The Administrative History of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
NPS Logo

Chapter Five:



Public relations presented a constant challenge to Fort Vancouver. As an historic site, Fort Vancouver struggled to maintain a balance between its national significance and the role it had in the local community. The power of compromise, helped Fort Vancouver maintain good relations with its neighbors: the Army, the City of Vancouver, the county, and the state. But compromise also helped erode the site's unique identity. On one hand, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site made the City of Vancouver more visible and attractive to visitors. On the other hand, Fort Vancouver lost some of its identity and autonomy as a national site since it was also perceived by some as a city park. The proximity of Pearson Airpark, and its eventual incorporation into the site, the special use agreements between the Park Service and the City concerning the riverfront property, and the creation of the Central Park Plan by the city, all contributed to this confusion.

Dedications and Publications

The Park Service's early efforts at public relations included displaying visible signs of the commemoration of the original fort, such as dedications marking significant anniversaries of Hudson's Bay Company activities and publication of historical reports to educate the public about Fort Vancouver's significance. In 1950, for instance, a group of local dignitaries reenacted the dedication of Fort Vancouver 125 years earlier on March 19. The dedication took place on the parade ground with a peeled 45-foot Douglas fir pole erected for the flagstaff. Hudson's Bay Company Governor George Simpson, played by Barent Burhans, "shattered a bottle of rum on the flagstaff", while Dr. [John] McLoughlin, a thinly disguised W.E. Farr, received a "gold headed cane of Mayor Anderson." [1]

Frank Hjort, the first superintendent, tried hard to publicize the new monument. Yet, like today, Hjort struggled with making sure the site was used for appropriate purposes. In the spring of 1951, for instance, a large group of church congregations wanted to use the parade ground for a Gospel crusade. Both the superintendent and Herbert Maier, assistant regional director, thought it "highly undesirable to have the precedent established that the Fort Vancouver National Monument be regarded as a place for holding tent meetings, conventions, and other public gatherings of a similar nature." [2]

In the spring of 1954, after the site was officially designated as a monument, Hjort requested that The Columbian carry an article with a map of the monument lands. "A great deal of this kind of publicity will be necessary," he wrote, "before the citizens of Vancouver can fully understand where the National Monument is." [3] Unfortunately, very few signs directed visitors from the main roads to Fort Vancouver in those early years. Hjort faithfully contacted radio and television stations to give the park a higher profile. In 1955, as the dedication for the establishment of Fort Vancouver National Monument drew near, the superintendent even "appeared on several Portland television stations explaining the history of Fort Vancouver and the purpose of the national monument." [4] The success of Hjort's continued effort at public relations could be seen by an increase in visitation by the late 1950s. [5]

In the late 1950s, John Hussey published The History of Fort Vancouver and its Physical Structure through the Washington State Historical Society, which drew together a decade of historical research on Fort Vancouver. Together with Louis Caywood's archaeological findings, Hussey's book generated both popular and scholarly interest in the site and its history. [6] Their work also gave weight to Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen's efforts to pass legislation to expand the site.

In 1962, when Fort Vancouver National Historic Site opened its newly constructed Visitor Center, the Park Service's image improved even further in the eyes of the local public. As Frank Hjort succinctly put it:

We have felt for years that our bargaining power with other agencies, especially the city of Vancouver, as well as our public relations would improve as soon as we had adequate facilities. The completion of our MISSION 66 projects has brought this into sharp focus already. Every member of the city council has visited us and has expressed a willingness to cooperate whenever they can. Many other agency heads have visited us and all seem to better understand our position in the community. [7]

The dedication ceremony for the new Visitor Center on March 18, 1962, epitomized that local cooperation. The event was planned as a flag-waving, saluting, military-marching, good old all-American celebration led by various dignitaries from the Department of the Interior, the Park Service, and state and local governments. Besides dedicating the new park building, the event targeted the public's image of Fort Vancouver. "Living as we do in a city which is quite indifferent to the history and significance of Fort Vancouver," wrote the Fort Vancouver staff, "we wish to make the most of this dedication in selling the Historic Site to the local public and especially in emphasizing the fact that this is a National Park Service area." Important to conveying this image was the presence of a large contingency of uniformed personnel. Rangers came to Vancouver from Olympic National Park to help with security and arrangements. [8]

With nearly 1,000 people attending, including R.H. Chesshire, a representative from the Hudson's Bay Company, Regional Director Lawrence C. Merriam gave the keynote address. Merriam cited the benefits of the historic site for the community, including "tourist dollars, increased values of surrounding properties, and employee payrolls." Yet, he also stressed the Park Service's determination "to promote a quiet pride in our past and a confidence in our future, the essence of that true patriotism without which no nation or people can long endure." [9]

More than 10 years later, Fort Vancouver once again celebrated a landmark event. On April 19, 1974, the Park Service dedicated the completion of the reconstructed stockade wall and bastion on the 150th anniversary of the founding of Fort Vancouver. Despite the cold weather, the presence of Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen and Oregon Governor Tom McCall drew large crowds and the press. The reconstructed fort forged another iron link between the Park Service and community. [10]

Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen played a key role in the development of Fort Vancouver. Here she is accepting an appropriate symbol of her work at the dedication of the newly reconstructed stockade wall and bastion on April 19, 1974. (Alfred A. Monner, The Journal)


Besides dedications and publications, Fort Vancouver hosted many special events that attracted visitors to the site. From Easter egg hunts to military drills on the parade ground, these special events have been important to build relations between the Park Service and the local community.

The Fourth of July Celebration

Probably one of the best known but also the most controversial special events is the Fourth of July celebration. The City of Vancouver first sponsored the event using Park Service and city land in 1963 when William R. Sampson was acting superintendent after Frank Hjort transferred. That first year, around 17,500 people

enjoyed helicopter demonstrations, sky diving exhibitions, water fights between the fire departments, a presentation of highlights from the MUSIC MAN, tours of the fort site, and a spectacular fireworks display on the airport. For the first time in many years, groups were allowed free use of the fort site, and eight members of the Fort Vancouver Historical Society were stationed at key locations within the stockade walls to interpret the site and pass out information sheets prepared by us and printed by the City's committee in charge of arrangements. [11]

The site received five times more visitors than they had during the previous July, forcing them to use the parade ground as a parking lot.

By the late 1960s, the Fourth of July celebrations were drawing 10,000 to 15,000 people each year. Special guest speakers attracted these crowds every year. In 1966, Representative Julia Butler Hansen gave a keynote address. Senator Henry Jackson was principal speaker in 1968. Indeed, as the years passed, the event grew in importance to and attendance by the local community. In 1968, Superintendent Eliot Davis complained that crowd control and protection was far too much for "two uniformed NPS employees. This year we hope to deputize local police and sheriff's officers. The events are drawing more and more young people who are looking for action and one of these days we could have some." [12] Davis also complained about firecrackers and fires on park property, but noted that the

local paper carried an article stating that the state fire marshals are proposing legislation to forbid the sale of all fireworks within the state. This would not only get rid of the fireworks, but also the whole celebration. We are wishing the fire marshals the best of luck. [13]

Indeed, Davis was not too thrilled as the celebration became the "annual" Fourth of July celebration. "You can well imagine the breathless excitement with which we anticipate this traditional, patriotic event," the superintendent told the regional director in 1969, "In order not to be selfish about this momentous occasion, you are all invited. Please wear your uniform." [14]

When Donald Gillespie was appointed superintendent in 1972, he felt that the celebration on July Fourth was "strictly a P.R. exercise and my initial impression is that it generates more awareness of the park than we seem to get during the remainder of the year." [15] He recognized that the celebration and continuing good relations with the city was necessary to the health of the park.

However, like his predecessor Eliot Davis, Donald Gillespie also felt that the Fourth of July celebration had no place on a national historic site because of safety hazards and crowd control problems. On July 4, 1976, an estimated 65,000 to 70,000 visitors packed the fort site to view fireworks. (The traffic jam did not clear until 3 o'clock in the morning.) New federal safety regulations had been imposed on the state that restricted firing rockets near highways--they had to be at least 300 feet away and the firing site required sufficient barriers to keep people from wandering into the firing area. Though Fort Vancouver received help from both the city and Vancouver Barracks to control the crowd, both the City Council's Fourth of July Committee and the Fort Vancouver superintendent made a serious effort to find a new location for the following year. [16] Gillespie noted in his bicentennial annual report that he had announced that 1976 would be the last year the city could use the current firing site on Park Service property because it would "not meet the requirements of the recent safety rules established for discharge of pyrotechnic displays." [17]

In 1977, Gillespie stood by the joint decision made by the park and the Fourth of July Committee the previous year. The celebration and daytime activities could continue, but the park would not be used to launch fireworks. The Fourth of July Committee, however, reversed its decision and insisted that the historic site was the only possible place for the fireworks. [18] In another classic compromise, by June, Donald Gillespie reached an agreement with the city that seemed satisfactory to everyone. The city agreed to put more money into police coverage, a fence was to be installed around the firing site, publicity would be reduced in hopes of reducing the crowd, and beer drinking would be discouraged. Public pressure played an important role in reviving the celebration for 1977. [19]

However, the following year the Fourth of July celebration nearly fizzled once more. This time it was clearly the decision of the Fourth of July Committee. Jim Larson, the co-chairman of the committee, said the obstacles had become too great including "increasing expense of the event, what he termed a lack of cooperation from historic site Superintendent Don Gillespie and `biased coverage' of the event by the Columbian." Apparently, the committee's exclusive sales of fireworks which had financed the event in the past no longer existed and the sales competition from other vendors left the committee with little funding. Yet, two days after their announcement, the problems had supposedly been resolved and the celebration was back on track. [20]

The Fourth of July celebration remains one of the busiest events of the year at Fort Vancouver. The superintendent still struggles to maintain the safety standards and cooperation of the city to make the event successful and safe. There are also still questions about the effects of the event on the archaeological resources of the site, especially that portion of the site used for launching fireworks. Most recently, Superintendent Dave Herrera has had to insist that the State Patrol keep cars from parking or stopping along SR 14 on the south side of the historic site during the fireworks display.

The Brigade Encampment

Another special event more apropos to the setting of Fort Vancouver is the annual Fur Brigade Encampment. Held for the first time in the summer of 1980, the encampment is a reenactment of the return of Hudson's Bay Company fur trapping brigades from the field in the early 19th century. During that first year,

about 20 participants were invited by the park from among the various local mountain-men groups. The participants set up lodgings and various craft displays and took part in contests such as tomahawk throwing, jews harp playing, and frying pan throwing (for women). [21]

Fort Vancouver sponsors the two-to-three-day event. There has been a concerted attempt to keep modern conveniences out of the camps as much as possible and to maintain historical activities, period clothing, and events. In 1991, a record 4,700 visitors arrived to see the Brigade Encampment instead of the usual 2,500 to 3,500. [22]


Though special events brought the visitors into Fort Vancouver and helped maintain good public relations, there are other aspects of the relationship between Fort Vancouver and the City of Vancouver which deserve mention. The problems of Pearson Airpark and the Waterfront Park warrant separate examination; the history of their development as park-owned but city-operated properties present unique problems that justify detailed discussion. But several other issues of city planning and land use sorely tested the Park Service's ability to compromise.

For instance, in the fall of 1948, just after Fort Vancouver National Monument was authorized, the City of Vancouver approached the Park Service to explore the possibility of building a civic center in conjunction with the monument, which would have allowed "the civic center to be all or partly within the proposed boundary of the monument." Harold Fowler, a park planner who met with the city during discussions on the Civic Center, admitted that the design could possibly work but that the development had to avoid "complex boundaries" since dual jurisdiction over the site of a civic center would be impractical. [23] It took the regional office a mere 3 days to formulate an answer for the Mayor of Vancouver: "the combined development would create a very crowded condition and would definitely introduce other elements into the picture that would automatically reduce the effectiveness of our presentation of the Fort Vancouver Story." [24] This was only the beginning of the Park Service's involvement in the City of Vancouver's planning and development schemes - and indicative of the nature of these future plans.

The John McLoughlin/George C. Marshall Park

The congressional act which established Fort Vancouver in 1948 also gave the director of the National Park Service authority to make final determinations on the transfer of any surplus property within Vancouver Barracks if that property were requested for purposes of public park and recreation areas or as an historic monument. Therefore, when the city decided to apply for surplus property north of Fort Vancouver National Monument in the spring of 1949, the Park Service assisted in preparing the application. The city wanted the site to develop as a "Monument," which would have allowed the city to acquire the property at a 50% discount.

Though the Park Service believed that a city monument would create a buffer zone and keep land from intensive commercial development, Neal Butterfield and John Hussey studied the historic significance of the site and determined that the two pieces of property north of Fort Vancouver National Monument--now the George C. Marshall Park and John McLoughlin Memorial Library--did not have enough historical significance to warrant being part of an historical monument. [25] There were no significant historic remains and the Fort Vancouver National Monument had already been established to encompass the historical significance of Vancouver Barracks lands. By December 1949, the city revised its application to transfer surplus property for public park and recreational purposes instead. [26] The city obtained the property on March 16, 1950, and began making plans to develop a city park.

However, in the early 1950s, development of the park was delayed because the state wanted to construct a clover leaf and expand Interstate 5, both of which were to be completed sometime in 1954. [27] The city continued to file biennial progress reports with the General Services Administration concerning development of the surplus property. In 1960, George L. Collins, Park Service regional chief of recreation resource planning, prodded the city about the status of its site plans:

We realize that funds have been limited, that numerous attempts to obtain approval for a bond issue for development have been unsuccessful, and that there have been other elements which have interfered with development of the site. We feel, however, that the City authorities should give serious thought to developing this area for the purposes for which it was conveyed. [28]

Two years later, development had not begun; the city had not provided restrooms or even picnic tables for the site.

Various rumors circulated about the city's public park property. First, the city was going to build a children's playground and swimming pool, then it was heard that the city wanted to use the property for a new city hall. Vancouver continued to speak vaguely about the property; it supposedly was available for use though no facilities were provided, and the city never reported any actual use.

The federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation monitored the development of the site. By 1963, the bureau informed the City of Vancouver that unless it developed the 13 acres as a park the city would have to give the land back. The city was required to submit plans for the property as a park within 120 days or give notice that the title was reconveyed to the United States. [29] The city quickly proposed to construct a new "recreation building" on the site, to replace another that had been torn down elsewhere. Some saw this maneuver as a deceptive means of putting city administrative buildings on land meant for parks and recreation. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation field representative R.W. Allin complained to the Park Service director that the city had not shown good faith in developing the surplus land. He thought that the "government's interests" would be better served if a federal agency, such as the Park Service, administered the property. [30]

Pressured into action, the city developed plans for General George C. Marshall Park, which included a recreational building and playground. By the end of 1963, the city had installed playground equipment, softball fields, picnic facilities and a rose garden. The voters also passed a bond issue to finance the recreation building which was constructed between 1964 and 1966. [31]


City Zoning, Land Use, and Jurisdiction at Fort Vancouver

Fort Vancouver had always been concerned about land use on property adjacent to the site. The Park Service feared losing buffer zone property such as Officers' Row or the eastern portion of Pearson Airpark to commercial development. In the 1950s, the regional office recommended that Superintendent Frank Hjort "endeavor to prevent non-conforming or nuisance use of peripheral monument land. Proper zoning is the answer to this and you should keep in touch with such activities so you can influence the regulations to have them conform with what you desire to accomplish or prevent." [32] And so Fort Vancouver became an active party in community planning.

In July 1952, the City of Vancouver installed a manager-type government. Zoning issues became one of the top priorities for the new government. [33] By the 1960s, the city contemplated zoning surplus Army land in Vancouver Barracks which had never before been zoned. [34] Though many on the City Council preferred that the Barracks ultimately be used for commercial development, the Park Service worked to protect the Fort Vancouver site. As a way of protecting the land, the Park Service prepared a boundary study in the mid-1960s which laid claim to pieces of property within the Barracks that might otherwise have been zoned for commercial development such as Pearson Airpark. Superintendent Eliot Davis was concerned that the city would attempt to sell or develop portions of Pearson for purposes other than an airport, thus going against the restrictions in the quit claim deeds with the federal government.

The city's discussion of zoning Vancouver Barracks paralleled its attempts to annex the property. As early as 1968, the City of Vancouver explored the possibility of annexing federal lands in Vancouver Barracks. The advantage for the city included increased tax revenue. Fort Vancouver would also gain the advantage of better coordinated police and fire protection. Though the fort had "fire protection now under an informal agreement," the Park Service wanted to change its status from proprietary and exclusive jurisdiction to concurrent jurisdiction, which would allow the Park Service to apply both state and federal regulations to any criminal or legal situation at the historic site. [35]

With the pending sale of Pearson Airpark to the National Park Service in 1972, this issue became even more important. Who would be responsible for law enforcement in an area which was owned by the federal government but leased to the City of Vancouver? The Park Service petitioned to convert Fort Vancouver's status to concurrent jurisdiction to keep all services consistent. Their changed status would help address some of the problems of crowd control, the use of hazardous fireworks, and the proliferation of teen gangs during the large Fourth of July celebration. [36]

The city requested that Congressman Mike McCormack assist in initiating legislation "for a Retrocession of Jurisdiction of the Federal enclaves within the City of Vancouver," to allow uniform jurisdiction in all portions of Park Service land. [37] The change would permit either city or county emergency vehicles to answer calls at Fort Vancouver without putting the call on lowest priority. [38]

On February 27, 1974, the city officially annexed the property in the Vancouver Barracks and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. [39] But it was not until 1981 that the National Park Service relinquished partial legislative jurisdiction over Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to the State of Washington. In a letter to Senator James McClure, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Park Service Director Russell E. Dickenson contended that the proposal was "a means to provide increased protection to park visitors and park resources. It will result in a partnership between the United States and the State of Washington in the protection of persons and property within the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site." The concurrent jurisdiction left the management of natural and historical resources to the United States, but removed "the barriers to full civil rights that exist in areas of exclusive jurisdiction." [40]

Concurrent jurisdiction did not mean that security problems went away. As Fort Vancouver National Historic Site acquired more small pieces of land outside the main stockade and parade ground area, policing the entire site became increasingly difficult. In the spring of 1988, the elevated berm of the railroad right-of-way became a popular gathering spot for large numbers of young people in cars where "it appeared there was considerable consumption of alcohol, possibly drug distribution and use, and a general inclination to get rowdy, fighting breaking out with resulting injuries, perhaps the potential for homicide." Fort Vancouver decided to put up a barrier of posts and cable to discourage the young people. [41]

Central Park Planning

Once Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was annexed to the City of Vancouver in the spring of 1974, it opened the way for the City Council to introduce the Central Park Planning concept. The 600-acre Central Park Planning area included all the publicly-owned property that once incorporated Vancouver Barracks, including Clark College and city property north of Evergreen Boulevard. A Central Park Plan helped alleviate the Park Service's fears of commercial development encroaching on Fort Vancouver.

In 1975, the city organized a Regional Urban Design Assistance (RUDA) team, a group of planning and design professionals to coordinate efforts. Donald Gillespie, as superintendent of Fort Vancouver, sat on the Planning Commission steering committee which monitored potential impacts on national park plans, goals, and objectives. [42]

Though, according to The Columbian, the city was at first uncertain whether Pearson Airpark fit into the Central Park concept, by the fall of 1975, Pearson became one of its main focuses as the center for an aviation museum. [43] Two years later the Vancouver Central Park Steering Committee of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce was still "working on a plan to preserve the cultural, historical and recreational assets of an area referred to as `Vancouver Central Park.'" The participating federal, state, county, city, and private property owners were still developing a master plan and land use guidelines. [44] Though Fort Vancouver had always supported the idea of coordinating development and growth in the old Barracks area, some of the private developers seemed less than enthusiastic. [45]

By August 1979, the master plan and the RUDA recommendations had been approved and the Central Park Advisory Committee was in place. Fort Vancouver Superintendent James M. Thomson was asked to join the Central Park Community Support Group, a separate body. Thomson realized that the Executive Advisory Committee made all the decisions to implement the plan while the major property owners were put into the Support Group. Consequently, it was difficult for Fort Vancouver to respond quickly to any development proposals. [46]

Two major actions under the Central Park Plan that specifically affected Fort Vancouver were the reconstruction of an historic bandstand on the parade ground in 1980 and the disposition of Officers' Row. In 1982, the city received by trade two buildings on Officers' Row which it operated as the Marshall House Restaurant and Grant Museum. The General Services Administration, now proprietors of surplus Barracks property, wanted the city to buy the rest of the buildings on Officers' Row, but the city balked at the price tag of $1.3 million. The Park Service soon learned that Congressman Donald Bonker wanted to introduce legislation that would transfer Officers' Row to the Park Service in conjunction with congressional appropriation. The Park Service would, in turn, lease Officers' Row to the city under the Historic Preservation Act provisions. [47] Indeed, the city welcomed the idea of acquiring Officers' Row at little or no cost through a Park Service lease. The National Park Service, however, refused to support the Bonker legislation. Yet by 1986, the city was able to acquire the remainder of Officers' Row at no cost from the General Services Administration through a surplus property provision. The City was obligated to maintain and preserve the buildings since they were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The United States Army always had close ties with Fort Vancouver, whether under Hudson's Bay Company or National Park Service jurisdiction. Since 1860, when the Army took over the decaying and empty stockade and surrounding property, it strongly influenced the land's use and disposition. For instance, during World War I the Army's Spruce Mill Division covered most of the old stockade site and much of Pearson airfield. By the 1920s, the Army had created a small airfield for its Army Air Service. On May 25, 1933, "Vancouver Barracks was designated as a training camp for men enlisting under the new Roosevelt reforestation program," the Civilian Conservation Corps. [48] Finally, in 1946, surplus Army property was transferred to the War Assets Administration, which oversaw the disposition of these lands to other governmental agencies or entities such as the National Park Service and the City of Vancouver.

General Army Cooperation

After legislation authorized Fort Vancouver National Monument, the National Park Service continued to rely on Army cooperation. Louis Caywood and Neal Butterfield relied on the good graces of the Army to use its buildings for work space near the excavation site. They had to maintain the two buildings and pay for utilities, but the Park Service could use them rent-free. [49] Caywood also appreciated the Army guard patrol performed three or four times a night to provide security around the excavation site. [50] Indeed, the archaeologists relied on the good will of the Army to allow the early excavation of the stockade site, since the final transfer of the north half of the fort site was not completed until 1954. The Park Service also had to negotiate with the Army over responsibility for maintaining and protecting buildings in the monument and Barracks area, since the issue of land had not been settled.

Land Transactions between 1948 and 1954

Between 1948 and 1954, when Fort Vancouver National Monument was formally established, the Park Service vied with the Army over several parcels of land which were extremely important to the integrity of the site. During the fall of 1948 and winter 1949, the Army at Vancouver Barracks did not want to give up the buildings at the southwest corner of the parade ground and threatened to keep the north half of the old stockade unless the Park Service allowed it to keep the other buildings. [51] After years of negotiations, the Park Service agreed to exchange the row of Army buildings and land on the southwest portion of the Parade Ground for the parcel containing the fort site, and thus completed its initial land acquisition that became Fort Vancouver National Monument in 1954.

Army Aircraft Taxiway

Just as the most controversial issue between the Park Service and the City of Vancouver has revolved around the airfield, a long standing issue between Fort Vancouver and the Army was an aircraft taxiway easement. The original easement was established May 14, 1963, when the Army transferred the land encompassing part of historic Kanaka Village to the National Park Service.

In May 1972, the Army requested a modification of the easement to allow the military aircraft to park on the right-of-way. [52] The original permit, however, became invalid after the Park Service purchased Pearson Airpark, requiring a permit revision. The Park Service modified the easement in March 1973, allowing the Army to widen the taxiway to accommodate newer, larger aircraft. But Superintendent Donald Gillespie complained that the Army mowed a larger swath, about 100 feet wide,

all the way to the Pearson Air Park runway and back around to the West of the existing hedge row. There is also evidence that a rather large tree (about 12 inches in diameter) was taken out and the area is now dotted with well over 50 old tires painted yellow as runway guides. [53]

Consequently, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site drew up a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Army at Vancouver Barracks to better specify the extent of the easement. However, by December Gillespie was "afraid that those damn tires are sprouting roots." [54]

As late as November 1974, the Memorandum of Agreement had not been officially signed since certain issues were pending such as the configuration of the easement and whether visiting aircraft could park on the easement. The Army wanted to park aircraft, but the Park Service wanted aircraft to stay at Pearson Airpark or the Barracks. Major James H. Lyles told Gillespie that he "would prefer to settle the aircraft easement question by merely amending the description and drawing of the easement contained in the original Documentation of Transfer" of 1963. [55]

In 1977 C. Richard Neely, assistant regional solicitor, expressed a legal opinion that an agency of the Executive Branch, such as the Army, could not hold an easement on property owned by the United States. Since the Army's taxiway was held by agreement between the secretary of the Army and the secretary of the Interior, the latter could extinguish the agreement at any time. [56] So, instead the Park Service prepared a special use permit for the Army taxiway, which was periodically updated or modified. [57] By 1990, however, the Army had let the special use permit for the taxiway lapse, since it was no longer needed.


Throughout its existence, Fort Vancouver has had support and assistance from outside groups such as historical societies and cooperating associations. These groups not only assisted in creating legislation for the original Monument at Fort Vancouver in 1948, but continue to help the Park find volunteer support and funding for some special programs.

The Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society

The Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society was first established on March 9, 1940. This group succeeded several other attempts to create local historical societies whose focus was to establish a monument commemorating the history of the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Vancouver. According to early board member Donald Stewart, the society first made an agreement with the Army to lease an acre of land near the state's oldest apple tree where Interstate 5 now runs through the Barracks for the reconstruction of a small scale model of the stockade. Stewart, a local architect, drew up plans for the model. [58]

The nation's entry into World War II interrupted these plans and the group became inactive. In January 1947, after the war, the society was reactivated when the Army declared portions of Vancouver Barracks surplus property. The first board of trustees for the revitalized historical society included W.K. Peery, Howard Burnham, Don Stewart, John Camp, Eva Santee, Ray Bachman, and Ken Billington. Together with the Washington State Historical Society, the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society sponsored the legislation for Fort Vancouver National Monument. [59]

Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society supported the monument movement in a variety of ways. The society solicited the backing of congressional members. It also objected to the Army's attempt to take back portions of the Barracks which had been scheduled for the monument. In 1949, the Army planned to retain the northern portion of the fort site for the Army Reserve Corps as well as parts of the parade ground. In response, Donald Stewart, president of the Historical Society, sent "a resolution protesting the army action to members of Congress and to local organizations." [60] Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society finally worked independently with Vancouver Barracks and the Department of the Army to reach a compromise. The Park Service agreed to exchange a portion of the parade ground for the fort site in 1950 and in 1954, Fort Vancouver National Monument was officially established.

By 1950, the purpose of the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society had expanded. Its goals were to develop a museum for housing the various books, manuscripts, and material resources they had received, to promote regional historic research, to establish school programs, and to stimulate interest in Fort Vancouver. In order to create interest in the monument, the society insisted that Fort Vancouver needed to reconstruct the original stockade. [61]

The Park Service disagreed. There were no immediate plans for funding the reconstruction of the fort. Indeed, Park Service policy ran contrary to reconstruction of historic buildings or sites. Frank Hjort, when he became superintendent at Fort Vancouver in 1951, had been cautioned against restoration. [62] Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society, however, had a clause in its articles of incorporation that called for the reconstruction of Old Fort Vancouver. The regional director warned the Fort Vancouver staff to avoid serving as a board member to the society as long as this goal remained in the organization's statement of goals. Frank Hjort succeeded in changing the Historical Society's by-laws. [63]

By the early 1950s, the Historical Society had moved into other areas of local historic promotion. "It is true that originally it also had in mind the reconstruction and restoration of Fort Vancouver," wrote Aubrey Neasham, regional historian, "however, since acquisition of the site by the National Park Service, Mr. Hjort states that Society has dropped these plans and `is now devoted to the gathering of historical objects and in developing, marking and bringing to public attention other historic spots in this vicinity.'" Neasham suggested that both Frank Hjort and Louis Caywood participate in the local Society's programs and planning to prevent any actions by them adverse to park policies of "protection, administration, and interpretation of the area." [64] The Park Service still insisted that neither Caywood nor Hjort discuss Park Service matters with members of the historical society.

Yet, the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society continued to dream of recreating the Hudson's Bay Company post. Donald Stewart recalls going to Washington, D.C. in 1956, to meet with the director of the Park Service to discuss the issue of restoration of Fort Vancouver. The Park Service remained reluctant to agree to that action. But this did not deter the group. In October 1956, the Historical Society had three historical signs erected, one at the site of the first Fort Vancouver, one at the first sawmill, and one at the Covington House. [65] By the late 1950s, the society along with other interested groups, met with local service clubs, City Council members, and County Commissioners to urge Congressman Russell Mack to expedite passage of H.R. 194, which was the first attempt to increase the boundaries of Fort Vancouver to 220 acres. [66]

After some gentle prodding by Frank Hjort, the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society finally dropped "Restoration" from its name in January 1960. [67] But the society continued to promote the development of Fort Vancouver. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Fort Vancouver Historical Society was involved in a wide range of activities. President John Brougher, Gus Norwood, and Victoria Ransom have provided support and exhibition preparation for the Clark County Historical Museum, published a bulletin, and organized an annual picnic.

The Northwest Historical Association, Inc.

Another important source of support for national parks are their cooperating associations. In 1951, the superintendent at Mount Rainier first suggested creating an association at Fort Vancouver National Monument. Preston P. Macy sent a copy of their association's by-laws to Frank Hjort and offered the use of Mount Rainier Association as a cooperative venture. One major purpose of an association was "to make available to visitors various publications." [68] But Fort Vancouver decided to establish its own association and in November 1952, Frank Hjort drew up papers for the Northwest Historical Association. He chose the name "because there are at present at least three organizations in Vancouver including this monument which start with the words `Fort Vancouver' and which causes a great deal of confusion at the post office." [69] Assistant Regional Director Herbert Maier suggested some ground rules for the new association: no Park Service employee could be the treasurer; the association had to confine its interest to the Fort Vancouver story; and it should drop "Northwest" from the name since "that term as ordinarily used includes a lot of territory." [70]

Despite the suggestion on the name, the Northwest Historical Association was incorporated on January 9, 1953, by Louis Caywood, Frank Hjort, John F. Camp, Jr., Carl Landerholm, and Patricia Dell. [71] The articles and by-laws were recorded by the State of Washington January 28, 1953, and, as suggested by Assistant Director Ronald F. Lee, the by-laws contained provisions to enable the association to buy or hold property on behalf of the Park Service. [72]

In order to begin operation, the Northwest Historical Association borrowed money from the Eastern National Park & Monument Association in 1953. [73] During those early years the Northwest Historical Association managed both Fort Vancouver and Fort Clatsop sales operations. This double duty ended in October 1963 when the association focused on Fort Vancouver operations alone, though Fort Clatsop activities had averaged about 75% of the total sales for the group. [74]

In October 1974, the Northwest Historical Association was dissolved and a combined effort called the Pacific Northwest National Parks and Forests Association was created by the regional office. [75] Under this new association, Fort Vancouver sales increased tremendously. Yet, the amount of assistance provided to Fort Vancouver's interpretive programs from those sales was only about 10% of the sales proceeds. The regional cooperating group currently operates under the name of Northwest Interpretive Association.

Friends of Fort Vancouver

Bob Appling, the former chief of interpretation and resource management, recalled that he and Glenn Baker wanted to organize a "Friends of Fort Vancouver" beginning sometime in 1987. They hoped to establish an organization that could work as an intermediary between the park and the public on such issues as Pearson Airpark. They also hoped to establish a cooperative association to replace the Pacific Northwest National Parks and Forests Association that might return more profit from sales directly to the park. The high administrative costs for the existing cooperating association left little of the profits to the park for interpretation. [76]

The Friends of Fort Vancouver worked well as an advocacy group, but was unable to function as a cooperating association. A memorandum of agreement between the Park Service and the Friends of Fort Vancouver was prepared in March 1991, which outlined the purpose of the society. The organization included thirteen park volunteers whose main goal was to aid the visitor service programs and objectives of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The agreement intended "to authorize private fundraising for the reconstruction of additional historic structures and support of other programs at Fort Vancouver NHS," because no funding for reconstruction had been authorized since 1981. The Friends' role included raising money as well as collecting interpretive items for the fort. The agreement extended 5 years from the date which Susan Hudson, as president, signed on behalf of the group. The park allowed the Friends to use office space within the historic site grounds as well as other support. [77]

The Friends of Fort Vancouver have faithfully supported the Park Service in its attempt to uphold the provisions of the deed of purchase for Pearson Airpark, which restricts use of the airfield beyond 2002. Members of the Friends of Fort Vancouver have attended most meetings of the Historical Reserve Study Commission and have supported maintaining the integrity of the site. Though Susan Hudson resigned as president in 1992, the Park Service is in the process of creating a strong advisory board of influential community members to once more build up a base of support for Fort Vancouver.

Historical associations and societies, the Army, and the City of Vancouver have all contributed to or affected the development of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in a variety of ways. Given its location, Fort Vancouver needs to continue to solicit the good will of these special interest groups, especially as the debate over the Vancouver Historical Reserve escalates. Compromise has been and will continue to be the site's best public relations tool.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 02-Feb-2000