An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park
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During the Depression the NPS continued to define park visitors as all those people who visited the park for pleasure. The actual number of people in the park was considerably higher as hundreds of men came to work in emergency relief camps. In 1933-34, the Civil Works Administration employed several hundred men and furnished their lodging at Longmire, Ohanapecosh, and Carbon River. Between 1933 and 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps had camps at Tahoma Creek, Narada Falls, Ipsut Creek, St. Andrews Creek, White River, Ohanapecosh, and Sunshine Point, with as many as two hundred men in each camp company. Altogether, these relief camps held as many as a thousand men during the early to mid-1930s. Apart from the valuable work that these men accomplished, their residence in the park added considerably to the administrative burdens and to the cumulative human impact on the park's natural resources.

After a brief slowdown at the beginning of the Depression, Mount Rainier once more became the scene of much construction work in the 1930s, as it had been in the 1920s. The difference was in the kind of work being performed. The main focus of construction shifted from major road and hotel construction to scores of smaller projects that could be accomplished by CCC crews. These included campground improvements, minor road and trail improvements, administrative buildings, backcountry shelters, landscape rehabilitation, plant beds, scenic turnouts, picnic areas, and various other items. Major road work went forward at a slower pace; the Eastside Road, completed in 1940, was the most important addition to the road system in this era.

Emergency relief projects were indicative of the NPS's expanded mission after 1933. During the famous "Hundred Days" in which the new Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration sent up a raft of emergency and reform bills to Congress, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes enlisted NPS Director Horace Albright and the Park Service in the effort to bring about a national economic recovery. [1] During the New Deal, all national park administrators were called upon to contribute to this effort. Various federal emergency relief administrations were established to provide work for the unemployed which would not only aid families without income but would thereby increase household consumption and stimulate the economy. Thus, the several relief camps in Mount Rainier National Park had more to do with the national emergency than they did with traditional NPS management goals. During the New Deal era, all projects were evaluated not only for their ability to serve the core NPS mandate of preserving the park for the enjoyment of present and future generations, but for their potential to create jobs, too. The park administration garnered massive amounts of money for myriad projects through various New Deal programs (the PWA, the WPA, the CWA, the CCC). These relief funds enriched all areas of park administration, from museum development to trail improvement. Actual park appropriations, meanwhile, grew by relatively small increments in the 1930s. When economic depression gave way to national defense preparations in 1940-41, the NPS experienced a painful period of adjustment. Relief programs were dismantled without a commensurate increase in park appropriations. After the U.S. entered World War II, the NPS actually faced deep budget cuts in addition to the loss of these New Deal programs.

At the same time that the Roosevelt Administration made the Park Service a major player in various emergency relief programs, it greatly enlarged the Park Service's scope of responsibilities in other areas. By two executive orders of June 10 and July 28, 1933, Roosevelt added scores of national memorials, battlefield sites, parkways, and other areas of national significance to the national park system. The Roosevelt Administration called upon the NPS for advice and expertise on everything from community recreation planning to historic preservation. After the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Park Service worked with CCC administrators to implement a program of "emergency conservation work" in units of the national park system and in state parks. Throughout the New Deal era, the national parks obtained large allotments from federal emergency relief appropriations with which to employ thousands of men and women on public works projects.

This chapter considers the overall impact of the New Deal on Mount Rainier National Park. It begins with an analysis of the effects of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and then proceeds to a discussion of other public works programs in the park. The last section of the chapter attempts to place the park in the context of regional conservation politics and the burgeoning national park system and looks at the changing role of the Mount Rainier National Park superintendency.


Each summer during the New Deal years, hundreds of young men lived in CCC camps in Mount Rainier National Park. They spent their working hours erecting buildings, improving trails and campgrounds, fighting white pine blister rust, and planting trees and shrubs. Their labor and energy, together with the accompanying infusion of funds into the park's operating budget, came close to creating a distinct "CCC era" in the national park's history. On closer examination one finds that many of the trends that are popularly associated with the CCC era in national parks and forests—such as the construction of buildings in a rustic architectural style, the all-out effort to suppress forest fires, and the increased commitment to biological research and management—began before the creation of the CCC. One also finds that the increased funds available to the NPS came from a variety of federal relief programs of which the CCC was only the most renowned. Still, the fact remains that the Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the most popular and memorable programs of the New Deal. It came to symbolize the impact of the New Deal on national forests and national parks, including Mount Rainier National Park. [2]

The establishment of the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) program, more commonly known as the CCC, presented park administrators with two new obligations. One objective, plainly, was to accomplish valuable conservation work. The other objective was to provide emergency relief for CCC enrollees. These were distinct, albeit compatible, objectives. Park officials viewed each CCC enrollee not just as a source of labor but as a new client—a new type of visitor who could find spiritual renewal in nature through the collective CCC experience. As Superintendent Tomlinson explained to the CCC camp superintendents, the fundamental values that guided national park management in normal times would be "effective in their entirety during the Emergency Conservation Work, with the additional requirement of training and character building of the young men enrolled as a part of the nationwide employment relief plan." [3] As a former military officer, Tomlinson welcomed the chance for the park to serve as a place for "man building."

This section of the chapter focuses first on how the NPS administered the CCC in Mount Rainier National Park and how the CCC permanently changed the park staff organization. It then reviews the considerable physical accomplishments of the CCC in the park. Finally, it considers the CCC in Mount Rainier as a unique social experience in the park's history.

Administration of the CCC

The CCC was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's own brainchild. It was among the first of the legislative initiatives which the new administration hammered through Congress in the spring of 1933. Even as the CCC was under discussion by Congress, senior officials in the NPS recognized that it would be a boon for the national parks. Already, in the last year of the Hoover Administration, Congress had allotted emergency relief funds for road construction in the national parks in an effort to stimulate the economy. The master plans which the NPS had prepared for each national park during the preceding five years outlined the work which needed to be done throughout the system and assured that the national parks would receive due consideration for public works projects during the Depression. [4]

From a Park Service administrative standpoint, the difference between the CCC and earlier emergency relief measures was that the CCC involved the NPS much more deeply in the task of managing a labor force. Administering the CCC was not merely a matter of turning more federal funds into road construction contracts under the Bureau of Public Roads. Rather, it involved the formulation of a wide array of work projects and the development of a technical staff to supervise those projects. It required cooperation with the Army, the Department of Labor, and to a lesser extent other land management agencies in the Interior and Agriculture Departments, and the development of liaisons with these parties at all levels of administration from the directorship to the park superintendency. It entailed the location and supply of hundreds of CCC camps throughout the national park system, as well as the administration of the CCC program in state parks. To deal with the administrative burdens that the CCC placed on the NPS, it became necessary to increase the amount of support staff in field offices such as the one in San Francisco and eventually, in 1937, to divide the national park system into four regions. Mount Rainier National Park, like all other units in the system, came to rely more and more on the technical staff and services provided by each regional office.

Setting up the CCC was a mammoth task in itself. President Roosevelt's announced goal was to have a quarter of a million men enrolled in the CCC by July. Horace Albright, serving out his last months as director of the NPS, represented the Interior Department on the CCC's organizing council that spring as the administration formulated how this goal was to be accomplished. It immediately became obvious that conservation agencies like the Park Service and the Forest Service were too small to build and run the camps as originally envisioned; only the Army could handle that. Therefore, the division of responsibility between government agencies was made as follows: the Army would process the enrollees and form them into companies with Army commanders, dispatch the companies to their respective camps, build the camps, and maintain discipline in the camps; the conservation agencies such as the Park Service and the Forest Service would select all CCC camp locations, furnish the camps with tools and vehicles, employ the enrollees in useful conservation work, and supervise their efforts. [5]

Meanwhile, the Labor Department was given the special task of enrolling supervisory personnel in the CCC. These would be older men with experience in forest work or a building trade who would serve as camp leaders and crew foremen for the young enrollees. The law required that they be recruited from the local area and that they receive a higher rate of pay than the other enrollees, so that it would not seem to the local inhabitants near a CCC camp that the CCC was taking away jobs or further depressing the wage scale. In what must be one of the gems of the New Deal's distinctive nomenclature, these supervisory personnel were designated by the homely title of "local experienced men," or LEMs. [6]

Superintendent Tomlinson worked with Army officers from Fort Lewis, Washington, in planning when and where CCC camps would be built in Mount Rainier National Park. Suitable sites were selected and cleared of trees, building materials were shipped to the site, and camp equipment was requisitioned. Tomlinson's years of military experience in the Philippines no doubt proved an asset to him now as he found himself involved in a rapid mobilization of manpower for emergency conservation work. "These are strenuous days," he confided in a note to Cammerer. Along with the heavy demands imposed by the CCC, Tomlinson was preparing estimates for a two-year public works program under the PWA, and contending with "wild rumors" about an impending shake-up of the department by the new Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes. [7] Despite all the distractions, he could report by mid- July that more than a thousand men were deployed in the park in five CCC camps. Most of the men were performing trail work and roadside cleanup while their camp buildings were still under construction. [8]

Company 2941 of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Sunshine Point Camp
Company 2941 of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Sunshine Point Camp. This was one of seven sites in the park which NPS officials selected for CCC camps. (Darius Kinsey photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

Probably the most immediate effect that the CCC had on the administration of the park was in the area of fiscal management. Before the camps were even occupied, Tomlinson was informed that all funds authorized for new construction in Mount Rainier had been impounded and pooled with funds set aside for the CCC. This was in addition to a 25 percent cut in regular maintenance and operation allotments and a 15 percent cut in the allotment for personnel. The purpose of the impoundment of funds was to ensure that the ECW program would be assimilated quickly into the bureaucratic power structure. Tomlinson illustrated the dramatic change in the park's sources of funding with this tabulation of figures on July 4, 1933:


1933 Fiscal Year1934 Fiscal Year
Administration & Operation$132,250.00$103,250.00
Construction Projects72,250.00none
Forest Protection & Fire Prevention19,830.006,125.00
Roads & Trails
    Minor Projects, NPS Force Account50,000.00none
    Major Projects, Contracted by BPR230,000.00none
Emergency Relief Allotments
    Minor Projects, NPS Force Account22,400.00none
    Major Projects, Contracted by BPR420,000.00none
Public Works Program (1934-1935)none$2,534,279.00

These figures did not include ECW funds and manpower nor other relief funds that would shortly come available to the park under the Civil Works Administration (CWA). Nevertheless, they demonstrated that NPS officials would need to change the way they did business, working closely with federal relief administrators to obtain a large part of their operating budgets from year to year. [9]

Another effect of the CCC on the park administration was to increase the level of contact with state and federal officials outside the NPS. This was inevitable when the park became closely involved in an unemployment relief program. Tomlinson's close coordination with officers at Fort Lewis has already been mentioned; at another level, Tomlinson's rangers worked almost daily with the handful of Army personnel who were assigned to the CCC camps in Mount Rainier, as well as the supervisory personnel, or LEMs, in the CCC. District rangers trained all CCC enrollees in fire prevention, and CCC fire crews were given frequent fire drills. The superintendent, meanwhile, had frequent contacts with the CCC's Washington Procurement Office and the Washington State Park Authority. Since Mount Rainier experienced heavy snowfall in winter, the CCC camps had to be vacated each fall. It was found that the most efficient procedure was to have the CCC companies in Mount Rainier move out to winter quarters located in Washington state parks at or near sea level. Tomlinson worked out a schedule for these moves each fall and spring with state officials. [10]

The CCC program led to an increase in the number of technicians on the park staff. The technicians were needed to supervise the myriad CCC work projects. These new staff members were not part of the park's regular staff; their salaries were paid with ECW funds, and their positions were subject to renewal after each six-month enrollment period of the CCC. Moreover, they were assigned to the park by the NPS branch offices of landscape architecture, architecture, engineering, and wildlife in San Francisco. They answered to those offices' two representatives in the park, Engineer R.D. Waterhouse and Landscape Architect Ernest A. Davidson, as well as to the superintendent. At the end of the 1934 season, this new corps of "detached technicians and aides" in Mount Rainier had taken shape as follows: C.E. Drysdale and H.J. Cremer, supervising engineers; Russell L. McKown and Halsey M. Davidson, supervising landscape architects; E.A. Kitchin, wildlife technician; E. S. Foley, headquarters clerk. [11] Despite their highly contingent status, these ECW-funded personnel remained in the park together with the two NPS field technicians, Waterhouse and Davidson, to the end of the 1930s.

As indicated above, the primary responsibility of the NPS in administering the ECW program was to supervise the CCC crews in their conservation work. Senior NPS officials helped work out a broad-brush program for the CCC for each new six-month enrollment period; it remained for the park staff to compile a detailed list of projects. Tomlinson consulted with his chief ranger, maintenance foreman, park naturalist, landscape architect, and engineer to fashion a list of projects; he then prioritized them according to their importance and seasonality (those projects situated at lower elevations in the park could be undertaken early in the summer while those at higher elevations had to wait until the summer advanced). Ernest A. Davidson commented to Tom Vint on the first season's list of projects, "I believe the preparation of this definite program was the best kind of start toward a successful season's work." [12] It was a credit to Tomlinson's skill as an administrator that this process was relatively frictionless despite the keen competition between administrative departments for the CCC's labor.

When it came to deciding how much the CCC would be capable of doing, Ernest Davidson was perhaps the most skeptical member of Tomlinson's staff Davidson worried that the NPS would employ inexperienced CCC crews on types of projects that properly deserved more expertise. The result would be an impressive amount of work accomplished in the short term, but accomplished to such a low standard that it would have to be redone a few years later. To avoid this outcome, Davidson wanted the park administration to put the CCC on projects that could be closely supervised or at least adequately monitored: roadside cleanup, erosion control, blister rust control, trail maintenance. Even concerning trail work, Davidson wanted the CCC to widen and improve the drainage of existing trails rather than relocate trails or construct new ones. [13] Tomlinson weighed Davidson's concerns carefully. For the most part, Davidson got his way.

Tomlinson prepared a detailed letter of introduction for all the CCC camp superintendents, briefing them on "National Park fundamentals and policies," on the administrative organization of the park, and on how the CCC would be administered in Mount Rainier National Park. On the latter, he wrote:

Officials of the park organization with whom you will closely cooperate are as follows: Chief Ranger, Mr. John M. Davis, whose department has complete charge of all matters pertaining to the protection and policing of the park; the acting Park Engineer, Mr. R.D. Waterhouse, who prepares all plans for construction and improvement, and advises on all engineering matters; the General Foreman, Mr. Frank Akehurst, who is charged with the details of organizing and supervising personnel for all maintenance. Mr. Akehurst also has charge of all park equipment and will be available to assist and advise when requested, regarding work plans. As a rule, Mr. Akehurst will be available only upon request. The Fiscal Agent, Assistant Superintendent O.W. Carlson, will advise on all financial matters....

Of the various staff and technical officials most concerned with the Emergency Conservation Work are the Chief Architect, the Fire Control Expert, and the Chief Engineer from the San Francisco offices. These officials will make inspections of the work, and through the Park organization, offer suggestions. The Chief Architect's assistant, Mr. E.A. Davidson of the Branch of Plans and Designs, will have full charge of all matters pertaining to landscape and natural features protection. Your cooperation with Mr. Davidson is especially required, as this official has full responsibility for carrying out the fundamental policies of the National Park Service for the protection and preservation of the natural features, and it is this work that I desire to emphasize as second in importance only to protection against fire and other destructive elements. [14]

Tomlinson took one further precaution. To ensure close cooperation between the CCC supervisory personnel and the landscape architects, Tomlinson directed Davidson to select one local experienced man (LEM) from each camp to serve as landscape foreman or erosion control foreman for the whole company. The LEMs varied in quality; some were practically an extension of the park staff, while others were incompetent or insensitive to national park values. Tomlinson's action seems to have been aimed at bringing the best talent to the fore among the CCC's supervisory personnel, and Davidson thought the system worked admirably. [15]

The Park Service played a supporting role in administering the CCC camps. As noted above, the Army was in charge of constructing, provisioning, and running the camps. But the NPS naturally took a keen interest in where the camps were located, how they appeared to tourists, and what kind of impact the camps had on plants and wildlife. In the rush to get the CCC mobilized in 1933, five camps were established in Mount Rainier. In the summer of 1934, when the CCC in Mount Rainier reached full steam, a sixth camp was added and the park was divided into six areas for purposes of CCC projects. These were set up as follows:

1. Tahoma Creek Camp (NP-1) located on Westside Road. Camp 1 Area included the lower Westside Road, Longmire, and the southwest corner of the park.

2. Narada Falls Camp (NP-2). Camp 2 Area included Paradise and the south side of the park from the Nisqually Bridge to the upper Stevens Canyon.

3. Carbon River Camp (NP-3). Camp 3 Area covered the northwest corner of the park from the Mowich entrance to Mystic Lake.

4. St. Andrews Creek Camp (NP-4) located on Westside Road. Camp 4 Area covered the west side from Round Pass north to Sunset Park.

5. White River Camp (NP-5) located on State Route 410 north of the East Entrance. Camp 5 Area covered the northeast corner of the park including Sunrise, White River Campground, and the Cayuse Pass Tipsoo Lakes area.

6. Ohanapecosh Camp (NP-6). Camp 6 Area covered the southeast corner of the park where the Eastside Road was under construction. The camp was accessed through Packwood, Washington. [16]

In the late 1930s additional camps were built as others were abandoned but the total number of camps never exceeded six. Virtually all camps were vacated in the fall and rehabilitated and reoccupied the following spring—a pattern which was repeated until each camp's abandonment toward the end of the CCC era. The single exception appears to have been Sunshine Point Camp (NP-8), which was built in the fall of 1938 as an all-year camp. [17]

Mount Rainier National Park in 1934
Mount Rainier National Park in 1934 was divided into six areas for purposes of CCC work.

Physical Accomplishments of the CCC

So popular was the CCC during the New Deal that its conservation work has become almost legendary. According to popular tradition, most of the pre-World War II administrative buildings that are seen in the national parks and forests today were built by the CCC. The buildings were designed predominantly in a rustic architectural style, and it is also popular tradition that the CCC practically originated this style. Both these traditions are considerably wide of the mark. With regard to the invention of the rustic style, landscape designer Phoebe Cutler sets the record straight in her book, The Public Landscape of the New Deal:

The rustic style had, in fact, already established itself as the architectural dialect of the national parks and forests. As early as 1903, the Old Faithful Inn, a rambling assemblage of logs, shingles, and enormous dormers, made a major statement in the rustic vernacular at Yellowstone. Similar log-and-boulder structures abounded at Yosemite, Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Parks. Nonetheless, the structures of the 1900s through the 1920s were grand primary-use edifices such as Herb Maier's assortment of museums and lodges. The New Deal did not innovate so much as it mass-produced. [18]

The other fondly-remembered assumption about the CCC—that it single-handedly constructed all the Depression-era buildings in the national parks and forests—is also a fallacy. In fact, the CCC crews were mainly assigned to jobs that required less skill than construction of buildings did. The Public Works Administration (PWA) was at least as responsible as the CCC for the florescence of Government Rustic in the 1930s. In Mount Rainier National Park, Tomlinson oversaw yearly allotments from the PWA with which to pursue a massive public works program that he had outlined in 1933. Some of these funds were used to hire temporary, skilled workers for building construction. That was how many of the ranger residences, patrol cabins, fire lookouts, and other administrative buildings of the Depression era came to be built.

The CCC's actual accomplishments were extensive and varied. Quarterly reports on the CCC quantified each camp's accomplishments in terms of man-days spent on each project. The number of projects, large and small, multiplied with each passing enrollment period. Statistics for the whole park mounted so quickly as to become mind-numbing. Never before or since had the park administration had so much unskilled labor at its command. The best that can be done here is to give an impression of the hundreds of jobs accomplished by the CCC, listed by project type.

1. Roadside Cleanup. The object of roadside cleanup was two-fold: to reduce forest fire hazard and to improve the appearance of the roadway. After all the road construction accomplished in the 1920s, the sides of the roads remained littered with debris. In places, large "docks" of piled logs could be seen. Such debris intruded on the natural scene and posed a fire hazard. CCC crews either hauled the logs to one of the temporary sawmills in the park or sawed them into sections and burned them. There were also areas where high winds had toppled exposed trees at the edge of the road, and these too were removed. A lot of dry, unsightly, fire-hazardous material was raked out and eliminated. Snags that posed a risk to road safety were cut down and removed.

2. Erosion Control. Many road cuts and fills required work to stabilize their unnaturally steep and bare surfaces and prevent erosion problems. CCC crews used a variety of methods to accomplish slope stabilization, including sodding, seeding, flattening or rounding, applying a stone riprapping, and even constructing giant, log grids against the road cuts which would later be subsumed by earth and vegetation. Another aspect of erosion control was river-channel cleanup. Log jams were removed wherever they were directing a streamflow against a road embankment or threatening to take out a bridge. The banks of the Nisqually and Carbon rivers were reinforced with log cribs to protect the Longmire area and the Carbon Road from potential flood damage.

3. Landscape Naturalization. The vegetative cover in numerous areas in the park was scarred by new construction or by past use and abandonment. Near the Tipsoo Lakes, for example, an abandoned fishing camp had left behind a number of old roads and trails which the Park Service wanted to obliterate. The CCC devoted 201 man-days to resodding 2,000 square yards of abandoned road and trail surface and transplanting 532 trees and shrubs. The new development site in Yakima Park, the residential village at Longmire, and the lower campground at Paradise also received extensive treatment by the CCC.

4. Trail Construction. A large percentage of man-days went to trail work of various kinds, including new construction, improvement of tread and drainage on existing trails, building of bridges, and repairs. Some of this work was very labor intensive. One CCC crew spent 703 man-days reconditioning a little more than a mile of trail past Narada Falls, where the work included putting in an observation station with log railing opposite the waterfall, relocating and surfacing with crushed stone the portion of the trail that was frequently made wet by the spray of the falls, and installing no less than 69 rock and cedar culverts. Some new trails, such as the Huckleberry Creek trail and various boundary trails, were built principally for fire protection.

5. Campground Improvement. Another major undertaking by the CCC was the redevelopment of Mount Rainier's campgrounds according to the Meinecke system. In the late 1920s, the NPS had contracted with plant pathologist E.P. Meinecke to determine how campgrounds which were being worn out by overuse could be rehabilitated. Meinecke had found that trampling by campers and soil compaction by automobiles was inhibiting plant regeneration. The solution, Meinecke wrote, was to limit the movements of campers and vehicles by the creation of individual campsites with fixed fireplaces, tables, and "garages," or spurs for vehicle parking, in combination with the subtle placement of shrubs, logs, and boulders to delineate each site. Until the coming of the CCC, Mount Rainier National Park had made slow progress toward "Meineckizing" its campgrounds. CCC crews provided the needed manpower. Working under the close supervision of landscape architects, CCC crews redeveloped the campgrounds at Longmire, Paradise, Tahoma Creek, White River, and Ohanapecosh along the lines recommended by Meinecke. In addition, the White River Camp (NP-5) fitted out the campground at Yakima Park with permanent fireplaces and an amphitheater.

6. Telephone and Power Lines. The CCC took over the task of maintaining and repairing the park's 172 miles of telephone lines, and constructed many miles of new telephone and power lines as well. Old wires and insulators were upgraded, brush was cleared away from the lines, and the system was expanded in order to furnish electric lighting and telephone connections for the public campgrounds and for the CCC camps themselves.

7. Forest Fire Protection. All CCC companies in the park were on standby to fight forest fires. Men with fire-fighting experience were culled from the ranks and given special training by the rangers. These men in turn led eight-man squads made up of the balance of the labor force. All CCC companies held fire drills at regular intervals, and when a fire occurred the whole 1,000-man force was at the park administration's disposal to fight it.

8. Blister Rust Control. CCC crews built upon earlier efforts to stop the spread of this white pine disease. Blister rust control was accomplished by eradicating the disease's alternative host plant, ribes, from the vicinity of white pine stands. A few picked men from each company were trained to recognize the various species of ribes and in some cases these small eradication crews were gradually augmented so that dozens of men were employed in this work by the end of the summer. Where the ribes were dense, it could take up to ten man-days to clear each acre. Blister rust control was most intensive in Stevens Canyon, where the men worked out of spike camps.

9. Headquarters Detail. The Tahoma Creek Camp (NP-1) provided a detail of about 25 enrollees for the park administration at Longmire. These men were assigned to various departments and performed everything from clerical work to campground maintenance to curation in the Longmire Museum.

10. Buildings. The CCC built a variety of structures in the park, from simple, three sided backcountry shelters to four-room, bath, and basement residences. The quality of workmanship was generally high. A skilled foreman working with a small crew of helpers was capable of fine work as evidenced by the ranger cabin built near the mouth of Ipsut Creek in 1934. On the other hand, inexperienced crews could make a mess of a project. Landscape Architect Ernest A. Davidson expressed skepticism about the CCC's capacity for handling large building projects, an opinion which seemed to be born out by the difficulties encountered in the construction of the Paradise ski lodge between 1938 and 1941. Yet CCC crews from Camp Narada (NP-2) built four residences at Longmire during the summer of 1938; they then finished the interiors expeditiously after moving to Sunshine Point Camp (NP-8) for the winter.

A CCC crew landscaping Paradise campground at Sunshine Point Camp
A CCC crew landscaping Paradise campground. (Photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

Building construction made up a relatively small proportion of the total man-days expended by the CCC in Mount Rainier National Park. Yet these rustic structures are the CCC's most enduring legacy. The fine log cabins, the well-crafted stone comfort stations and trailside exhibit shelters, the carefully-laid flagstone paths, the many stone guardrails—these features are as ubiquitous as they are unpretentious. They have become a familiar part of the national park experience for millions of Americans. As one NPS architectural historian has contended, "park design includes numerous subtle and sometimes subconscious cues to the visitor. These features contribute to the sense of place of a national park." [19] The CCC—and the particular way in which the NPS used the CCC—made a significant contribution to that special quality which makes national parks such a distinctive part of the American landscape.

The CCC Experience

The physical accomplishments of the CCC cannot be evaluated apart from the humanitarian ideals and democratic yearning for national renewal that brought the CCC into being. Horace Albright, who spent his last few months as director of the NPS representing the Interior Department on the CCC's advisory council, commented on the CCC's objectives in his annual report for 1933:

Officials of the National Park Service have a deep appreciation that they were enabled to assist in carrying out President Roosevelt's emergency conservation program, one of the greatest humanitarian movements ever conceived for the relief of distress. In addition to its primary purpose of relief, the conservation work accomplished will be of far-reaching importance to the whole country and will build up the health and morale of a large portion of the young manhood of the Nation, fitting them better to be leaders of the future. [20]

It is difficult to generalize about the thousands of CCC enrollees who passed a summer or two at Mount Rainier. To enroll in the CCC, a man had to be eighteen to twenty-five years of age, single, unemployed, from a family on relief, and physically fit. Usually the enrollees were assigned to companies with men from the same city or county. Enrollees were generally put with men of the same race, too. Blacks were considerably underrepresented in the CCC, and in most cases they were formed into separate companies. Native Americans likewise were enrolled in separate units, which were employed on Indian reservations and administered by a separate branch of the CCC called the CCC-Indian Division.

Ideally, a CCC company was assigned to a camp within about 200 miles of where it was formed, so that the young men could go home to their families every other weekend. However, since most of the national forests and parks were in the West and most of the enrollees came from the East, a large number of CCC companies were put on trains and sent westward. As a result, CCC companies which were assigned to camps in Mount Rainier National Park tended to be either from nearby counties in Washington State or from distant states in the East or Deep South. [21] In the first enrollment period, for example, the five camps in the park were occupied by three companies from New York, one from Illinois, and one from western Washington. Meanwhile, the supervisory personnel for each camp invariably consisted of local men. CCC companies that spent summers in Mount Rainier usually spent winters in one of Washington's state parks. [22] CCC companies and their supervisory personnel sometimes returned to the same camp two summers in a row, but more often there was a complete turnover of companies from one summer to the next.

Two examples of specific camps in Mount Rainier suggest the differences and similarities that could be found among the CCC companies. Company 1303 occupied Camp NP-2 at Narada Falls during the summer of 1934. The camp superintendent was W.C. Pabst, a general contractor from Everett, Washington. The 199 enrollees in this company were from western Washington, with most of them, according to Pabst, already possessing "woods, trail, and forest fire experience." Among the supervising personnel, or crew foremen, of Company 1303 were two graduates of the University of Washington's School of Forestry and three former NPS employees, one with seven years experience in the landscape department. Pabst stated that the company's morale was excellent, with "gold-bricking" (shirking or playing sick) practically non-existent. [23]

Company 1303's baseball team at Camp Narada
Company 1303's baseball team at Camp Narada. (Photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

The men of Camp Narada lived close to the outdoors. Like all of the CCC's summer camps in Mount Rainier National Park, Camp Narada was a mixture of frame buildings and tents. The mess hall, wash and shower houses, and latrines were all permanent buildings, constructed in 1933. The camp kitchen, sleeping quarters, and infirmary were all under canvas. All camp buildings were wired for lighting and furnished with heater stoves. [24] The CCC enrollees had scarcely any more shelter than the campers in the public campgrounds, and less privacy than either the campers or the NPS staff who lived in the park.

The company was fortunate to have a number of experienced cooks and a baker in its ranks, and the men were kept well-fueled for their outdoor labor. A typical breakfast consisted of canned Hawaiian pineapple, oatmeal mush, fresh milk, bacon omelette, buttermilk pancakes with syrup, coffee, milk, and sugar. Dinner might consist of beef stew, assorted garden vegetables, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, raisin sauce, tea, milk, and sugar. This was followed by a supper of roast beef with brown gravy, browned potatoes, cold tomato, lettuce salad, bran muffins, and coffee, milk, and sugar. [25] There were some complaints about the camp food during the CCC's first summer at the park, but provisions seem to have been adequate by 1934.

The men's favorite recreational activities at Camp Narada consisted of baseball, softball, horse shoes, boxing, fishing, and "considerable hiking on weekends." Indoor recreation included motion picture shows at the community buildings at Longmire and Paradise, and an occasional dance held outside the park. Four weeks after their arrival, the men of Company 1303 were in the process of forming a social club, stamp club, climber's club, and fisherman's club. Five musicians in the camp formed an orchestra and practiced at the community building at Longmire. The camp had a bi-weekly newspaper called The Narada Narrator. [26]

The work day generally ran from 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Each morning the men assembled into their various work details and rode to work on the company's Chevrolet trucks. About two-thirds of the time they were employed in trail and forest improvement work. A large project that summer was clearing trees from either side of the RNPC's power lines between Longmire and Paradise in order to reduce the fire hazard. Some 400,000 feet of felled timber was bucked to suitable lengths for the park's sawmill. Smaller projects included renaturalization with plantings, campground improvement, construction of a truck trail, and repair of telephone lines. [27]

For many of the young men in Company 1303, the CCC provided an opportunity to acquire more diverse experience in a field of work with which they were already acquainted. Perhaps the greatest value of the CCC for many of these men was that it provided them with work experience and a calling. As one appreciative landscape designer has written: "The CCC left a patrimony of men dedicated to the outdoors and skilled in appropriate trades." [28] The superintendent of Tahoma Creek Camp (NP-l) may have been right when he wrote about the CCC: "It gives a man a chance to get out of the common labor class and likewise increases his possibilities of finding employment." [29] Pabst him self noted that a large number of the men in Company 1303 showed a keenness for landscape work.

Another camp superintendent in Mount Rainier seemed to think that the CCC's greatest value could be found in its socializing experience. William S. Nowlin was superintendent of Camp NP-6 on the Ohanapecosh River in the summer of 1937. He was a landscape architect with twenty years of professional experience prior to his service in the CCC. His company consisted of 140 enrollees from far away Arkansas. With a sense of fatherly pride, Nowlin described the CCC company's activities in a letter to his friend, Representative Charles H. Leavy of Washington. Leavy found Nowlin's letter so evocative of the CCC experience that he read long extracts from it in a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives on July 8, 1937.

All's quiet along the Ohanapecosh except the raindrops pattering on my tent. It can rain so easily here. The clouds seem to hang on the treetops and release the moisture so gently, so cheerfully, and so unceasingly. The sun is always on the point of breaking through but never quite succeeds...

All week these CCC Arkansas boys have worked out in the woods uncomplainingly until yesterday. They put on those Army rainproof clothes—tin pants they call 'em. They lean them up against a stump, climb up on the top and jump into them. They are about as stiff as a suit of armor, like the knights used to wear, except the armor had joints at the knees and elbows. They do not clank or ring but when they walk it makes a noise like filing a saw.

One of my "gang" (a little fellow weighing about 100 pounds) came out to work the other day without his "tin pants" and I sent him back to get them. There was only one pair left—size 44. Well, he got into them, bent the bottoms up so that he could walk, found a piece of half-inch rope, made a gallus [suspenders] to hold them up, and on the way back he gathered moss enough to fill them out around the waist and he also made himself a wig and some whiskers of moss and reported "ready for duty." These boys have a sense of humor.

There is such a variety and contrast to this work. One day we are planting delicate, lacy ferns on the bank of a stream and laying a carpet of green moss around them.. .the next day we will be digging with a steam shovel or using a "Cherry picker" to replace weathered boulders, weighing about a ton, to keep these dumb campers from driving where they are not supposed to.

Then we build huge log tables, so heavy the people can't move them around, and stone fireplaces[,] and stencil and carve and burn signs on the face of a cedar log cut in half, and build trails and footpaths, and haul gravel in dump trucks to surface roads, and, believe me, these boys are workers. They average over 20 years old, and most of this camp has had more than a year's experience in national park work (which is a lucky thing for me). The hardest task is to have work enough lined up to keep them busy. I assign them a job what I think will last all day, and in a few hours the leader will come and ask what to do next...

I hope they make the C.C.C. permanent, even if they have to discontinue the Army and Navy. It's a great character-building institution. They get a better training than in any school or college. I think it is the greatest thing the present administration has done.

I wish you could see this river—the Ohanapecosh. . .On a hot day, when the glacier silt come down, it turns milky white, and at times it appears blue and white. It is always in such a hurry and is always singing.... [30]

Park officials played a significant role in making the CCC experience a positive one. Their involvement with the CCC went far beyond what the division of responsibilities between the NPS and the Army required of them. On paper, the park administration's responsibility was to design suitable work projects for the CCC; the Army, meanwhile, was to set up and supply the camps, organize the CCC companies and transport them to the park, and maintain discipline in the camps. But park officials did much more than assign jobs. Superintendent Tomlinson worked closely with Brigadier General Joseph C. Castner, commanding officer at Fort Lewis, Washington, in planning the placement of camps. Landscape Architect E.A. Davidson and Engineer R.D. Waterhouse provided instruction to CCC superintendents and foremen, some of whom were former NPS colleagues. Park rangers and naturalists had considerable contact with the CCC enrollees during their leisure time in the park, leading them on fishing, hiking, and climbing trips. [31] "The men have excellent opportunity for recreation on account of the friendliness of park officials," a CCC inspector reported. Even the park's interpretive program catered to the needs of the CCC enrollees. "Park officials also lecture on forestry," the inspector wrote, "and will show movies from time to time on forestry work." [32] In November 1933, an appreciative park staff treated a CCC company that was the last to depart for the winter to an elaborate turkey dinner at Longmire. [33] In his annual report for 1933, Tomlinson stated that the CCC enrollees had received much useful training in conservation work and citizenship, and he credited his own ranger staff with helping to keep the young men healthy and happy. It was partly through the many ranger-led activities that the CCC enrollees came to a "full appreciation of what their Government was doing for them." [34]


To obtain a true picture of park administration during the New Deal, it is important to recognize that several federal relief programs were operating simultaneously, all of them offering possibilities for getting valuable work accomplished in Mount Rainier National Park. While Superintendent Tomlinson and his staff were preparing work programs for each new CCC enrollment period, they were also tapping into other new sources of funds for construction and conservation work. Each program involved somewhat different administrative demands. The three significant programs in addition to the CCC were the Civil Works Administration, Works Progress Administration, and Public Works Administration.

CWA Projects

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was established in the fall of 1933 to provide emergency relief jobs for the unemployed through the coming winter. Roosevelt appointed Harry Hopkins to head the vast program. Under Hopkins's leadership, the CWA put more than four million men on the federal payroll, all at minimum wage, and pumped more than a billion dollars into the ailing economy. But the CWA was short-lived; Roosevelt worried that it would create a permanent underclass of people dependent on a federal dole. He terminated the program in the spring of 1934. [35]

As Tomlinson put together a civil works program for Mount Rainier in the fall of 1933, he wrestled mainly with the problem of housing the workers. Secretary Ickes, anxious to avoid anything that would tend to make the CWA a permanent fixture, ruled that no agency of the Interior Department would build new camps for civil works projects. Nor would CCC camps, vacant for the winter, be winterproofed and occupied for that purpose. Tomlinson's proposal called for 350 to 550 men depending on how strictly the Secretary's ruling was interpreted; he received authorization three weeks later for a force of 363 men. At the CWA's peak in mid-January, the force in Mount Rainier numbered 388 men and 7 women. Housing these workers called for some resourcefulness by the park administration. About one half of the workers (including six women) were employed in the Longmire area. Of this number perhaps half lived in towns or on farms near the Nisqually entrance and were able to commute to work, while the rest were housed in existing facilities at Longmire. Another 68 men and 1 woman worked in the Ohanapecosh area and were billeted in the facilities belonging to the road contractor and the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Company; the remaining 108 men were assigned to the Carbon district and stayed in the Manley-Moore Lumber Company's facilities near Fairfax. [36]

The projects varied in each district. The CWA workers in the Carbon district spent a quarter of their time on river bar cleanup and crib construction for flood control, and the other three quarters of their time on improving the Carbon River Road. This camp started work on December 15 and was terminated on March 31. In the Ohanapecosh district the work consisted of campground development and construction of an approach road, and it lasted from December 8 to April 6. The workforce in the Longmire area was broken down into more than a dozen crews which accomplished diverse projects, including the production of 450,000 board feet of lumber at the sawmill for use in government buildings, the construction of three equipment buildings (two at Longmire and one at Nisqually Entrance), and building repairs. The last of these work crews was terminated on April 19, 1934, bringing an end to the CWA program in Mount Rainier National Park. [37]

Nationwide, the CWA was set up and dismantled with such lightning speed that it produced some of the most pathetic examples of make-work projects during the Depression. (The word "boondoggle" acquired its familiar meaning at this time.) But the national park was well-suited to make effective use of this federal relief program, and Tomlinson viewed it as a complete success. The total expenditure by the CWA in Mount Rainier amounted to $80,292.23, three-fourths of it paid directly to local unemployed people who were in desperate need of income. For this expenditure, the NPS received a considerable amount of skilled labor at the minimum wage level and accomplished much work toward its general plan of development. The program's extremely short duration (some projects had to be completed by the CCC), together with the shortage of adequate housing in the park, proved to be the program's two limiting factors.

WPA Projects

In 1935, Roosevelt pushed a much larger work relief bill through Congress called the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. The law provided nearly $5 billion for relief and gave the President wide discretion over how the money was used. Congress made additional emergency appropriations each year through the end of the decade. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) administered most of these huge sums, providing jobs for millions of unemployed Americans. The NPS provided technical supervision for more and more WPA work camps each year, most of which were located on state, county, and municipal lands. Toward the end of the 1930s, the NPS supervised WPA work camps in the national parks themselves.

Beginning in 1938, Mount Rainier National Park had two WPA camps out of a total of eleven located in national parks throughout the nation. The WPA camps were also called subsistence camps. Mount Rainier's WPA camps were located at Longmire and Ohanapecosh (later Packwood), and were occupied from 1938 through 1940. The work consisted mainly of river bed cleanup and flood control on the Nisqually River and construction of a sewer system at Ohanapecosh. [38]

In addition to the labor provided by WPA work camps in the park, the Emergency Relief Appropriation Acts permitted these funds to be granted directly to other federal agencies. In 1940, for example, "E.R.A. funds" paid for two project superintendents, one engineer, and two secretaries on the park staff. The WPA program wound down in Mount Rainier at the end of the 1940 fiscal year. [39]

PWA Projects

The Public Works Administration (PWA) was technically not a relief agency; it was established under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and was aimed at improving cooperation between the federal government and private industry. But like the WPA and the CWA, the PWA had the capability of putting millions of people to work and "pump-priming" the economy with federal expenditures. NPS officials were quick to grasp the importance of this development. For one thing, the NPS was in the enviable position of having master development plans already on hand which called for millions of dollars of road, bridge, and building construction. For another, the NPS had the good fortune of being in the same department as the PWA; Roosevelt decided to place the PWA in the Interior Department under the direct control of Secretary Ickes. Not surprisingly, therefore, the national parks received generous allotments of PWA funds over the course of the next seven years. [40]

The PWA actually contributed more funds to Mount Rainier National Park than the CCC, CWA, and WPA combined. But the figures are deceiving: a large proportion of the public works program in Mount Rainier in the 1930s was merely a continuation of the heavy road construction program of the 1920s, carried out under a new arrangement. PWA-funded construction of the Eastside Road and the Stevens Canyon Road in the 1930s approximately matched NPS-funded construction on the Nisqually Road, Westside Road, and Yakima Park Road in the previous decade. Forty years of road development in Mount Rainier happened to reach its culmination in the 1930s. All that remained after 1940 was the completion of the Stevens Canyon and Mowich Lake roads during the Mission 66 period.

What distinguished the PWA's public works program in Mount Rainier as another Depression-era relief program, similar in design to the CWA and WPA, was its ambitious array of small-scale development projects, collectively termed "other physical improvements." These projects ranged from water and sewer systems and campground development to comfort stations and ranger residences. The single, largest project involved the construction of an underground telephone system for the entire park—estimated to cost $106,340. [41] While the Bureau of Public Roads continued to administer and supervise road construction contracts in Mount Rainier, the NPS handled this other component of the public works program.

These were not make-work projects. In reality, the public works program that Superintendent Tomlinson proposed to the director consisted almost entirely of items that had been programmed in the park appropriation estimates for the past several years. The projects had been deferred year after year while funds were diverted to meet the urgent need for services at Ohanapecosh and Tipsoo Lakes (the two areas encompassed in the 1931 addition to the park) as well as the newly developed area at Yakima Park. The PWA allotments gave the NPS an opportunity to catch up on the backlog of projects that were required to meet the demand of growing visitor use. Excerpts from the superintendent's proposed public works program for 1934 may provide a sense of how basic these projects were to the development of the park:

Extension, Administration Building Yakima Park

Present Administration building crowded, and with no space for some operations. Telephone exchange takes up most of lobby. Sleeping quarters inadequate.

New building needed for Naturalist quarters, telephone exchange and additional sleeping quarters.

Part of personnel now required to rent cabins from operator. Yakima Park has proved unusually popular and room is needed to care for necessary personnel to handle functions necessary.

Community House, Yakima Park

No facilities now available, lectures held outdoors where weather handicaps tremendously, or in Operators dining room where operations conflict.

Building with adequate heating plant very necessary if public is to be taken care of, and educational features continued.

There is a persistant [sic] public demand for shelter of this kind from visitors who criticise [sic] adversely when they find none now. The lectures are well attended and deserve shelter rather than being compelled to be outdoors.

Equipment Shed, Yakima Park

At present much equipment is stored outdoors, facilities being inadequate for storage purposes.

Rapid deterioration is inevitable under the circumstances. Only a temporary garage and repair shop is now available and this shed will at least get drivers and mechanics under cover while working on machinery.

Sewer System, Ohanapecosh

With the vastly increased patronage of this area caused by the building of the Transmountain Road by the State and our own road into the area just being completed, the problem of sanitation immediately becomes important.

An adequate sewer system for the hotel, cabins, the camp ground, new Ranger Station and Utility area is very necessary to prevent pollution of the stream and resultant danger to health.

The above items were ordered fifth through eighth in priority in a list of forty items. At the end of the list were such items as Comfort Station, Paradise Camp Ground; Bunk House, White River Entrance; Gas and Oil Storage Shed, White River Entrance; Carpenter and Plumber Shop, Longmire; 2 Equipment Sheds, Longmire; Paint Shop, Longmire. Most of the items received the director's conditional approval. [42]

The public works program brought about changes in the park staff. The park administration had been hiring seasonal laborers for construction projects such as these since the early 1920s, but the public works program of the 1930s was on an unprecedented scale. At the peak of the program in the mid-1930s, hundreds of PWA workers were employed in the park. Unlike the CCC and WPA, the PWA did not provide funds for supervisory personnel. In order to administer and supervise the increased labor force, the Park Service had to create its own new staff positions. Specifically, Tomlinson requested more engineers, foremen, experienced clerks, timekeepers, and storekeepers to oversee the public works program. [43]

The park administration was also responsible for housing and feeding the PWA workers. Initially, the cost of procuring tents, cots, blankets, tools, and mess equipment for the work camps had to be charged directly to the PWA projects. By the mid-1930s, the park had accumulated a large stock of camp equipment which could be used year after year. PWA camps were smaller and less elaborate than CCC camps. They were set up at the beginning of each summer season and dismantled at the end of it. The precise locations of these camps is not well-documented, but presumably the Park Service situated them near Longmire, Paradise, Sunrise, and Ohanapecosh, where most PWA projects were located. [44]

While the NPS judged the public works program in Mount Rainier National Park to be necessary and indeed overdue, the program eventually fell victim to broader public policy concerns. When the national economy made a partial recovery in 1937, Roosevelt, believing that the federal government's deficit spending might cause inflation and undermine private investment, slashed funding for both the PWA and WPA. A year later, with the economy in retreat once more, Roosevelt requested another $1.4 billion for the WPA and $1 billion for the PWA. But by 1940, public works programs were rapidly giving way to federal spending on defense. [45] Tomlinson rode this rollercoaster without complaint, though each year it became more difficult to plan and complete large projects.

One project epitomized the difficulties of winding down the public works program: this was the Paradise ski lodge. The building began as a joint CCC-NPS project in 1938. When construction of the Paradise ski lodge stalled for lack of funds in 1939, Tomlinson's superiors tried to get the PWA to chip in the last $22,000; when this failed, they tried to scrape the money together from the balances remaining in other PWA project accounts. Finally, in 1941, the ski lodge had to be completed under NPS force account. By coincidence, the ski lodge opened to the public in the same week that the United States entered World War II. The building marked the end of an era in the park's construction history. [46]

Road Construction under the PWA

Road construction practically proceeded on a separate track from the rest of the public works program in Mount Rainier National Park. Road work required heavy equipment and skilled equipment operators, putting it out of reach of the various government relief camps. Instead, the Bureau of Public Roads contracted all major road construction projects to private companies, as it had since 1925. These companies hired their own labor, serviced their own work camps, and provided their own tools and heavy equipment. They followed engineering plans prepared by the Bureau of Public Roads. The park administration was involved mainly at the beginning and the end of each project: working with BPR engineers on the location and design of the road in the early stages of the project and employing CCC crews or other laborers in roadside cleanup and landscape naturalization work in the later stages of the project. [47]

A crucial planning meeting between NPS and BPR officials took place at park headquarters on August 18, 1933. The purpose of the meeting was to go over the large allotments for road construction projects which Albright had authorized in July and devise a public works program that would meet with the PWA's approval. The main question was whether to modify the program in such a way as to allow more contracts to be let right away, in order "to put as many men to work in the very near future as possible." [48] Attending the meeting were the Park Service's chief architect, Tom Vint; the Park Service's landscape architect assigned to Mount Rainier, Ernest A. Davidson; the Park Service's chief engineer, Frank A. Kittredge; Superintendent Tomlinson; and four engineers of the BPR, F.E. Andrews, E.D. Kinney, C.G. Polk, and G.W. Mayo. Unexpectedly, the meeting also brought out lingering differences of opinion among NPS officials concerning the Stevens Canyon Road, even though Albright had tried to lay that controversy to rest two years earlier. Immediately after the meeting, Vint, Kittredge, and Tomlinson each dictated a letter expressing their respective position on the Stevens Canyon Road, and sent the letters along with a neutral memorandum describing the meeting to the new director, Arno B. Cammerer.

Regarding the main issue of harnessing Mount Rainier's multi-million dollar road construction program to the national economic recovery plan, the representatives of the two bureaus agreed to several changes that would allow more road work to commence immediately. Four-year contracts were broken down into two-year contracts to be let concurrently. About half of the funds programmed for Eastside Road construction were reapportioned to other projects: Westside Road construction, improvement of the road into Ohanapecosh, paving the Yakima Park Road, building a bridge over Laughingwater Creek. A temporary "tote" road would be built from the Reflection Lakes into the head of Stevens Canyon so that construction of this section of the Stevens Canyon Road could be attacked from both ends at once. Tote roads would not be built, however, for the Eastside or Westside roads, ''on account of the destruction which would be entailed in the very difficult country.'' It would be necessary, instead, to work these projects from one end only. [49] There were limits to what ought to be sacrificed in the face of the current economic crisis.

Concerning the Stevens Canyon Road, the two landscape architects, supported by Kittredge, argued that the road should not be built. They favored an alternative route via Skate Creek, south of the park boundary, which would connect the Nisqually Road with the state highway south of Ohanapecosh. The distance from Longmire to Ohanapecosh would be only two miles greater via Skate Creek, or thirty-one miles as opposed to twenty-nine. The advantages of the Skate Creek route were that it would cause less scarring of the landscape, cost considerably less to construct and maintain, open earlier in the season, and reach completion sooner. The main disadvantage was that it would not fulfill the goal of an all-park road linking Paradise and Sunrise. To get from Paradise to Sunrise via the Skate Creek route would require a thirteen-mile backtrack to Longmire plus an excursion outside the park. [50]

Tomlinson, of course, favored the Stevens Canyon route. He had been pushing hard for this connecting road since 1930. He thought the former director had finally settled this issue on his visit to Mount Rainier in 1931, and he fumed that Vint and Kittredge should have raised their objections two years ago. This was somewhat disingenuous: Albright had settled the matter of whether the south side road should follow a low-line route from Stevens Canyon around Backbone Ridge, or take a high-line route over Cowlitz Divide. As Vint pointed out, he and Kittredge were now responding to the more detailed plans which the BPR engineers had developed during the past two years. Vint commented,

From my viewpoint we could very nicely eliminate the Stevens South Side Canyon project avoiding the construction of a very heavy project which means heavy scars and heavy maintenance on a short season project. I have always recommended the use of the Skate Creek project in preference to the Stevens Canyon Ohanapecosh project. [51]

Kittredge, for his part, observed:

The proposed highway is about one thousand feet in elevation above the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs and parallels the existing new East Side highway near Ohanapecosh Hot Springs for a distance of several miles. The steepness of the Cowlitz Divide slope is so great that the scars of construction must be very severe. It will be impossible to hold all of the blasted rock on the slope and there will be much devastation of the timber below. There is also the extreme danger that on such a steep slope, burning logs may during clearing, roll and start fires between the right-of-way and the river. [52]

Both Kittredge and Vint suggested that the high cost of the road—now estimated at $2 million—should also be taken into account. The money could be used on the Westside Road instead. Tomlinson replied to these arguments:

It is true that the Stevens Canyon Section is an expensive route to build and maintain as compared to a much larger and less scenic route. If construction and maintenance costs are the governing elements, then the Stevens Route should be abandoned. These points were considered by Director Albright and his decision to include the Stevens Canyon Route was based, as I understand it, on the need for a direct scenic route connecting the two major operations; namely, Paradise Valley and Yakima Park; also a route within park boundaries. [53]

Cammerer sided with the superintendent in this debate, and work on the Stevens Canyon Road commenced that fall. By 1941, the road was virtually completed from the Stevens Canyon Entrance to Box Canyon and from Reflection Lakes to within a half mile of Stevens Creek. Work on the actual Stevens Canyon section was halted by World War II, and was not resumed until 1950. [54] It is interesting to speculate whether Cammerer would have decided against the project had he known that it would take twenty-four years to complete it.

The location and construction of the Eastside Road, meanwhile, proceeded without much controversy. The route was straightforward: up the Ohanapecosh River and Chinook Creek to Cayuse Pass—an elevation gain of 2,700 feet in thirteen miles. The main engineering challenges consisted of the single tunnel between Deer and Dewey creeks and the several creek crossings. [55] To speed the work along, the BPR let separate contracts for clearing, grading, and surfacing sections of the road and for constructing the tunnel and bridges. Sometimes small complications arose from having so many contractors working on the east side at one time; for example, the contractor for the Eastside Road surfacing occupied the vacated work camp of the Deadwood Creek Bridge contractor before the latter's project was approved. Minor labor troubles and short construction seasons also hampered the work. [56] The NPS anticipated that the road would be completed in 1937, but it took an additional three years. The eventual cost came to $1.4 million. [57]


The growth of the NPS during the New Deal years added immensely to the administrative burdens of the Mount Rainier superintendency. The demands placed upon the superintendent by the public works program and federal relief programs have already been described. Other new responsibilities are discussed below. With added responsibilities came added power; the Mount Rainier superintendency acquired pivotal regional importance in the NPS hierarchy.

Effects of the Reorganization of 1933

President Roosevelt issued two executive orders in June and July 1933 which transferred a large array of federal reserves from the Forest Service and the War Department to the Park Service. When these took effect on August 10, 1933, the national park system embraced not only national parks and monuments, but national memorials, national battlefields, national cemeteries, and national capital parks. During the next few years, it also came to include national recreation areas, national parkways, national historic sites, and national seashores. These diverse holdings expanded the NPS mission. The Park Service was now not only the keeper of the nation's natural wonders, but the recognized leader in recreation policy, historic preservation, and related matters. [58]

There were so many units in the national park system that senior officials in the NPS could no longer expect to have a close, personal familiarity with each one. Before the reorganization, Mount Rainier National Park was one of twenty-two national parks. In addition to the national parks, the NPS administered forty national monuments. [59] Thus it was possible, during the Mather-Albright years, for Mather or one of his two top assistants, Albright or Cammerer, to make almost yearly visits to Mount Rainier. They obtained a firsthand knowledge of park issues and did not hesitate to overrule the superintendent even from their far away offices in Washington, D.C. Director Cammerer faced a new situation. As the first director of the NPS after the reorganization, Cammerer had to adopt a new management style, relying more and more on the judgment of superintendents to resolve local policy questions. By the time Cammerer retired in 1940, the NPS administered more than 175 separate units of the national park system.

Superintendent Tomlinson adapted his office well to these changing circumstances. He and Cammerer were both "Mather men," veterans of the Park Service's early years, and he knew that he had the director's full confidence, often addressing him in correspondence as "Cam." Not only did Cammerer rely on Tomlinson's judgment in nearly all major administrative decisions affecting Mount Rainier, he also respected Tomlinson's advice on other NPS concerns in Washington state. With his tenure as Mount Rainier superintendent now entering its second decade, Tomlinson had become a known quantity among the people of the state. Conservationist Irving Brant, who worked closely with Tomlinson on the Olympic National Park campaign, wrote in his memoirs that the Mount Rainier superintendent was "highly regarded throughout the state of Washington." [60] Increasingly, Tomlinson served as the Park Service s ambassador to the Pacific Northwest, a sort of regional director before the national park system was regionalized.

Washington state was the scene of one of the great conservation battles of the 1930s: the struggle between the Park Service and the Forest Service for control of the old growth forests on the Olympic Peninsula. In the reorganization of 1933, Mount Olympus National Monument was transferred from the Forest Service to the Park Service. Within months of the transfer, the Seattle Mountaineers and the Emergency Conservation Committee were starting a campaign to make the area a large national park that would take in some of the forest country surrounding the crest of the mountain range. Washington's Congressman Mon C. Wallgren introduced a bill in March 1935; the president visited the embattled peninsula in October 1937; the park was established in June 1938. These were the turning points in a campaign that increasingly took Tomlinson away from the administration of Mount Rainier. Some time prior to 1938, Tomlinson was named coordinating superintendent for Mount Olympus National Monument. He also had responsibility for Whitman Mission National Monument (established in June 1936) and he served at this time as the Park Service's point man for the proposed North Cascades National Park. [61]

Tomlinson's broader responsibilities not only divided his attention, they shaped his outlook on certain matters pertaining to Mount Rainier. For example, when the NPS Wildlife Division pushed for a south side addition to Mount Rainier National Park that would include winter range for the park's deer population, Tomlinson objected that it might cause political repercussions on the Olympic Peninsula. "The most important project in this State now before the National Park Service is the proposed Mount Olympus National Park," he declared. "I feel that all of our efforts and energies should first be directed toward obtaining approval of National Park status for as much of that fine wilderness area as can be obtained." [62] Acting Director Arthur E. Demaray backed him up, advising one NPS official that "such projects [as the south side addition to Mount Rainier] should not be pressed at this time in view of the detrimental effects such action might have on our prospects regarding the Olympic Peninsula." [63] Another NPS official reported a conversation with Tomlinson on this matter in the summer of 1936. The brief memorandum is revealing of Tomlinson's forceful personality as well as his political savvy:

Major Tomlinson emphasized to me the importance of avoiding any activity in this direction. He stated that the state-wide controversy regarding any increase in national park area in the State is so heated, that any suggestion for the addition of this area to Mount Rainier would greatly endanger the possibility of securing local support of our Mount Olympus plans.

This area is obviously of far less importance to the National Park system than the Mount Olympus area, and, unless you instruct otherwise, this office will definitely avoid any further action on it at this time, and will discourage any interest which may arise from other sources. [64]

On Tomlinson's recommendation, the NPS established a branch office in Seattle in April 1933. Although not continuously staffed, the office served as a convenient meeting place for NPS officials and other federal and state officials. Tomlinson made it his practice to occupy the office each Thursday, and he encouraged other park staff members to use the office as the need arose. It was his view that the trend of NPS affairs in the state would create more and more need for a city office such as this, particularly if and when Mount Olympus became a national park. [65]

At one point, Tomlinson's office routine got him into trouble. The superintendent had purchased a home in Seahurst, a suburb south of Seattle on the shore of Puget Sound, where his wife and children now resided. Tomlinson regularly made the round trip from his home at Longmire to the Seattle office, then from Seattle to Seahurst, then from Seahurst back to Longmire. At the beginning of fiscal year 1937, the NPS issued a travel order authorizing him to travel from park headquarters at Longmire to and from such points in the state as might be required in connection with his official duties. For some time (it is unclear how long) the superintendent dubiously claimed per diem expenses for all the week days that he spent the night at his second residence in Seahurst. This embarrassing infraction was brought to Secretary of the Interior Ickes's attention after what appeared to be a routine, internal audit of Tomlinson's expense vouchers. It is possible that the superintendent was set up. He had been investigated twice before on spurious grounds. [66] More likely, Tomlinson's expense vouchers came under scrutiny because he was one of several "coordinating superintendents" in the expanding national park system who were being asked to take on administrative duties outside their respective parks. This called for more complicated accounting procedures, and Secretary Ickes was known for running a tight ship. In any case, Tomlinson agreed to reimburse the government for these per diem expenses and managed to lay the matter swiftly to rest. [67]

Regionalization and the Seattle Office

As the NPS grew during the 1930s, the various field offices with technical staff became consolidated into a few cities spread across the United States. San Francisco and Berkeley had the western offices of the NPS Branch of Planning and the Wildlife Division respectively. With the creation of the CCC, the NPS also established a field office in San Francisco for administering the CCC program in state parks. To fulfill this latter function, the NPS divided the nation into four regions and established four field offices. Four years later, Cammerer decided to regionalize the entire national park system along the same lines as its administration of the CCC. Mount Rainier National Park became part of the Western Region, or Region Four, with the regional office located in San Francisco.

A regional directorship was similar to the kind of position Tomlinson was trying to create in Seattle, and it was hardly surprising that four years later he would become regional director for the Western Region. [68] But in 1937-38, the Mount Rainier superintendent remained sharply focused on the Olympic National Park campaign and the potential for an important Seattle office situated between the two national parks in Washington. He worked closely with his former chief ranger and then custodian of Mount Olympus National Monument, Preston Macy. [69] In October 1937, when President Roosevelt went to the Olympic Peninsula, he and Macy faced off against Forest Service officials as the president listened and made up his mind in favor of the Park Service's position. [70]

After the establishment of Olympic National Park on June 29, 1938, Tomlinson proposed the establishment of an enlarged superintendency based in Seattle. He advised Cammerer that such an office would be the "best way to administer the two parks in the State of Washington"—it would allow the superintendent to devote "much needed attention to the development of better understanding in the State of national park policies, the solving of numerous conflicting problems in the new park, and the coordination of the work in connection with the North Cascades proposed park." The North Cascades park proposal alone, Tomlinson added, would justify the position. The position would barely allow the NPS to keep abreast of the Forest Service's vigorous public relations effort in the state. The details of Mount Rainier administration could be left to subordinates, who had proven their mettle during his many absences from the park in the last four years. [71]

Tomlinson fleshed out his proposal in a letter to Demaray in September. The "coordinating office" in Seattle would handle all purchasing, vouchering, and accounting work as well as much of the routine administrative correspondence for both parks. The superintendent would spend about 50 to 60 percent of his time there and the remainder in the two parks as circumstances required. He would need an assistant superintendent, a stenographer-clerk, a purchasing and voucher clerk, a typist, and an accountant-clerk. Besides the savings in personnel and equipment costs, the permanent staffing of a Seattle office would be a boon to NPS public relations in the state. [72]

Cammerer made recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior along somewhat different lines from what Tomlinson proposed. Tomlinson's position as Mount Rainier superintendent would be reallocated to grade 17 and he would supervise the organization and preliminary development of Olympic National Park, Preston Macy would be appointed superintendent of Olympic at grade 15, and there would be an assistant, grade 13, who would serve both parks. Meanwhile, Demaray wrote to Tomlinson: "I see no reason why you should not recommend transferring some Rainier personnel to Seattle during the winter and spending perhaps the major part of your time at Seattle." [73]

If Tomlinson still hoped that his supervisory role in setting up Olympic National Park might evolve into an enlarged superintendency, he was finally disappointed in March 1939 when Demaray informed him that Secretary Ickes had stipulated that the administration of Mount Rainier and Olympic were to be fully separated. Tomlinson was to turn over all records pertaining to Olympic to Superintendent Macy. In an effort to soften the blow, Demaray added:

At this time, I desire to tell you of the deep appreciation that we all have here of the splendid work you have done to bring about the creation of Olympic National Park and to assist in the progress of its administration. This fine work of yours has been recognized so far as possible by administrative promotions and will be borne in mind for any future consideration. [74]

Tomlinson was now anxious to move on. His superintendency at Mount Rainier National Park, dating from 1923, was the longest of any serving national park superintendent. For several years he and his wife had maintained two residences for the benefit of their school-age children. In the winter of 1940-41 he accepted a temporary assignment in Washington, D.C. (leaving his family behind in Seahurst), at the behest of Director Newton B. Drury. [75] Finally that summer he received the appointment he had been looking for: regional director, Western Region. He would serve effectively in that position until 1950, keeping a hand in the administration of Mount Rainier National Park.

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2000