• bible sitting next to a teapot

    Whitman Mission

    National Historic Site Washington

Chapter Four (Park Administration 1941-1987): Conclusion

 

After examining 46 years of Whitman Mission administration, it is evident that each superintendency can be characterized by one or two unique achievements. Tom Garth excavated the site, Bob Weldon improved its appearance, Joe Kennedy supervised building construction, Ray Stickler oversaw the transition phase, Stan Kowalkowski began cultural demonstrations, and Bob Amdor streamlined park operations. As unique as these administrations were, it is also clear that they were interdependent. For example, Bob Weldon had Tom Garth to thank for his office-museum building, while the legislation passed during Weldon's term enabled construction of the park buildings to occur during Kennedy's administration. Stickler and Kowalkowski developed successful interpretive programs because most of the primary Whitman material was researched during Kennedy's time. Maintenance was the logical focus during Amdor's administration since it had lower priority during Stickler and Kowalkowski's years. Finally, Superintendent Herrera inherited the revegetation project from Bob Amdor. Each administration built upon the work of the predecessor, resulting in a logical progression of issues and concerns. Therefore, the history of Whitman Mission's administration is roughly characterized by two overall phases. The first phase--development--characterizes Garth's, Weldon's and Kennedy's administrations, while the second phase--maintenance--characterizes Stickler's, Kowalkowski's, and Amdor's terms and will likely characterize Herrera's administration, as well. Administration's task is no longer to create the park as it was prior to 1964, but rather, to maintain the park.

While the problems facing each administration were somewhat predictable, the people assigned with managing those problems were not. Each superintendent had different skills and qualities to offer to the job and the park. While Tom Garth's archeological skill reaffirmed the historical basis of the park, Bob Weldon's historical understanding helped place development problems into perspective. Joe Kennedy's political skill helped ensure the consummation of the mission's development projects and Bob Amdor's networking skill helped improve public relations. In their own ways, each superintendent and staff, with advice and assistance from the Regional and National Park Service offices, managed the Whitman Mission in a manner "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States." [200]

Did You Know?

painting of mission with wagon in front

The Whitmans’ mission was important to early Oregon Trail travelers. Those who were sick, tired, or hungry or who needed a wagon fixed would make the side trip to the mission. Some would spend the winter with the Whitmans before continuing on to the Willamette Valley.