History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
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Era of Development

With these projects under way, the "era of development" was now a fact. It is true that there were times during the six-year period, from 1933 to 1939, that construction activities were suspended due to lack of funds, but the step had been taken and Scotts Bluff National Monument was assured a lasting place in the National Park System.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt took the oath of office as President of the United States on March 4, 1933, he summoned up the vast resources of the nation to combat the grip of depression in which the country found itself. One of the earliest of the "alphabetical" relief agencies was the Civil Works Administration. It did not take long before this agency was called upon to continue the work at the Monument and on November 24, 1933, it was authorized to start construction. [56]

Civil Works Administration laborers
Civil Works Administration laborers start work on the parking area on the summit of Scotts Bluff, December 20, 1933.

The first allotment amounted to $61,977. This was to carry the work until February 15, 1934, when an additional allotment of S2,500 was authorized to carry the project on a reduced basis until all C.W.A. work stopped at the end of April. [57]

David L. Froerer, Highway Engineer of the Bureau of Public Roads, had taken immediate charge of the road work on December 9. Francis D. LaNoue, Assistant Chief Ranger of Yellowstone National Park, had arrived on December 13 to assume temporary charge of administrative duties connected with this work. About 213 men were employed on the project and all were hired from assignments of the Scotts Bluff County Re-employment Office. [58]

Oddly enough, work started on the upper parking area of the bluff at the same time as on the first tunnel. This was due to the desirability of placing a large force of men to work immediately. It was not possible to employ a large number of men on the tunneling where the confined area interfered. Men working on the summit parking area excavation were obliged to climb the new foot trail to work each day taking hand tools and wheelbarrows with them. No heavy equipment was used on any of these projects at this time except for a few trucks to haul dirt and rock away from the tunneling operations. [59]

Civil Works Administration laborers
Civil Works Administration workmen start the portal of the first tunnel on the Summit Road. Trucks were filled with dirt and rock and hauled away. This photograph was taken by Clifford Shoemaker, January, 18, 1934.

At the time this construction work was getting under way, a Historical and Archeological Recconaissance Survey was organized with C.W.A. funds to explore the immediate region to locate historical and archeological sites for later excavation and obtain other data for inclusion in the proposed museum at the base of the summit road. Dr. Harold J. Cook, of Agate, Nebraska, undertook the formation and organization of this research group on December 18, 1933. Six men worked on this survey. [60]

Work continued on all of these projects from early December, 1933, until April 28, 1934. In addition to the road construction and upper parking area excavation, workmen started seeding and planting operations to help control erosion at certain key points in the Monument and collecting fossils and other prehistoric remains. Rock inscriptions of Oregon Trail emigrants were recovered during road construction.

Two tunnels of the summit road project had been dug through the bluff and work had been started on the third and last tunnel when all C.W.A. work stopped. It is interesting to note that plans for this last tunnel called for two one-way roads with a center wall between the two. This plan was abandoned due to the softness of the Brule and sandstone material and the third tunnel is now the same as the others.

Virtually all construction work at the Monument stopped between April 1934 and April 1935. Some funds were made available from time to time through the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The National Park Service contributed funds when possible. In order to retain the services of Dr. Cook, the National Park Service appointed him a seasonal ranger on May 16, 1934, and he was able to continue work on his reconnaissance project to a limited extent. [61] Thus, Dr. Cook became the first ranger at the Monument, and the first employee to be paid on a monthly, rather than a token basis.


History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
©1962, Oregon Trail Museum Association
history/chap8.htm — 26-Jan-2003