On-line Book
Book Cover to Mission 66 Visitor Centers. With image of Dinosaur NM Visitor Center, view from beneath ramp


Table of Contentss




Wright Brothers


Pertified Forest

Rocky Mountain

Cecil Doty



Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Mission 66 Visitor Centers
Chapter 6
National Park Service Arrowhead

Cecil Doty and the Mission 66 Visitor Center

The five visitor centers featured in this study are exceptional, both because they were designed by notable architectural firms and because they make up less than five percent of the facilities constructed for visitors during the Mission 66 program. From 1956 to 1966, the Park Service commissioned over one hundred new visitor centers and additions to existing museum buildings. Local contract architects were responsible for some of the designs, but the bulk of the work went to Park Service architects. Foremost among these in productivity was Cecil Doty, an architect from Oklahoma trained in the traditional Park Service Rustic style of design. [1] Along with a handful of his colleagues, Doty made the transition from the rustic—adobe or alpine depending on the natural and historical setting—to a modernist style stripped of such obvious associations with regional context. According to Doty, this shift from the old to the new architecture was entirely natural; he was simply doing his job under new parameters and within a changing social and political climate. While most of the selected contract architects were trained in an elite tradition of architecture as art, Doty was educated in architectural engineering at a manual arts school and spent almost his entire career working in the parks. When Doty designed modernist buildings, he did so within the Park Service tradition from which Mission 66 evolved. His buildings were not icons of modern architecture, nor were they typically among the buildings that are known for their Mission 66 character. Doty's designs were modest and utilitarian. As if in response to Director Wirth's greatest aspiration for his construction program—the creation of structures subordinate to the park landscape—Doty designed many unremarkable buildings. And yet, while much of the contract architects' work appears dated, Doty's buildings often achieve a kind of timelessness. Perhaps most important to the Park Service, his designs are sensitive to the site and historical context without being cheap rustic imitations or modernistic spectacles. The significance of the Mission 66 visitor center can only be evaluated after a closer look at the work of Cecil Doty.

In 1954 the Park Service reorganized the design and construction component of its four regional offices into two centralized facilities: the Eastern Office of Design and Construction (EODC) in Philadelphia overseen by Edward S. Zimmer and the Western Office (WODC) in San Francisco supervised by Sanford J. Hill. Although Director Wirth had yet to launch the Mission 66 program, this concentration of forces assumed the need for massive physical improvements and the organization necessary to execute a far-reaching construction program. The responsibilities of the respective offices included supervising the preparation of master plans and construction projects, conducting surveys and research, and preparing building plans and specifications. [2] These duties would not change with Mission 66, the planning of which began in earnest during the spring of 1956, but they would be magnified many times over. Such an influx of design work demanded that the Park Service hire contract architects from the private sector. This policy of hiring outsiders was not new. During both World Wars, the federal government called upon modern architects, many of whom were recent European immigrants, to help design wartime housing. The New Deal programs that had done so much for the parks during the 1930s and 1940s relied heavily on the expertise of private architects, designers, and craftsmen. As supervisor of the Civilian Conservation Corps state parks program, Conrad Wirth had firsthand experience with such successful partnerships. The CCC programs not only established the Park Service's reputation for well-built rustic style buildings, but also set a precedent for collaboration on such projects. A chief architect might sketch a design, and then pass it on to his staff to refine and embellish. For Wirth and many of his most trusted employees, the Mission 66 approach recalled the CCC effort. [3]

The new program's contract policies were outlined in a memorandum to the Park Service field offices in March 1956, explaining that superintendents were responsible for determining which projects would be completed by contractors and which by day labor. In general, it was "the policy of the Department and the Service to accomplish as much construction work by contract as is possible. It expedites the obligation of funds and assures completion of projects within the amounts available. Day labor is to be used only in exceptional cases where contracting is not practical." [4] Members of the design and construction offices had been forewarned of such changes in procedure. During their conference at Great Smoky Mountains (April 1955), they had discussed the Mission 66 program and immediately issued several statements and recommendations based on general consensus. The Park Service design offices voiced their "wholehearted support" for the program, which would obviously expand their role in park architecture and planning. In anticipation of Mission 66, they suggested that Wirth prepare a construction schedule by region to guide them in gathering data and developing surveys necessary for such extensive design work. The offices of design and construction also deemed themselves best equipped to create plans and specifications for construction projects and to prepare the preliminary drawings for all buildings. Professional private offices could then produce construction drawings on a contract by contract basis. It was recommended that the two regional offices be granted "contract authority to negotiate with professional firms in private practice, of recognized ability." [5] According to this arrangement, Park Service architects were entirely responsible for design concepts, while contractors merely performed the routine work of drafting working drawings. In practice, the relationship with contract architects would vary according to project, but it would usually involve some collaboration with Park Service colleagues.

That construction projects were underway by mid-summer is indicated by a communication from Director Wirth admonishing superintendents and regional directors for expanding their projects beyond the established limits. Evidently, some supervisors were using up emergency funds in the first contract, leaving little margin for over-runs or contingencies. Even more potentially devastating was the fact that unauthorized adjustments in contracts were affecting the planning schedule, which was established two years in advance. A single misjudgment could start "a chain reaction," and necessitate the revision of the entire schedule. [6] Field offices were to required to submit change orders and other cost overruns to the regional director for approval.

CONTINUED continued



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