick-up point for railroad ties cut to build railroads and a shipping point for cattle and sheep.

Randy South, Barney’s youngest son, acquired several acres near the old sawmill site. He and his family decided to build a lodge there and name it South Sawmill Lodge. It’s located just a half-mile south of the sawmill site that Randy’s dad and granddad owned.

Randy, his wife, and their nine children built the South Sawmill Lodge. Reason: “We have twenty grandchildren already and need a place big enough to hang out together. We have trouble finding a place big enough for a nice size, family reunion.”

South Industries Inc. of Menan, Idaho, a major builder of Monolithic Domes worldwide, designed and constructed the Monolithic Dome that is South Sawmill Lodge. It meets motel code on commercial property, so others can also benefit from this awesome facility.

One of ten main bedrooms.

One of ten private bedrooms on the main floor with large, walk-in closets.

Katie South


South Sawmill Lodge is nested in the world’s greatest snowmobile country and can be accessed for six months of the year (late May to late November), but in the winter only by snowmobile, snowshoes, cross-country skis, or snowcat. It’s about four miles on a groomed trail to the Pond’s Lodge resort area.

During the other six months of the year, the lodge can be accessed by car, over improved logging roads through the Targhee National Forest.

South Industries welcomes you to South Sawmill Lodge. Reservations are being accepted now. For reservations, please call Karen or Randy South at 208-754-4422.

Central fireplace.

The fireplace is the focal point of the whole dome and sometimes doubles—when the fire is off—as a small dance stage.

Dave South

South Industries, Inc.

Since 2004, about 80 percent of South Industries’ construction has focused on structures such as the lodge, but usually larger like churches, schools, gymnasiums, arenas, homes.

The lodge is in snowmobile country.

South Sawmill Lodge is in snowmobile country. In the winter it’s accessed only by snowmobile, snowshoes, cross-country skis, or snowcat. In the summer, it can be reached by car, over improved logging roads through Targhee National Forest.

Katie South

The Lodge

Although the exterior of South Sawmill Lodge looks like wood, it’s actually high density, spray-in-place concrete, or shotcrete.

The interior includes 10 bedrooms downstairs, a theater upstairs, 2 party rooms upstairs, 2 lofts upstairs, 4 bathrooms, 2 toddler play areas.

The dome has a diameter of 90 feet and an overall height of 40 feet. Its ground floor has a living area of 6,361 square feet and the second floor has 3,533 square feet.

Other specifications: concrete in wall 157 cubic yards, concrete in dome 176 cubic yards, concrete in footing 73.5 cubic yards, total concrete 484 cubic yards, total weight 20.5 tons equivalent to 46 semi-loads of concrete, insulation 20,500 pounds of 2-pound density polyurethane.

The walls are a sandwich of 5 inches of concrete, 3 inches of foam insulation, and another 5 inches of concrete for a bulletproof 13 inches of exterior walls. The dome shell concrete averages 4 to 6 inches thick from top to bottom.

The foam insulation is seamless throughout; in the dome shell, it averages 3.5 inches thick. Foam insulation under the floor averages two inches.

This dome shell and wall are fireproof, tornado and earthquake resistant. The building is heated with in-floor hot water and a propane fireplace.

Upstairs game room.

One of two game rooms upstairs. There are also two child playrooms underneath each staircase.

Katie South

A family project

The Souths have been working on this facility as time and money permits. Consequently, it’s been many years in the making. This year they hope to finish the interior for a grand party and Thanksgiving Dinner.

But porches, awnings, stables, picnic areas, etc. remain on the To-Do List. Currently, the Souths are frantically working on handrails, flooring, finish plumbing, finish electrical and painting.

The main downstairs room.

The main downstairs room is used for dining, visiting, and games.

Katie South

The fireplace doesn't heat the dome, hot water in the floor does.

The fireplace is a cozy focus of the main room, but it is not the main source of heat. The dome is heated via a hot water system circulation under the floor. It makes the dome comfortable, year-round.

Katie South

Beautiful bathtub in the large bathroom.

A large bathtub in one of the seven bathrooms. The other bathrooms have a shower and a commode and open into a shared sink and vanity area.

Katie South

Common sink area.

The common sink area with a child’s sink and stepstool is a common area for several private bathrooms surrounding the area. Another common sink room and more bathrooms—a total of seven—are next door.

Katie South

The large kitchen.

There are two refrigerators, two full oven ranges, a microwave, a preparation island, a large sink, and a large serving counter.

Katie South

The laundry room.

The laundry has two washing machines and two dryers.

Katie South

The upstairs beds.

The loft upstairs has 20 beds for a large gathering to spend the night.

Katie South

The Randy and Karen South family in 2012.

A recent photo of the Randy South Family (2012) has Karen and Randy in the center, surrounded by their sons and daughters-in-law, daughters and sons-in-law, and grandchildren. Can you see the need for the South Sawmill Lodge for reunions?

Katie South

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