CHAPTER 3: REHABILITATING AND PRESERVING THE FORT (continued)
As a unique section of the National Park Service, Fort Union was the first monument established and developed entirely under MISSION 66. In 1956, Director Conrad L. Wirth of the National Park Service launched an ambitious conservation program to develop national parks to permit the visitors' maximum enjoyment while still pursuing the preservation of the park's scenic and historic resources. The 800-million-dollar program was schedule to end in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service--hence the name MISSION 66. 
The construction of a permanent visitor center and residential housing topped the list of the master plan of development. People had different ideas about the location and style of the proposed visitor center. Some persons suggested that one of the historic barracks should be restored and used as the visitor center. But after a few months of discussion, the Park Service adopted Wing's blueprint to build a New Mexico territorial-style visitor center south of the main ruins and in line with the old hospital.  The National Park Service Western Office of Design and Construction (WODC) worked out the preliminary plans of the proposed visitor center and residence houses. Just as people were ready to see the start of the construction in October, the regional directors' conference in Washington decided to withdraw the 1957 fiscal year construction funds from Fort Union, with the intention of completing most of the development in a "package" during the 1958 fiscal year. 
Nevertheless, some construction continued in 1957. In September, W. H. Elliot of Albuquerque received a $70,000 contract to construct two residences at the southern edge of the park near the main gate. His company completed a house and a duplex the following spring.  However, Acting Superintendent Wing was not able to enjoy the new living quarters. In January 1958, his wife Anna died of a heart attack. Soon after, he requested a transfer from Fort Union, where the couple had devoted a great deal of their energy to the new national monument. With sympathy for Wing's tragedy and praise for his work, the Park Service promoted him to assistant superintendent of San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico. In April, Homer F. Hastings, former superintendent of Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico, arrived at Fort Union to assume his duty as superintendent.  He immediately took up residence in the newly constructed house.
Born at Montrose, Colorado, Hastings began his Park Service career as a seasonal ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park during the summer of 1930. In 1937, he became a permanent employee, working first at Aztec Ruins. Before his new appointment at Fort Union, Hastings had served as superintendent at several Park Service units in Arizona and New Mexico. The arrival of this twenty-year veteran guaranteed strong leadership for the development of Fort Union National Monument. 
During his administration, Wing brought archeologist George Cattanach from Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona and filled the historian position with Donald Mawson, a tour leader at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Following in Hastings's steps, Cattanach and Mawson occupied the separate duplex residence.
Since no modern facility had existed in the area, the new monument had to bring in everything from the outside. The basic utilities included water, electricity, telephone lines, and a sewage system. A small spring flowing in Wolf Creek west of the Third Fort appeared to be the only surface water accessible to the monument. Sometimes the creek was bottom dry. Thus, Fort Union needed a sufficient water source. After a groundwater study in July 1956, the U.S. geological surveyors affirmed the quality and quantity of groundwater at the site. They also helped to choose a suitable location for the well the following April. The Park Service awarded Red Top Drilling Company of Las Vegas a $3,725 contract to drill for water. On August 22, 1957, the company completed a 325-foot well. 
Meanwhile, the Park Service gave a $29,000 contract for water and sewage systems to Starr and Cummins Company of Albuquerque. According to the deal, the company would install one 52,000-gallon water tank at the northeastern corner of the Third Fort, two 300,000-gallon sewage lagoons at the southwestern corner, and all the pipe lines. By spring of 1958 the water and sewage systems were operational. A year earlier, the Mora Electrical Cooperative had extended power lines to the monument. A modern communication system was also necessary for the monument to operate efficiently. In February 1959, after much negotiating, the Mountain Bell Telephone Company finally provided its services to the remote fort. 
When the package of construction funds for the 1958 fiscal year arrived, Fort Union immediately invited various business firms and individuals to bid on all the related projects. Again, Floyd Haake won a contract for $30,148 to surface an existing 1,600-foot dirt road in the residential area and to construct a new parking lot in front of the visitor center. Kueffer Construction Company of Las Vegas, another low bidder, got a $71,804 contract to build a visitor center and a utility building and to extend power lines to both buildings and a telephone line to the visitor center.  Close cooperation between the two companies provided a healthy working environment to guarantee that all the construction progressed speedily. On September 2, 1958, the newly surfaced residential loop road and the spacious visitor parking area passed the Park Service's inspection. Kueffer Company handed the visitor center and utility room over to Fort Union on February 17, 1959. For almost three years prior to that, the park staff had run the monument from a shabby wooden cabin, without running water or sewage lines. Visitors as well as staff had to use outdoor pit toilets. After blizzards or gales, the desks inside would be covered with either snow or dust. A reward eventually came in March 1959 when the park staff happily moved into the territorial style visitor center. 
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2001