Robert Spude, regional historian for Intermountain Region, will retire on December 28th after 35 years with the National Park Service
Bob’s NPS career began in the summer of 1977, when he joined a HAER (Historic American Engineering Record) summer team recording the power canal and textile mills of Augusta, Georgia. In 1978 he joined the preservation team at newly established Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway, Alaska, and drafted history data sections for historic structures reports, wrote an architectural history of Skagway, and compiled a book on the stampeders on the Chilkoot Trail in 1898. The team was awarded a Presidential Design Award for their work.
With that immersion into NPS historic preservation, he moved with historical architects, archeologists and curators in 1980 to the newly created Alaska Regional Office of Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. Barely six months later, Bob happily found himself back with the NPS when the agency absorbed the HCRS programs. He worked in Alaska for ten years, becoming regional historian and directing an integrated program, external and internal.
Besides work in all the new Alaska parks, among his most memorable assignments included documenting by helicopter sites along the 1,000 mile Iditarod National Historic Trail, floating the middle stretch of the Yukon River and other river segments as part of wild and scenic river studies, co-authoring the National Historic Landmark nomination for Kennecott within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve as well as co-directing the HAER recording of the Kennecott mill and compiling its first preservation plan, and working on the HABS recording and preservation planning for the World War II sites along the Aleutian chain.
These were exciting years in the new parklands of Alaska, but the chance to move to Denver and direct the respected external cultural resources program brought him south in 1988. At that time, the Rocky Mountain Region oversaw management of preservation programs for 17 states. The staff excelled in Historic Preservation Fund grants management, the Tax Act program (rehab tax credits for historic properties), technical preservation assistance, HABS/HAER, and preservation workshops with the State Historic Preservation Offices and National Trust for Historic Preservation, Denver office. Bob was able to increase the history staff and bolster the National Historic Landmark activities.
In 1994, Bob accepted a reassignment to the regional director’s office as part of the Office of Ecosystem and Strategic Management, with a primary role in incorporating cultural resources and culture issues into park and ecosystems management. Unfortunately, the reorganization of 1995 reoriented the staff to helping plan strategies for the evolution of the new Intermountain Region and its three clusters. Bob did provide some white papers, directed two projects, and led training on the natural resource/cultural resources overlap, with the last being the organization of a session on “natural & cultural resources as one” at the Discovery 2000 conference, St. Louis.
With the transition to the new organization, in 1998 Bob was selected as chief of Cultural Resources and National Register Programs, Southwest Support Office, Santa Fe. With the abolishing of the support offices, and the creation of functional leads, Bob became program lead for the region’s history program. Over the past decade he has been able to work with nearly every one of the 93 units within Intermountain Region, especially assisting with history studies, National Register work, and compliance. He especially enjoyed recent work with the region’s dynamo minerals coordinator and the overworked parks’ resources staff completing compliance work in preparation of “abandoned mine safeing” in the parks, reviewing and ushering through over three hundred DOEs (Bob is co-author of the National Register Bulletin on how to evaluate and nominate mining sites).
“The NPS has provided one splendid ride over the last 35 years,” he says. “And everyone knows that one does not do these projects alone. The commitment and support of friends in the parks and regional offices has been superb. I still recall decades ago asking our AO if I could hire a horse or two to reach an abandoned trail cabin for a HABS documentation project in an Alaska parkland; the response, no problem. Many thanks to all those enablers!”
A graduate of Arizona State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bob will continue to be active in professional organizations. He has been the fortunate recipient of an Albright-Wirth grant that led to other grants, such as National Science Foundation grants, in order to participate in international workshops and history conferences in Bochum, Germany, Milos, Greece, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Mexico City, Mexico, Victoria, Canada, and Truro, Cornwall, England. His most adventurous project, undertaken with his future wife Catherine Holder Spude, NPS retired, was travel to and development of a preservation plan for Admiral Byrd’s East Base, Antarctica. The site and project is described in the April 1993 National Geographic.
Bob and Cathy will do some research and writing, travel, and enjoy living in the Southwest with the home base at Santa Fe. Friends can reach them at Spudes@msn.com .