USFS Logo Administering the National Forests of Colorado:
An Assessment of the Architectural and Cultural Significance of Historical Administrative Properties
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Field and Archival Research

Field documentation of buildings was conducted between July 12 and August 20, 1993, and June 8 and July 28, 1994. The sites and buildings were documented between Levels I and II as defined by Athearn (1990). Deviations from full Level II documentation include using 35mm photography in the field and photographic reproduction of original architectural drawings and plans. Site information was recorded in the format of the Colorado State Historical Society Cultural Resource Survey.

Forest Supervisors' and District Offices were visited prior to field documentation in each Forest and District. Forest Service archeologists, Heritage Resource specialists, and Facility Managers were contacted in order to access historical information. District Rangers and other personnel also offered valuable historical details of many sites and buildings. In addition to current and retired Forest Service personnel, local libraries, museums, and historical societies were visited to compile additional historical data. Hundreds of contacts were made by telephone or in person with those having knowledge of these sites and activities on the Colorado Forests. Information from these interviews is incorporated into the Site Forms for each site and building.

Documentary research was conducted in Supervisors' Offices and District Offices where Forest Service files pertaining to history (1600 series), pre-construction and construction (7100 series), and buildings (7300 series) were reviewed for site- and building-specific information. Forest archeologists and Hertitage Resource specialists have conscientiously helped preserve these materials and in many cases organized site-specific information in ways useful to researchers and managers. Historic photographs were often found at these offices. Additional historic photographs were found in the photo archives of the Rocky Mountain Region office in Denver. Forest Service employees also generously offered personal photographs that helped document changes and alterations to sites and buildings.

Hundreds of original building plans and detailed site plans were made available by the Rocky Mountain Region Engineering Division. Several of these plans are reproduced in this report. Appendix C includes a list of architectural drawings listed in the Rocky Mountain Region Improvement Inventory (U.S. Forest Service n.d.) and buildings evaluated that were based on plans documented through research. Additional examples of constructed designs are included from the survey. Attachments to the Colorado State Site Forms include building plans, drawings, and site plans reproduced for this project.

Much of the primary source material used in this project is the result of searching through forty-five boxes at the Rocky Mountain Branch of the National Archives and the Denver Federal Record Center (Record Group 95). Similar research was undertaken at the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library (six boxes) and at the Colorado State Archives (three boxes).


Evaluation of historic resources for recommendation of their eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places is notoriously subjective, a characteristic that offers both strengths and weaknesses to the program. Regulatory standards are acknowledged to be simply general guidelines to direct reasoning and justification. For the purposes of this project, physical integrity of historic structures sufficient to make function, dimensions, methods and materials of construction readily apparent was fundamental to considerations of significance.

Historic contexts for Colorado, compiled by the Colorado Historical Society and published in 1984, served as guides for evaluating these sites. All four contexts, i.e., mountains (Mehls 1984a), plains (Mehls 1984b), Colorado plateau (Husband 1984), and the southern frontier (Mehls and Carter 1984), were used due to the statewide distribution of sites documented (Figure 1). Thematic statements regarding Federal activities and influences, as well as the Depression, were consulted for many sites in all Forests. Statements pertaining to dryland farming and ranching in the Plains, and recreation in the mountains and Colorado plateau contexts were also utilized for particular sites either built or acquired by the Forest Service. The principal theme of Federal Activity and Conservation, 1890-1945, provided a context for sub-themes, such as architectural and administrative development of Region 2, and for some Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) era sites, the Federal Response to the Depression, and the Rustic architecture of the Forest Service.

Figure 1. Colorado Historical Society Geographic Contexts. (click on image for a PDF version)

Each site was evaluated for eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places in accordance with guidelines in National Register Bulletins 15, 16A, and 16B. Most sites were evaluated for their association with the development and administration of the Forest Service. Buildings recommended culturally significant under criterion "A" retain their integrity and are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history. The natural resources of these lands and their use for recreation and profit has defined the economic, political, cultural, and technological development of Colorado since before the Forest Service was established. The Rocky Mountain Region administrative sites were consequently evaluated for their role in the development of the twenty percent of Colorado's land they oversaw. Significant sites represent the expansion of the Service's mission from basic custodianship, which it practiced at its inception, to extensive resource management. This expansion has played a direct role in the 20th-century socio-economic development of Colorado. The sites further represent the broader patterns of natural resource conservation and public land management as practiced by the Forest Service, the agency most instrumental in the development and management of the majority of Colorado's Federal land.

Some sites were built or modified by the CCC or other New Deal agencies to ameliorate the effects of the Depression. These sites were evaluated for their association with these Federal efforts, as part of the campaign of natural resource enhancement undertaken by the Forest Service during the New Deal era, and as representative of the national shift in thinking regarding the responsibilities of the government to its people.

The buildings were also evaluated for their architectural significance. Buildings recommended architecturally significant under this criterion ("C") retain their integrity and embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction. A baseline for comparison of "typical" elements for each site type was established. Forest Service design policy dictated that administrative buildings reflect values such as practicality, efficiency, and sensitivity to nature and the surroundings. Early undesigned pioneer construction inherently incorporated these values. Later, the Service's Forest, Regional, and National designers combined these values with national stylistic trends and vernacular influences to create a distinct body of architecture that represents the administrative development of the National Forest system in Colorado and the architectural history of the state.

Buildings constructed and/or maintained by the CCC or other New Deal agencies were evaluated for their unique expression of the Rocky Mountain Region's interpretation of Rustic-style architecture exclusive to Forest Service construction in the Depression era. This expression is manifest in the design and construction of these simple buildings that were built by hand of native materials. Although only exteriors were evaluated, the Forest Service philosophy of respect and imitation of nature via the setting, massing, and use of materials is seen in the building exteriors and their placement within the site. Almost all sites were situated on Forest Service-owned land at the time of the survey. Most buildings were constructed by the Forest Service or under its supervision. Those buildings not constructed by or for the Forest Service were evaluated for their representative architectural and cultural significance as well as their association with the Forest Service.

Site evaluation was also guided by the establishment of a procedure whereby identical sets of criteria were applied to each site. The use of quantified criteria is a method that attempts to rate the historical significance of a building or group of buildings by the numeric sum of attributes and variables that presumably capture the full range of significance for these resources. Evaluative procedures of this kind have a long history in historic preservation and have recently been proposed for the evaluation of administrative buildings in the Pacific Southwest Region and the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service (Mikesell 1986; Supernowicz 1989; Throop 1993). Attributes and variables defined under a set of criteria were developed specifically to accommodate the entire range of sites and structures being evaluated for this project (Appendix B). Each criterion was given a set of rating categories, e.g., excellent, very good, good, and fair/poor. Each rating was then assigned a numerical value. Non-Forest Service-built sites, lookouts, and recreational sites were ranked separately under the same criterion. Values assigned to all sites documented for this project are reported in Appendix B. The numeric rank of the site is the sum of the values and reflects the evaluation of the site as a whole.

In accordance with Forest Service policy, sites were established to provide local administration of the land. Therefore, sites considered eligible within the context of the development of the state were also considered locally significant.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2008