The Administrative History of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
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Chapter Two:

The creation of Fort Vancouver National Monument and its eventual development as a national historic site has deep roots in 19th century land use. Following the establishment of the 49th parallel as the international boundary between Great Britain and the United States territories in 1849, the Hudson's Bay Company moved its principal administrative headquarters and supply depot from Fort Vancouver to Fort Victoria, British Columbia retaining only a minimal presence at the fort, in 1849. That same year, the U.S. Army established a presence in the Northwest with an encampment on the hill above the fort that would become the nucleus of a 640-acre military reservation which encompassed the stockade of Fort Vancouver. In 1860, the Army officially took control of the property left by the Hudson's Bay Company. Archaeological evidence shows that a fire in 1866 destroyed a portion of the Fort Vancouver palisade and some structures, but time and scavengers destroyed most of the buildings in the old post. Alternately named Columbia Barracks, Fort Vancouver, and finally Vancouver Barracks, the Army barracks soon covered any remaining traces of the once dominant Hudson's Bay Company post by the turn of the century. [1]

The U.S. Army may have taken over the administration of the site, but Fort Vancouver and the fur trade it symbolized were not forgotten. Indeed, the fort's disappearance perhaps lent more mystique to the symbol. In 1910 a commemorative stone monument was placed near a fort site mentioned in notes made by Lt. Col. B.L.E. Bonneville in 1854. [2] Because of local interest, the War Department, under the authority of the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225), which protected and preserved historic and prehistoric sites on lands controlled by the United States, designated the site of the Hudson's Bay Company fort a national monument on July 17, 1915. [3]

With the coming of World War I, the momentum to establish a monument collapsed before Congress could allot funds. In November 1917, the U.S. Army Signal Corps' Spruce Production Division built a mill on the large field where the fort had been. Some 30 thousand officers and men produced an average of 9 million board feet of spruce lumber monthly on the 50-acre site. Though the spruce mill only operated until August 1919, the buildings remained on the site for several years after the War's end. Even during the archaeological excavations of the early 1970s, the spruce mill foundations sometimes obscured the Fort Vancouver structures. [4]

It was not until the summer of 1921 that the site of the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver was more accurately located when Army civil engineer Felix Robinson finally found the Colonel Bonneville map of 1854 for which the Oregon and Washington historical societies had searched some 15 years. [5] With interest peaked, members of Washington's congressional delegation prepared legislation to recognize the fort and its significance. In 1922 Senator Poindexter introduced a bill for $30,000 to restore the stockade, but the bill never returned from committee. Again in early 1924 Senator Wesley Jones and Representative Albert Johnson introduced bills for $30,000 for restoration of the fort site, but both measures failed. [6]

Undaunted by the failed legislation, the Oregon Historical Society and the Washington State Historical Society planned to place a historic marker to commemorate the site of Fort Vancouver for its 100th anniversary in 1925. The Fort Vancouver Centennial Corporation, led by local businessman Glenn Ranck, organized the celebration. On June 7, 1924 W.P. Bonney, secretary of the Washington State Historical Society, wrote to T. C. Elliott, curator at the Oregon Historical Society, that a certain "Mr. McWhorter suggested that one panel [of the commemorative marker] should carry a design, showing the uncivilized condition of the locality when the H.B. Co. first went there." [7] Other local citizens and associations wanted to put their special mark on the celebration. Much to T.C. Elliott's consternation, "Mr. T. Foster Hidden, as Sec. of Vancouver Hist. Soc., has written me that their present idea is for [a commemorative] marker to be placed in their Auto Park, which is no where near to the site of the original Fort." [8] But, before any of these projects got off the ground, the Directors of the Fort Vancouver Centennial Corporation disincorporated, ending the plans for the 100th year celebration. [9]

Commemorating Fort Vancouver, however, was an idea that would not die. Late in 1924, Glenn Ranck persuaded the Prunarians, an association of local prune growers and other Vancouver businessmen organized in 1919, to ask U.S. Representative Albert Johnson to introduce another bill in Congress to restore the old stockade. [10] Even the Vancouver Barracks commander favored the restoration and promised that the remaining buildings of the Spruce Division cut-up mill would be removed from the site to accommodate the restoration. The Prunarians were successful; Representative Johnson introduced a $60,000 bill to complete restoration of the Hudson's Bay Company fort by July 1, 1925 in time for its centennial celebration. Calvin Coolidge signed the bill (43 Stat.1113; HR 10472) on March 4, 1925, which once again had no funding. [11]

Without any appropriations, it was too late to restore or properly mark the fort site in time for the celebration of the Fort Vancouver centennial. Instead, a small parade passed through downtown Vancouver on March 19, 1925, to commemorate the establishment of the original fort. Forty acres at the Barracks were leased for the celebration and the executive committee of the Old Fort Vancouver Centennial Board still wished to generate interest in restoration of the stockade. [12]

Not until 1930 did a legislator again attempt to raise funds to preserve the site. Senator Wesley Jones introduced another bill calling for the "reconstruction of the historic edifice upon its exact site in Vancouver Barracks." [13] This bill requested $30,000 for reconstruction of the fort, to be completed by July 1, 1931. Brigadier General Paul A. Wolf, the commander at Vancouver Barracks, wished to locate the exact site of the fort and determine how it was originally constructed. But, again, Senator Jones's bill was sidetracked and eventually killed during a committee study. Two years later similar legislation met the same fate. [14]

A more concerted effort to create a monument on the Fort Vancouver site came in early 1935. Fay Peabody, chairman of the Old Fort Vancouver Restoration Committee, an entity created by the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, wrote to Washington State Governor Clarence D. Martin on February 28. She described the new plans for restoration, which included obtaining the original Fort Vancouver site at Vancouver Barracks where a replica would be erected, rebuilding the Chief Factor's house and other log buildings, and constructing a museum. "Bearing in mind, that our picturesque Northwest is the youngest, most beautiful and romantic section of the country," wrote Fay Peabody, the fort should be reconstructed "in memory of the struggles of the brave Pioneers who so heroically suffered deprivations to conquer and civilize the land that has become so rich and plentiful." [15]

Fay G. Peabody's and the Vancouver Historical Society's efforts to gain the support of Governor Martin and Washington State Senator H.L. Nelson were helped along by the mayor of Vancouver, the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of County Commissioners, as well as Senator Schwellenback and Congressman Martin E. Smith. [16] In addition to the fort restoration, Fay Peabody wanted to build a shrine for the oldest apple tree that still stood in the area, including a museum and commemoration of the local apple industry. Her cryptic proposal called for the "Erection of small Registry House, (Old English Rustic Summer House) Housing Concrete Pedestal, to which Large Registry Book is chained--Inside on wall Bronze Tablet or Placque, containing genuine History, ...Adjoining property to be beautifully landscaped, creating Picture to be remembered by all." [17]

If nothing else, Fay Peabody's efforts prompted Washington Congressman Martin Smith to contact Harold L. Ickes, secretary of the Interior, to request that the newly appointed Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments conduct a field study on the feasibility of reconstructing Fort Vancouver. [18] A coalition of Vancouver civic groups--the Chamber of Commerce, the County Planning Commission, and the City Planning Commission--headed by Howard J. Burnham, the chairman of the Vancouver City Planning Commission, also requested that the National Park Service, Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings, look at three possible sites for reconstruction. Under the direction of Charles West, undersecretary of the Interior, Olaf T. Hagen, acting chief of the Western Division Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings, conducted the investigation.

Each member of the Vancouver coalition had their own interest in a particular site being considered. The Vancouver City Planning Commission preferred the site which Fort Vancouver occupied from 1825 to 1828, on which the State Deaf School was located. "Not only does this location on the brow of the hill offer an unobstructed view of the Columbia," wrote Howard Burnham to Olaf Hagen, "but, with the proposed relocation of the Evergreen Highway (US 830), the hillside lends itself to effective landscaping as viewed from the lower road. Then, too, this is the actual site of the original Hudson's Bay Company development of the region." The Chamber of Commerce also wanted to option or acquire this land immediately south of the State Deaf School if the restoration project was to be approved. A second possible site was riverfront property which "falls short of being satisfactory," according to Hagen. The Port of Vancouver owned the land and did not care to donate it for a monument. The riverfront property was also subject to overflow from the Columbia River in the spring. Oddly enough, the Vancouver coalition did not consider the present site, the site occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company from 1829 to 1860, to be feasible. Howard J. Burnham lamented that "any attempt to acquire a portion of the Military Reservation would at best entail a delay of years. Consequently, we see no reason for even considering any of the land adjacent to the Old Apple Tree." [19]

In Olaf T. Hagen's final "Report on the Preliminary Investigation of the Proposed Old Fort Vancouver Restoration," of May 30, 1936, he agreed with this assessment. He only investigated the first two sites. The present site was identified as a long shot as it was within the limits of Pearson Field, an Army Reserve aviation field, and the War Department would probably "strenuously oppose any efforts to deprive them of this area for historical purposes or sentimental reasons." [20] Perhaps more sobering, though surprisingly modest to us today, was the estimated cost of the project: $49,630 to reconstruct the bastion, stockade, dwellings, museum, trading post, factor's house, and shrine for the oldest apple tree. The cost did not include archaeological work. Hagen, however, cautioned that though the original fort site deserved attention as a historic site, the restoration project fell into a different category all together; it would be regarded as a "creative development rather than a project for preservation." As such, Hagen recommended that "final action be delayed" until further study and concrete plans could be made. [21]

Perhaps because of Hagen's remarks on the unavailability of the original fort site, two years later on November 19, 1937, the Senate Military Affairs Committee introduced a bill to allow the City of Vancouver to construct and maintain a memorial on the western edge of Vancouver Barracks, including a replica of Fort Vancouver. [22] The bill passed the House on March 21, the Senate on March 25, and was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 5, 1938 (52 Stat. 195; HR 8460). However, it was a permissive measure only and local interests once again found themselves without the means to follow through on the reconstruction proposal. [23]

In May 1938 the Washington State Historical Society asked that the location of Fort Vancouver be delineated with stone markers flush with the ground. This plan was opposed by some of "the younger officers, then at [Vancouver Barracks] for the reason that it would interfere with their games of polo, and the project was accordingly dropped." [24] Perhaps a minor consolation, on June 12, 1938, the "Oregon Society of the Daughters of 1812 erected a historical marker at the approximate site of the old Hudson's Bay Company's graveyard northeast of the 10th street entrance to the Barracks." They prepared an elaborate dedication ceremony. [25]

Possibly because of the disappointments in 1938 the Old Fort Vancouver Restoration Committee disbanded. However, on March 9, 1940, the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society formed to continue the local support for a monument at Fort Vancouver. The original board of directors included Henry Rasmussen, president, Ray Bachman, the publisher of The Columbian, Roy Seeley, Chas. Mook, P.M. Kane, H.J. Kesler, and Marion Sexton. According to Donald Stewart, a founding member of the Historical Society and Vancouver architect, the society made an agreement with the Army, in conjunction with the 1938 legislation, to lease an acre of land near the oldest apple tree where Interstate 5 now runs through the Barracks in order to reconstruct a model of Fort Vancouver. Donald Stewart, a local architect, drew up the plans for a scaled-down model of the fort. However, the outbreak of World War II prevented the historical society from pursuing this miniature version of a reconstructed fort. [26]

Two events dramatically changed the direction of efforts for recognizing Fort Vancouver. The war ended and, on December 6, 1946, the Army declared a large portion of Vancouver Barracks, which was no longer needed to house troops, as surplus property. The War Assets Administration acted as trustee to distribute the surplus property under the Surplus Property Act of 1944.

Though Burt Brown Barker, then president of the Oregon Historical Society, remembers that his organization "originated the movement to secure the land and actually put on the campaign to get the bill passed," the Washington State Historical Society, the Oregon Historical Society, and the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society, which was reactivated on January 15, 1947, pushed Congress to obtain the needed surplus property and declare the original site of Fort Vancouver a national monument. [27]

Indeed, Chapin D. Foster, director of the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS), contacted Howard J. Burnham, then owner and president of the Clark County Title Company in Vancouver and active in the WSHS, to ask him how best Washington could preserve the site of Fort Vancouver since it had been declared surplus property. Burnham suggested that they try to interest Congress in the project. As Burnham wooed Washington legislators, local Portland businessman Alfred A. Loeb began a letter-writing campaign to Oregon Senator Guy Cordon. Loeb stressed in his letter to Cordon that a national park or monument at Fort Vancouver would be both historically significant and economically lucrative to Portland and Vancouver, bringing in "millions of dollars yearly." He recommended "that portion of Vancouver Barracks from and including the row of Officers' houses south to the Evergreen Highway and from McLoughlin Road on the West easterly to the Eastern boundary of the reservation" be included in the site. Ironically, Loeb's proposal did not include the original fort location because there were still Army buildings there, though a "plaque could be put on the spot and four concrete posts could be erected to give an outline of the original site." [28]

For the first time since the Olaf Hagen report, the National Park Service also showed interest in developing plans for the Fort Vancouver site. By October 1946, the Park Service regional historian, Dr. Aubrey Neasham, recommended that an archaeologist be sent to Vancouver to examine the area to locate the old stockade and its extant buildings before boundaries were recommended for legislation. [29]

In December 1946, the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society selected a new board of trustees which included local architect Donald J. Stewart and Howard J. Burnham. Though not directly in touch with the Park Service at this time, the board resolved, with the urging of the Washington State Historical Society, to ask the National Park Service to restore and administer 75 acres at the old fort site. [30] The areas that the historical society wished to preserve included:

(1) That area South of what is known as officers' row to East Fifth Street from the present Eastern boundary of Vancouver Barracks Military Reservation to McLoughlin Road, and (2) That area within two (2) hundred feet of what is known as the First Apple Tree now enclosed within a chain fence (3) The building known as "General Grant's quarters," and (4) The Military Cemetery. [31]

By January 1947, the Park Service realized the urgency of local efforts to establish a monument and stepped up its own efforts to locate the fort and its surrounding archaeological sites. In the spring of 1947 both Washington and Oregon state legislatures passed resolutions urging Congress to set aside land in Vancouver Barracks for a national monument. [32] The Park Service contacted the Hudson's Bay Company and received copies of a detailed map of the fort drawn by Lt. Vavasour of the Royal Engineers in 1845. However, unlike the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society, the Park Service did not see the value of reconstructing the fort. Secretary of the Interior Julius H. Krug informed Howard Burnham that "the agency will probably find it necessary to have recourse to museum or memorial treatment and site preservation rather than restoration, inasmuch as the Hudson's Bay Company's buildings have long been destroyed and conjectural reconstruction based on sketches or paintings would have limited value." [33] The Park Service was more interested in preserving cultural resources than bringing in tourist dollars, even if it meant "millions of dollars yearly."

As the Park Service and local historical societies began to work together to develop a plan to protect the fort site, the City of Vancouver made its own bid to the War Assets Administration for some 135 acres of surplus land in the Vancouver Barracks, "including Pearson airfield, plus rights of way for four east-west streets and one north-south street." Despite the Park Service's effort to establish a monument, the city wanted to appropriate 29 acres "between McClelland Road on the south and Grant Street on the north" to create its own Fort Vancouver. To the north of Grant Street, the city wanted land to build General U. S. Grant's log house, locate a public library, and establish a recreational park north of E. 13th Street and south of E. 18th. [34]

On March 12, 1947, the Park Service Region Four Director O. A. Tomlinson traveled to Vancouver to confer with the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society and the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce about the potential monument. (The National Park Service's Region Four, which later became the Western Region, had headquarters in San Francisco and would oversee the administration of any monument created in the Pacific Northwest.) After much discussion with the War Assets Administration, the National Park Service made formal application to the War Assets Administration for the old Fort Vancouver stockade site in Vancouver Barracks. [35]

In conjunction with the application for surplus land, U.S. Representative Fred Norman asked Newton B. Drury, director of the National Park Service, to draft legislation to authorize Fort Vancouver National Monument "withholding from further disposition a general area of about 200 acres of the present Vancouver Reservation." [36]

Since both the Park Service and the city wished to obtain a portion of the land south of 5th Street where the fort had been located, the War Assets Administration had to reconcile the two requests. Park Service Historian Aubrey Neasham and Planner B.F. Manby visited the site in April 1947 and met with city officials and the War Assets Administration to clarify their respective applications for surplus land at Vancouver Barracks. The Park Service could not go forward with its plan for a monument without locating the original fort site which had been generally situated with the help of a map created by Lt. M. Vavasour of the Royal Engineers in 1845. But the city, whose application for surplus property had been filed before the Park Service, had to agree to revise its plans. [37]

Unfortunately, the War Assets Administration representative, C.E. Zimmer, who was handling the Park Service application, fell ill in early April and two other agents took over. They planned to give the city full title to the entire Pearson Airfield parcel and the fort site while the Park Service application was in Zimmer's desk. [38] The change of War Asset Administration players seems to have changed the outcome of the earlier negotiations between the Park Service and War Assets Administration. O. A. Tomlinson, Park Service regional director, explained it to his boss in Washington, DC:

It appears that because we signified our desire not to accept the whole of Pearson Field and then give the City of Vancouver a special use permit for that part to be used as an airport, the War Assets Administration felt they could accomplish the same result by deeding to the City of Vancouver the entire field with the understanding that they would in turn grant the Park Service a permit to use the Hudson Bay Stockade area. [39]

Of course, the City of Vancouver saw the situation from a different angle. Before the surplus land issue was even settled, it had graded land south of 5th Street in preparation for construction of several hangars for Pearson Airpark. It was not until April 23, 1947, that the City of Vancouver agreed to withdraw its application for the 15-acre tract south of 5th Street covering the southern portion of the fort site. The Park Service revised its own application to encompass the fort site land, but only after Regional Planner B.F. Manby agreed to several concessions to the City of Vancouver: "1. To adjust the east and south boundaries, 2. To place only flat markers at the fort site, and 3. to restrict visitors from walking out onto the fort site." [40] But, again, the compromise agreed to by the Park Service was not so simple. The city did not immediately agree to release the fort site for use as a monument.

In May 1947, in a letter to W.K. Peery of Vancouver, Chapin Foster requested a progress report on the monument legislation and the Park Service plans for reconstruction. He was disappointed in the small 15-acre tract of land requested for the initial site; "I wondered just what they had in mind, or if they are thinking of a mineature [sic] restoration rather than full-scale." [41] What the Park Service had in mind, however, was more ambitious than just preserving the old Fort Vancouver fort site. By the fall of 1947, $7,500 was earmarked for Louis Caywood to excavate the fort site and Tom Vint, Ronald Lee, and Aubrey Neasham had devised a plan which placed an overlook museum on the east end of the parade ground. In order to accomplish this, the Park Service needed further negotiations with the Army for surplus land as well as a concerted effort to pass legislation and funding to create a monument. [42] But, the Park Service had limited its application for land to the small site of the original fort, barely large enough to be considered a "Historical Marker Site." By September 1947, Vint, Lee, and Neasham convinced the National Park Service of the significance of Fort Vancouver and the need for more land including the Barracks parade ground. The regional office, however, insisted that congressional appropriations had to be assured before the Park Service could commit to the monument land, thus producing a chicken-and-egg situation. [43]

Remains of the post molds of Fort Vancouver's west stockade wall of 1828-29, found by Louis Caywood in excavation of 1947. (Louis Caywood)

Because of the conflicting applications for surplus land, many local supporters of the proposed monument were worried that Congress would not designate enough land for the purpose. Burt Brown Barker of the Oregon Historical Society was especially adamant about the need for including not only the fort site but the Parade ground north of Evergreen highway as well. "We want all the land south of the highway," wrote Barker to Senator Guy Cordon, "excluding, if we must, the flying field. I realize that flying fields as small as the one in Vancouver will very soon be outdated. But the significance of this old post will last as long as we are an independent people." [44]

And though the city had verbally agreed to release the fort site earlier that year, it changed its position when the Civil Aeronautics Administration expressed objections to using the fort site for anything but airport-related activities. Indeed, the City of Vancouver's Mayor Verne Anderson indicated that the city might want to establish the monument itself. In November 1947, the National Park Service met with the city, the War Assets Administration, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration. The city decided it did not want to release the airfield property from its surplus land application for a national monument. Raymond Hoyt's teletype to the regional director said it all: "Meeting with CAA, WAA, and City not at all successful. Will report in person Friday." [45]

Not only did the City of Vancouver decide it would maintain its original application which included half of the fort site, but the mayor said the city also wanted to acquire the parade ground as a city park which he then wanted the Park Service to administer. [46] It took the intervention of National Park Service Director Newton Drury in December 1947 to force the War Assets Administration to delay its decision on any disposition of the surplus land until legislation was enacted to define the boundaries of Fort Vancouver National Monument. [47] The delay triggered a new round of negotiations with the city and a new opportunity for compromise.

But, the city's resistance to the proposed monument continued into the following spring. On March 23, 1948, when Congressman Russell V. Mack introduced a bill (H.R. 5957) calling for 125 acres for a national monument, the City of Vancouver voiced dismay at the size, thinking it would be much smaller. [48] Surprisingly, Mayor Anderson called a meeting for March 30, 1948 and announced that the city would relinquish its claim to the fort site on Pearson field provided that the Park Service restrict the use of the site. The city also withdrew its application for the parade ground. Instead, the city would apply for surplus riverfront property and build a park. [49]

Perhaps this concession to the Park Service was in exchange for another concession the city wanted. In April 1948, Mayor Verne Anderson called a meeting with Donald Stewart, president of the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society, and Ray Bachman, publisher of the local newspaper The Columbian, to discuss the amount of acreage to be requested by the pending monument legislation. No representatives from other interested agencies, such as the Oregon Historical Society or the Washington State Historical Society--in particular Burt Brown Barker or Howard Burnham--were invited. The mayor assured Representative Mack that "all interested parties were present, including representatives of the various government agencies involved in the area incorporated in the original Vancouver Barracks property." [50] Mack indicated that the National Park Service had estimated that "the acreage they would require at any time would not be in excess of about 70 acres and that if the maximum were placed at 90 it would be sufficiently high to take care of any error." [51] In fact, the letter from C. Gerard Davidson, assistant secretary of the Interior, supporting the legislation asked for 125 acres for the initial monument. [52]

According to Donald Stewart, certain members of the community feared that the 125-acre limitation would jeopardize the passage of the monument legislation; Congress might reject the whole package if it called for too much land. [53] Others have suggested the city thought that the monument might take up too much valuable real estate, such as Pearson Airpark. It was also no secret that members of the business community and local City government always resisted interference by government agencies in local affairs. The Park Service presence meant one more bureaucratic busy-body breathing down their necks. [54]

Soon after his meeting with the mayor, Representative Mack proposed an amendment to H.R. 5957 to change the size limitation for Fort Vancouver National Monument from 125 acres to 90 acres. [55] Upon hearing this, Burt Brown Barker telegrammed Senator Guy Cordon asking why Mack had reduced the acreage of the proposed monument. Barker recalled later to Park Service historian John Hussey that "Senator Morse and I called on Representative Mack and he explained that a party of local people had opposed the passage of the act, and that he compromised with them by striking out 125 acres and making it 90 acres." [56] Howard Burnham feared that the reduced acreage would be insufficient to include significant areas such as Kanaka Village which contained important archaeological sites. Political compromise again endangered the future of Fort Vancouver.

After the meeting between the mayor, Donald Stewart, and Ray Bachman, and Mack's subsequent legislative amendment, Howard Burnham called another meeting of the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society to introduce a different resolution to support "a grant of up to 125 acres for Fort Vancouver National Monument." Further, Burnham wished to castigate "as unauthorized and in direct contradiction of its continuing and expressed desire, any and all actions or commitments of any of its officers and/or representatives approving or agreeing to a reduction in the site area in said pending legislation." After Burnham's resolution, "all hell broke loose," according to one newspaper account. A special board meeting of the society was called on May 25, 1948, and within two hours the resolution was rescinded by pressure from Ray Bachman, and he denied there had ever been a secret meeting at the mayor's office with Representative Mack. [57] The Columbian, in response, described Burnham's action as an "ill-advised effort on the part of one or two of [the society's] members to create disharmony in the ranks of those supporting the creation of a Fort Vancouver National Monument." The Burnham-supported resolution asking for 125 acres was "based on misinformation and lack of information." [58]

Whatever the controversy was over the initial acreage of the proposed monument, nearly everyone agreed on the need to establish a monument. An editorial in The Oregon Journal stated that "Fort Vancouver is one of the truly great historic shrines of the West." [59] The authorization bill, reiterating an oft-used phrase, reminded all that Fort Vancouver had been "the cradle of civilization of the Northwest country."

On June 19, Congressman Mack's bill passed the Senate and was sent immediately to the President. Harry S Truman signed H.R. 5957 authorizing Fort Vancouver National Monument the same day. The act allowed the War Assets Administration to transfer up to 90 acres of surplus property in Vancouver Barracks to the secretary of the Interior without exchange of funds. The monument could not be formally established, however, until specific properties were transferred and notice of the transfer published in the Federal Register. [60] And though the City had agreed to loosen its grip on the fort site, the Army still claimed portions of the fort site that were also essential to the monument. There were six more years of land claim debates before the Park Service could officially declare Fort Vancouver a monument.

The Long Debate Over Land, 1948-1954

The enabling legislation of 1948 authorized the establishment of Fort Vancouver National Monument, which would "include the site of the old Hudson's Bay Company stockade." [61] The War Assets Administration and the secretary of the Army received authority to transfer land to the Department of the Interior without exchange of funds. But, it had yet to be determined exactly what property would ultimately be part of the new monument. The Park Service and the City of Vancouver had reached an agreement on the boundary between their respective properties, but the Army had to agree where its own boundaries lay before the monument could be established.

Although no specific funds were appropriated to create a park administration in 1948, the Park Service found some money to keep the project at Fort Vancouver National Monument vital. Louis Caywood received $8,500 for the following fiscal year to continue the archaeological excavations at the fort site. [62] By the fall of 1948, Russell Mack became one of the biggest advocates of reconstruction at Fort Vancouver and in October met with Alfred Loeb and Howard Burnham to ask "how much more land we needed" to accommodate this reconstruction. As Caywood uncovered building after building of the original fort site, he estimated that 125 acres would probably be a more practical size for the monument grounds. Though Representative Mack had been quick to reduce the Monument to 90 acres in the enabling legislation, during a visit to the fort site with Louis Caywood and Alfred Loeb, he "wanted to know why we did not include the houses constituting Officers' Row" in the original site. [63] Mack suggested that the Park Service request $300,000 to $500,000 in its budget to restore the old fort and to build a museum on the site. He predicted that Vancouver would become a mecca for hundreds of thousands of tourists. [64] To put this change of heart into perspective, we have to remember that Russell Mack was on a campaign trip through his home district.

But, of more immediate concern, the Army threatened to take back two parcels of land which had been part of the Park Service's surplus property request from Vancouver Barracks. A portion of the fort site adjacent to Pearson airfield had been released by the City of Vancouver, but the Department of the Army wanted to withdraw the northern portion of the fort site, which it called Parcel 2, for use by the National Guard and Organized Reserve Corps. The parade ground, called Parcel 3, also contained several Army buildings that the Park Service wanted to use as a staff residence, a museum, and storage, but which the Army now wanted to keep. The Park Service, however, had been assured by the secretary of the Army that the land was going to be declared surplus and that it would have priority rights to it.

In December 1948, Herbert Maier, associate director of Region Four, assured the Army that the land transfer was moving forward and "what is needed from our standpoint is the President's proclamation describing the boundaries." [65] The Park Service, however, wanted the War Assets Administration to go ahead and demolish some of the surplus buildings before the final land transfer so that the park could justify its request for funds to develop this site. Public opinion supported the Park Service's acquisition of the entire fort site and parade ground. "STOP THE ARMY GRAB," a Columbian headline demanded. [66] But the Park Service was caught in a bind. Herbert Maier wrote to Regional Director O.A. Tomlinson on January 11, 1949, that "since boundaries recommended are minimum requirements, Service should not compromise further but rather delay establishing monument until circumstances adjust themselves to permit securing most appropriate area." [67] The Park Service was in the untenable position of having to show some tangible progress toward creating a monument in order to request appropriation of the necessary funds to create that monument. Yet, until the boundary question was solved, it could not develop the site.

Perhaps because of the Army's reluctance to release some property for Fort Vancouver National Monument, the City of Vancouver renewed its own claims to the old fort site. On January 13, 1949, the Park Service, the city, the Army, and the War Assets Administration met to review their land boundaries. Even though the Park Service had agreed several years earlier to some restrictions on the fort site, it had to again reassure the city that it "would place no buildings on the area, using only flat markers, and would not encourage our visitors to walk over the area." Raymond Hoyt, Park Service regional chief of land and recreational planning, noted that the mayor finally agreed that the City of Vancouver would release its interest in the fort site. [68] By a letter of January 25, 1949, the City of Vancouver Aeronautics Board released the fort site from its airport application but added that the transfer would be subject to an easement for aircraft. [69]

In March 1949, Kenneth C. Royall, the secretary of the Army, informed the secretary of the Interior that the strip of buildings on the southwest side of the parade ground at Fort Vancouver National Monument was still "being considered for withdrawal from surplus for the use of the Organized Reserve Corps," though the Army had not formally requested it. [70] The Secretary of the Interior replied that the

historic parade ground is one of the principal features of the national monument project and ready access to it is important if the visiting public is to understand and appreciate the factors that led to the selection and development of the site by the Hudson's Bay Company as its capital in controlling the economic and political life of the Northwest. [71]

The local community sent their complaints to Congress. Some of the Vancouver historical groups continued to blame the Army, and inadvertently the city, for the delay. Portland businessman and early supporter Alfred A. Loeb, in a letter to Representative Russell Mack pointedly suggested that the Congressman "look into this to learn why this transfer [to the Park Service] has not been made, as in the meantime the City of Vancouver has received title to the airport grounds, likewise to school property, all within the original Vancouver Barracks boundaries." [72]

Though the southern portion of the fort site and the entire parade ground were legally transferred to the National Park Service on May 19, 1949, the Army continued to pressure Fort Vancouver about the parade ground property. [73] In early June 1949, Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray requested a non-revocable permit to use five buildings on the south side of the parade ground. [74] The Park Service agreed in principle to allow the Army to use four of the buildings "together with a portion of the old parade ground for the training of the Organized Reserve Corps, provided the military activities will not alter the appearance of the site, or interfere with the program for the development and public use of the Monument grounds." [75] But the Army disliked the uncertainty of using buildings only on a year-to-year basis when the cost of maintaining them was high. Gordon Gray wanted to know that all buildings at the southwest corner of the parade ground would be available, and threatened to keep the northern portion of the fort site unless the Park Service exchanged it for the parade ground buildings. [76]

On March 19, 1950, the local community reenacted the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver for its 125th anniversary. [77] This event reinforced the community's commitment to the establishment of the national monument. Indeed, local businessmen supported both appropriation of more land to the site and reconstruction of the fort. Alfred A. Loeb and Burt Brown Barker urged the Park Service and Congressman Russell Mack to secure the old Kanaka Village land west of the fort site which retained much of its archaeological significance. [78]

A group of proponents from the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society finally met with Louis Caywood and Army personnel to hash out a workable solution to a prolonged stalemate between the Park Service and the Army. The citizens' group, which included Alfred Loeb, Burt Brown Barker, Howard Burnham, Ray Bachman, Carl Landerholm, and Donald Stewart, proposed that the Park Service should be given the entire fort site while the Army retained the strip of buildings on the southwest corner of the parade ground. Fort Vancouver National Monument would keep the parade ground itself, but make it available for the Army's use. Then at some future date, the Army should also make the Kanaka Village property available to the Park Service. [79]

As the director of the Park Service in Washington was trying to negotiate with the secretary of the Army, the general staff, and the Corps of Engineers, the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society worked independently with General Robert A. McClure at Vancouver Barracks and the Department of the Army. Everyone in the Park Service and the Army seemed to agree with their sensible solution. The historical society, the Department of the Army, and the Park Service arrived at a "complete agreement" on June 20, 1950. [80]

By August 23, 1950, the secretary of the Army, Frank Pace, Jr. completed the agreement with the secretary of the Interior and worked out the land transfer. And just as the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society had suggested, the Park Service would

obtain by transfer from the Department of the Army the lands [at the fort site] that are needed to establish the National Monument. In return, certain lands and improvements in [the southwest portion of the parade ground] will be transferred to the administrative jurisdiction of the Department of the Army for the use of the Organized Reserve Corps. [Parts of the parade ground] will be made available for military activities under restrictive permit. [81]

In January 1951, Frank Hjort came on board as the first superintendent of Fort Vancouver National Monument. He immediately became embroiled in the negotiations over the parcels of Barracks land which were to be transferred to Fort Vancouver. B.F. Manby, Park Service regional chief of lands, informed the Region Four director that "All the lands deemed to be sufficient have not yet been transferred to the secretary of the Interior. Therefore, notice has not yet been published in the Federal Register and the monument has not yet been established and in consequence is still a `project.'" [82] Because of the uncertain status of the monument, the Park Service thought it best to wait until the General Services Administration (GSA) approved the land transfers before negotiating a revocable agreement with the Army for the use of the buildings on the parade ground. [83] The Army also insisted that the proposal go through military channels. Colonel Rodman, the commanding officer of Vancouver Barracks, worked with Frank Hjort to route any land documents to the Sixth Army Washington office for review.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Park Service reached a tentative agreement in July 1952 that reaffirmed the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society proposal. Instead of revising the respective land applications, however, the GSA would simply amend the original letter of land transfer to the National Park Service. [84] However, after several years of negotiating, the Army found yet one more "Catch-22." According to Title VI, Public Law 155, 82nd Congress, approved September 28, 1951, any transfer of property whose value exceeded $25,000 required review and approval by the Senate Armed Services Committee. [85] Unfortunately, the Armed Services Committee would not meet again until Congress convened January 3, 1953.

The transfer of property between the Army and the Park Service was completed April 5, 1954. GSA Administrator E.F. Mansure amended the May 19, 1949 letter of transfer to recognize the basic exchange of the Fort Vancouver stockade site for a strip of property and buildings on the southwest side of the parade ground. [86] In general, there was a feeling of relief. But, Superintendent Frank Hjort remained concerned that the monument had not yet been officially established. Herbert Maier, acting regional director, argued that Army officials and their decisions were "so frequently reversed, changed, or modified, orally and otherwise," he seemed reluctant to act too quickly. [87]

But nearly 60 acres of land were now officially part of Fort Vancouver. And on June 30, 1954, the secretary of the Interior, Douglas McKay, established Fort Vancouver National Monument by departmental order which was published on July 9, 1954, in the Federal Register. The lands within the monument boundary were finally preserved; no one could "appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this national monument [nor] locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof." [88] Secretary McKay traveled to Fort Vancouver in August 1955 to dedicate the monument as the climax of the Lewis and Clark Sesquicentennial celebration. The Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society presented McKay with a gavel to commemorate the occasion. Even though Secretary McKay's own ancestors had lived and worked with the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, he was cautious about the future of the monument. McKay wanted to restore the roads and trails of the old fort but

the reconstruction of the stockade and buildings is not favored. We would like to replant the orchard, fence in the fields and re-establish old wagon roads now forgotten [but] the National Park Service does not favor reconstruction of historic structures, particularly when most or all evidence of the original building has disappeared. [89]

It would take a different decade, a different Park Service director, and a different congressional representative to turn this policy around.

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Last Updated: 02-Feb-2000