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Determining the Facts


Reading 2: The Construction of Camp Misty Mount

The design and construction of Camp Misty Mount demonstrated some of the most important ideas about outdoor recreation of the 1930s. Misty Mount and the other campsites that formed part of the Catoctin RDA were known as "organization camps," an idea borrowed from several state parks. The primary goal of these camps was to provide educational and charitable groups a place where children could have an outdoor experience. Many of the campers came from cities or from families with limited incomes, and therefore without such a program they were unlikely to learn about or even spend time in outdoor settings.

Camp Misty Mountís layout reflected how it served groups. It featured a central collection of buildings shared by all campers, including a dining hall, infirmary, and craft lodge. Beyond this hub were individual unit camps made up of several camper cabins, a lodge, a latrine, and perhaps a leaderís cabin. A network of hiking trails linked the buildings to miscellaneous sites, such as campfire rings, playing fields, and a swimming pool. These facilities and their arrangements were common to all organized camps built by the government.

While all RDA vacation spots shared a basic design, their exact layout varied. Plans took advantage of light, prevailing winds, and views from the cabins. Designers used the terrain to its best advantage in locating cabin foundations and the swimming pool. Trees slated to remain were boxed to protect them from injury during construction. Workers also took extra precautions to protect topsoil. At Catoctin, for example, the use of horses, rather than wagons or trucks, to haul logs to the sites helped minimize destruction of the landscape.

Albert Goodís Park Structures and Facilities, a book used in national parks, provided plans for the campís buildings. This guide called for "rustic" architecture, a style in which buildings used local materials, fit into the surrounding landscape, and appeared to have been built with traditional tools. At Camp Misty Mount one-story structures nestled into the natural profile of the land. Chestnut logs and waney board (random width, 1-inch thick poplar, pine, or oak boards with an exposed, wavy edge), wood shingles, and stone steps, foundations, and chimneys created a natural look. Features such as casement windows, braced posts, hand-wrought hardware, and interior roof trusses contributed romantic highlights.

The rustic exteriors called for in this guide perfectly fit the resources of the area. Fallen chestnut trees and other trees approved by the state forester for harvest provided wood for the log cabins. Some picturesque snags, or damaged trees, remained in place for aesthetic purposes and wildlife consideration. Since only 40 percent of the lumber was suited for planing into boards, designers used most fallen and cut logs in their entirety to build log cabins. Logs were pinned with poles from locust trees, and 4- to 8-inch by 26-inch roof shingles were made out of local red oak. Oak formed the interior tongue-in-groove floors, and chestnut, oak, or hemlock, and interior trim.

The government agencies responsible for building the camps in Catoctin Mountain Park justified their construction methods in the following planning document:

Justification for Using Logs in Construction of Group Camp Buildings

We have found it more economical to use chestnut logs in the construction of smaller buildings proposed for the area than it would be to purchase lumber for siding or board and batten.

There is a wealth of dead chestnut in the area that must be felled and as it takes about 15 years for this hardwood to decay beyond the fire hazard stage, it is necessary to make some disposition of the trees that are cut.

To date we have run through our sawmill approximately 80,000 board feet of chestnut and have found that only about 40 percent of the logs make good saw timber, whereas if only squared off it will be possible to use all the dead chestnut in building construction. The cost of labor for construction is practically the same for a log building as for one built entirely of sawed lumber. The cost of materials for the log building, taking into consideration the logging, transportation and squaring of the logs at the mill, will amount to about 15 percent less than the cost of materials for buildings constructed entirely of sawed lumber.

This would not be true if it were possible to cut all the lumber from this area, but it is not advisable to deplete the forest cover to this extent.

In addition to this, our project architect has made a study of the character and design of the old buildings in this section and in using the log type of construction in planning the improvements for the area, he is endeavoring to perpetuate the best architectural traditions whenever possible.

Justification of Individual Job/Job No. 608 - Timber
Harvest Supplement A

Purpose and Need
The purpose of this job is to manufacture lumber for the construction of Organized Group Camp C-1.

Useful lumber is produced from blighted chestnut and other dead or over matured timber in the area. Sawing this lumber at the Government owned mill on the project will result in a saving.

Execution
Rough lumber is being produced at the mill for $10.00 per thousand board feet, whereas lumber comparable to the most inferior that we are producing would cost $20.00 per thousand on the open market. Dressed tongue and groove flooring and ceiling can be produced at $9.00 per thousand, and if this lumber were taken to a private mill the charge for turning out a similar product would be $15.00 per thousand.

Questions for Reading 2

1. For whom was Camp Misty Mount primarily designed? Why do you think the government wanted to give those people the opportunity to spend time in natural surroundings?

2. What measures were taken to protect the trees that were growing in the project area? Why were horses used to harvest the timber?

3. What are the principles of rustic architecture? How did the buildings at Camp Misty Mount meet these guidelines?

4. Since all the lumber used for the project was harvested locally, what can you determine about the variety of types of trees that were growing in the forest? Name two species that were harvested.

5. Why was the use of logs as opposed to sawn lumber a sound economic practice? How did the use of logs contribute to the efficiency of the operation? How do you think the removal of standing dead trees for logs might speed the regrowth of the forest?

Adapted from Sara Amy Leach, "Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Architecture at Catoctin Mountain Park" (Frederick County, Maryland) National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1988; Sara Amy Leach, "Camp Misty Mount Historic District" (Frederick County, Maryland) National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1988; and documents from park files.

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