An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park
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Visitation to national parks increased dramatically with the return of peace and prosperity after World War II. Park administrators had to contend with increasingly crowded conditions in the campgrounds, on the roads, and at the entrance stations. These new conditions caught the NPS in a double bind. First, park staffing requirements grew much faster than the Park Service's budget. The ratio of park staff to visitors declined and the parks became woefully understaffed. The situation was exacerbated by the mood of fiscal retrenchment in the new Republican Congress, and by the exorbitant costs of fielding more personnel when a deficit of personnel housing had to be made up as well.

The second problem that the Park Service faced after World War II was a crumbling infrastructure. Much regular maintenance performed by the Park Service had been deferred during the war years. Worse still, proper maintenance on many of the privately-built visitor accommodations in the parks had been deferred for even longer, going back to the Depression years. By and large the concessions were in very bad shape to meet the new crowds of tourists who were eager to use the national parks. Thus, the park concessions problem nested inside the larger problem of deferred maintenance needs, inadequate staffing, and continued budget austerity in the face of burgeoning public use. But the park concessions problem loomed large because the concessioners clamored for help from the federal government.

Mount Rainier National Park was typical; indeed, it so exemplified problems that beset the whole national park system that Director Drury profiled the park's administrative challenges by way of illustration in his annual report for 1947. [1] Assistant Secretary of the Interior Girard C. Davidson told the House Committee on Public Lands that the problem of the concession in Mount Rainier National Park was perhaps "the No. I problem of the Park Service." [2] The company was financially weak and in low standing with its investors. Its inns and lodges were old and in an alarming state of disrepair. Some of the buildings could only be described as fire traps, and were not well-suited in any case to the day-use visitor who made up a growing proportion of park visitors. The company hesitated to invest in the rehabilitation or replacement of these buildings when its contract with the NPS was nearly due to expire, giving it little security on its investment. Finally, the company was burdened by rising operating costs after the war, especially for labor. For all of these reasons, the RNPC tried to get out of the business altogether in 1948-49. It only continued because the federal government purchased its buildings, gave it better terms in a new contract, and promised certain park improvements such as the completion of the Stevens Canyon Road and a new day-use facility at Paradise (see Chapter XIV). These changes gave the struggling RNPC another lease on life, perpetuating the government's partnership with the company in a new form for approximately twenty more years, or until the RNPC sold all its assets to a successor company in 1968.

It may be helpful to think of the RNPC's partnership with the NPS evolving through three major phases in the course of its 52-year lifespan. It will be recalled that the partnership between the NPS and the RNPC dated all the way back to 1916 when both the agency and the company were born. From its inception until the onset of the Great Depression, the partnership functioned basically according to plan; the locally-owned RNPC was a model company in Stephen Mather's national park concession policy. During the Depression the partnership was transformed. The RNPC cut operating expenses wherever it could and accepted a much diminished role in the running of the park. The NPS, meanwhile, tapped into a variety of new federal programs and demonstrated a growing independence from local business interests in developing the park. This second phase in the partnership ended with the drastic reduction of the Park Service budget during World War II.

The third phase in the partnership was a long time in the making and quite politicized. Beginning in 1946, the NPS looked once more to the private sector for investment capital. But it quickly discovered a disturbing lack of confidence in park concessions on the part of businessmen. In an effort to put concession services in Mount Rainier on a sounder footing, the NPS advocated a policy of government ownership coupled with private operation of all guest facilities. The idea was neither new nor unique to Mount Rainier but it received a lot of attention in the Pacific Northwest, beginning with a visit to Seattle by the Secretary of the Interior in 1946 and followed by a congressional committee hearing at Paradise Lodge in 1947. President Harry S. Truman signed a law in 1950 allowing the government to acquire the RNPC's buildings, and a congressional appropriation in 1952 finally made the idea of government ownership and private operation of visitor accommodations a reality. Government acquisition of the RNPC's buildings crystalized the third and final phase of the Park Service's partnership with the RNPC. [3]

This chapter examines the role of the concessioner in rehabilitating visitor accommodations after World War II. (This task mostly preceded the rehabilitation of roads, campgrounds, museums, and administrative buildings under the Park Service's Mission 66 program, which is the subject of the next chapter.) The first section of this chapter traces the political dialogue and negotiations by which the NPS and the RNPC forged their partnership anew. The second and third sections of the chapter examine two sources of trouble, or at least ambiguity, in that restored partnership: the RNPC's responsibility for rehabilitation and maintenance of what were now government-owned buildings, and the precise meaning of the RNPC's exclusive privilege to provide visitor transportation. The fourth section of this chapter traces the history of that lesser Mount Rainier National Park concession, the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Company, from the end of World War II to its dissolution fifteen years later. Finally, the fifth section looks at evolution of the mountain guide service from 1946 to 1965.


The basic problem confronting the NPS and the RNPC after World War II was that the RNPC's stockholders had completely lost confidence in the company's ability to cam a profit. In the stockholders' view, either the federal government must subsidize the RNPC's operation or the RNPC must take the necessary steps to liquidate itself. This in turn presented the NPS with a choice. Either the NPS must persuade Congress to subsidize the RNPC or it must find other capitalists willing to take over the park concession. Two other alternatives, Park Service operation of the visitor facilities or termination of the visitor services that the RNPC provided, were both rejected out of hand. The problem therefore resolved itself into one of making the concession both profitable for the operator and consistent with the purposes of the national park.

In their search for a mutually satisfactory solution to this problem, the RNPC and the NPS encountered three main points of contention. The first was the concession contract, which was due to expire on December 31, 1947. The RNPC was only interested in continuing operations past that date if it could secure better terms in a new contract. The NPS, for its part, did not want to extend the RNPC's contract if a new source of private investment capital could be found to replace the 30-year-old company. The series of short-term contract extensions which were made to bridge this situation barely kept the partnership functioning during the period 1948-53. The second point of contention was the need for an act of Congress that would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire the RNPC's buildings for the government. The legislation was a major hurdle which the RNPC and the NPS had to leap together. The third and final point of contention was the problem of winter use, which impinged heavily on the problem of the concession. The Park Service's requirement that the RNPC provide public accommodations during the winter was clearly a major reason why the concession had become unprofitable. Yet the one development that seemed to offer hope of making the winter season profitable—the addition of a permanent chair lift above Paradise—was unacceptable to the NPS for it would violate the fundamental purposes of the national park.

The Search for Investment Capital

On June 22, 1945, President Truman made a four-hour visit to Mount Rainier National Park, the first president to visit the park since William H. Taft. In company with Governor Mon C. Wallgren and followed by a large entourage of reporters, photographers, Secret Service agents, and state patrolmen, the President rode by car to Paradise where he "frolicked in the snow and threw snowballs," ate lunch and played the piano in the Paradise Inn. The presidential outing was perhaps nine-tenths recreation and photo opportunity, but Superintendent John C. Preston was invited to join Truman, Wallgren, and the president's aides for about thirty minutes, at which time "the President asked many questions about the National Park Service and Mount Rainier in particular." [4] Whether anything substantive came out of this meeting is unclear, but Truman appears to have been the first politician to use Mount Rainier as a backdrop and the national park as a symbol of what the federal government could do for Washington state. In the years to come, numerous Washington state senators and congressmen would follow his example.

In the late spring of 1946, President Truman's Secretary of the Interior, Julius A. Krug, travelled to Washington state to listen to residents' demands for new accommodations in Mount Rainier National Park, especially new ski facilities at Paradise. Meeting with local business leaders in Seattle on June 17, 1946, Krug acknowledged the need for new development and pledged all assistance that the Department of the Interior could provide. But he emphasized that the government was faced with spending cuts, and he expressed hope that private industry would put forward the necessary investment capital. The money, Krug argued, logically should come from local banks and railroads and airlines which served the Pacific Northwest and benefitted most directly from tourism. Krug's meetings with the local business community were reminiscent of Mather's pitch to Seattle and Tacoma capitalists thirty years earlier. Accompanied to Seattle by NPS Director Newton B. Drury and Superintendent Preston, the Secretary of the Interior sought to initiate a new partnership between the Park Service and private capital in Mount Rainier National Park. [5]

The RNPC's president, Paul H. Sceva, injected a note of skepticism into the meetings with the Secretary of the Interior. Private capital could not "pay out" in Mount Rainier National Park, Sceva insisted. Public accommodations could only be rehabilitated and expanded with the help of the government. The RNPC had thirty years of experience and was uniquely familiar with the many adversities facing the park concession. A few of the original 200 capitalists who had formed the company in 1916 were still on the board of directors; Sceva himself was appointed assistant to the general manager in 1923, general manager in 1928, and president of the company in 1944. Speaking from personal experience and on behalf of many old investors, Sceva said that the RNPC could not afford to borrow any more capital with which to make the necessary repairs and improvements in lodging facilities. Any investors who thought they could do better would be destined to disappointment. [6]

Sceva presented the RNPC's position in greater detail in a letter and memorandum addressed to Drury on June 5, 1946—probably in anticipation of the Secretary's June 17 visit. The RNPC president began by observing that the company's twenty-year lease was to expire a year and a half hence. Thus, he was laying out the terms under which the RNPC would enter a new concession contract with the government. The RNPC wanted the Park Service to build new facilities for the company to operate them under lease; it wanted the Park Service to purchase the company's buildings, the proceeds to be invested by the company in new transportation equipment; and it wanted the Park Service to recognize that the new arrangement would be of an experimental nature and subject to fair adjustment, especially with regard to winter operations. Sceva avoided the term "concession" altogether, calling his plan an "operating lease." [7]

The RNPC's twenty-year concession contract was one of several national park concession contracts that were soon to expire. These contracts dated from the late 192 Os, when the NPS had had the foresight to renew, years before their expiration dates, the several twenty-year contracts which had originated under Mather's new concession policy in 1916. The uncertainties brought about by the Depression and World War II prevented a repetition of this smooth procedure in the early 1940s. Now with this second generation of contracts beginning to lapse, Drury found himself in a tight spot not only with the RNPC but with several other park concessions as well. In his annual report for 1946, Drury provided a sketch of concession policy, including this comment on the twenty-year concession contracts:

Existing law forbids concession contracts exceeding 20 years in duration. Since the useful life of such substantial structures as concessioners are expected to provide is normally more than 20 years, and since Internal Revenue regulations in many cases preclude writing off the investment in this period, this limitation, instead of being for too long a period, as is sometimes claimed, is in reality too short from the standpoint of the investors of private capital on these Federal lands. It compels either an unreasonably high allowance for depreciation, which usually cannot be allowed, or an implied understanding either that the concession contract will be renewed at the end of the 20-year period or that the Government will give the concessioner an opportunity to recover the remaining value of his investment when the contract. [8]

Drury went on to explain that to accede to the RNPC's demand that the government purchase the old buildings from the concessioner would require one of two assumptions. Either the operating lease would produce a sufficient return during the expected life of the structures so that the government would recover its investment, or the government would absorb a financial loss in the public interest of providing accommodations. The latter assumption amounted to a government subsidy, Drury stated, and did not seem justifiable when only a small percentage of the whole public actually utilized the facilities. [9]

Pacific Northwesterners generally had no such qualms about federal aid. Skiers observed that nearly every ski area in Washington and Oregon was located on federal land; therefore, they said, it was incumbent upon the federal land managers—chiefly the Forest Service and Park Service—to plan and provide for ski resorts in the region. Boosters in the Puget Sound cities' chambers of commerce argued that Portland had its Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, so the Park Service should provide the same kind of facility at Mount Rainier. Timberline Lodge had been built by the WPA at government expense, and since then the Forest Service had leased the development to a private operator for a modest annual fee without any expectation of making back what the government had put into it. The RNPC's investors and their supporters pointed out again and again that the government had invited Puget Sound area businessmen to form the company and build the park's hotels in the first place; now the government should do the right thing and assume the equity in those aging structures. With these arguments circulating in the local press and in public meetings, it was the unusual Pacific Northwesterner who quarrelled with the idea of a government subsidy for visitor facilities in Mount Rainier National Park.

Congressional authorization was needed for the government to purchase the RNPC's buildings. Sceva had been working on this problem for years. The first bill providing for government acquisition of all public accommodations in the park had been introduced in Congress prior to World War II. Representative John Coffee and Senator Homer T. Bone, both of Washington, introduced companion bills in the House and Senate in the spring of 1939. Both bills were tabled in committee. [10]

On February 28, 1947, Representative Thor C. Tollefson of Tacoma introduced a similar bill providing for the acquisition of the RNPC's buildings and the completion of new facilities by the government. This time Sceva was determined to secure the Park Service's and the Department of the Interior's support for the bill. A month after the bill was introduced, Sceva wrote to Drury complaining that Superintendent Preston was giving public statements to the effect that the NPS was neutral toward this bill. Drury responded by ordering Tomlinson to instruct Preston that as a general policy, the NPS was in favor of government ownership of concession buildings. [11] Later, when asked by the House Committee on Public Lands to report on the Tollefson bill, the Department of the Interior gave it a favorable report. Assistant Secretary Oscar L. Chapman informed the committee that experience had shown that public accommodations could not be built and operated by private capital at a profit in Mount Rainier National Park, and further, that it was the Park Service's duty to ensure that public accommodations were provided there. [12] Sceva's efforts on behalf of the bill were now paying off. Although the bill did not finally pass Congress for five more years, Sceva had won two points in principle: (1) that the federal government would stand behind new developments at Paradise even at government expense, and (2) that it favored government ownership and private operation of visitor accommodations at Mount Rainier.

On September 15, 1947, a subcommittee of the Committee on Public Lands held a hearing on the Tollefson bill at Paradise Lodge. The subcommittee's composition was indicative of new regional and party alignments in Congress; of the nine members of the House subcommittee on public lands who came to Paradise, seven were Republicans and eight hailed from western states. Representatives Thor C. Tollefson and Russell V. Mack of Washington were also present. The central issue of the hearing was whether or not visitor facilities in Mount Rainier National Park should be purchased by the government, thereby granting what amounted to a subsidy.

The hearing began with a long and forceful presentation by Sceva on the history of the RNPC. The congressmen questioned Sceva on the RNPC's rates, the value of its buildings, the costs of rehabilitation, the paltry amount of cash spent per capita by park visitors. There was this exchange between Sceva, Representative Wesley A. D'Ewart of Montana, and the subcommittee chairman, Frank A. Barrett of Wyoming:

Mr. D'Ewart. I am amazed at your average spent per person [for RNPC services]. From the testimony that has been presented to this committee at other hearings, the average person who goes on hunting trips spends—if he is a local person, $50, and if he is an out-of-State person, a hundred dollars. You have 72 cents according to the table here.

Mr. Sceva. Last year it was 55. It was 55 last year.

Mr. D'Ewart. Fifty-five in 1946.

Mr. Sceva. Yes.

Mr. D'Ewart. I am amazed, considering the testimony that has been presented by the various groups to this committee in the past.

Mr. Barrett. The other groups don't have a way to put it down to a mathematical certainty, but Mr. Sceva does, I take it.

Mr. D'Ewart. I believe this would be interesting, in considering other testimony, what has been presented.

Mr. Barrett. I agree with you.

Mr. D'Ewart. Have you any alternative to suggest? This committee, at least I, would hesitate to do away with a private enterprise and establish a Federal agency for ownership of hotels and this operation. Have you any alternative to suggest?

Mr. Sceva. I am thinking right along the same lines with you on the matter of capitalistic system or private enterprise. And almost all of our directors think the same way. But this is one thing we cannot surmount and I don't—we do not believe anyone else can surmount it. We do not believe you can put invested capital in here, in permanent buildings, and operate it 60 days in the summertime and pay out for 12 months' investment. We don't think it can be done. Maybe someone else smarter than we are can do it. But we haven't any way to suggest. The only way we can suggest is a subsidy. [13]

Following Sceva's testimony, the subcommittee gave shorter allotments of time to Fred H. McNeil of the National Ski Association, Art Ganson of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Elmun R. Fetterolf of the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, and Leo Gallagher of The Mountaineers, all of whom supported Tollefson's bill. The hearings closed with the testimony of Assistant Secretary C. Girard Davidson, who reaffirmed the department's support for the bill while cautioning that the purchase of the buildings would be a mere stopgap measure pending a much greater congressional appropriation for new visitor facilities.

Davidson also alluded in his testimony to a review of the whole national park concession problem by an advisory group to the Secretary of the Interior. This important service-wide review was currently underway. Asked why the Park Service had not yet assessed the value of the concessioner's buildings, Davidson explained that the Secretary was awaiting the recommendations by the concessions advisory group. Apparently the existence of this group was a revelation to most members of the subcommittee. Tollefson would later assert that the subcommittee's anticipation of the advisory group's report influenced its decision to table the bill. [14] This was understandable, for it was likely that the bill would in some way set a precedent, and it seemed prudent to await the Secretary's own policy review before addressing a particular situation such as that which occurred in Mount Rainier National Park. In any case, the findings by the concessions advisory group were crucial for the RNPC and Mount Rainier.

The Concessions Advisory Group

Secretary Krug went entirely outside the government for advice on park concessions. The group of five comprised a certified public accountant, a representative from the hotel industry, a member of the American Automobile Association, a representative of the traveling public, and a member of the National Parks Association. The group's report was nearly a year and a half in the making, and was finally submitted to the Secretary on February 19, 1948. Ironically, the fact that the Secretary requested this review caused some speculation that there would be a fundamental reverse of policy, that Mather' s basic concept of the single concession or regulated monopoly in each park would be rejected in favor of free enterprise. Far from making that recommendation, the concessions advisory group reaffirmed the basic idea that free enterprise would despoil the national parks. Indeed, NPS officials construed the report as a ringing endorsement of existing policy. This tended to mask the fact that the concessions advisory group did recommend a few significant changes. Most notably, it recommended that the government purchase and maintain the concession buildings in all national parks where they had been built by private capital. On the pivotal issue raised by Drury in his annual report for 1946—whether government purchase and maintenance of concession buildings should be in the form of a subsidy—the concessions advisory group suggested that it could.

It is the opinion of the advisory group that Government ownership of the physical plant which provides facilities for housing, feeding, merchandising and incidental services to the public is in the long run in the public interest. The group is therefore in accord with the announced long-range policy of the National Park Service in this respect. In approving the philosophy of such ownership, however, the advisory group does not include Government operation of these facilities, but it is of the opinion that operation may be performed more efficiently and economically and with better service to the public by private operation under contract with the Secretary. The opinion of the advisory group is based on a careful study of the advantages and disadvantages of the Government ownership of basic facilities, and takes into account the history of development within the parks. In order to implement the policy here approved the group recommends to the Secretary and to the Congress that provision be made for a uniform annual appropriation for the purpose of acquiring basic facilities in the national parks, which in a certain number of years to be determined by Congress, would complete the acquisition of all such properties and most important of all, is a definite policy regarding upkeep that will assure adequate funds for that purpose. Without this Government ownership would be unwise. [15]

This finding by the advisory group was crucial, for it implied that visitor facilities did not have to be economically sound in order to be justified on the basis of public need; the free market relationship between supply and demand did not pertain to national parks. Therefore, in providing for the public use of national parks, the NPS could not only enlist the help of private enterprise, it could give private enterprise some assistance in its endeavors, too. This actually strengthened the hand of investment capital in the emerging new development plan for Mount Rainier National Park for it enlarged the meaning of public demand. When Secretary Krug later that year adopted the advisory group's recommendations as policy, it was good news to the RNPC and the company's backers in the Seattle and Tacoma chambers of commerce.

The RNPC's Contract Expires

By the time Secretary Krug enunciated his new policy for national park concessions, the RNPC's twenty-year contract had already expired. If the RNPC had been alone, this circumstance might have placed the company in a weak bargaining position. But many other concession contracts had expired during the past two years, too. All had been replaced with interim one-year contracts. Conferring with other concessioners and testifying jointly at congressional hearings, the RNPC now acted as if the NPS were the supplicant.

Rather than being satisfied with the Secretary's statement of policy, concessioners were emboldened by it to demand more. In particular, they desired more security from their longterm contracts. They argued that the NPS should return to its past policy of negotiating new contracts several years in advance of the expiration dates of its current contracts, and they demanded the right of first refusal when the NPS offered new or additional concession contracts in each park. [16] Concessioners presented these and other demands to the Subcommittee on Public Lands in hearings held at the Capitol in May and June 1948. Sceva went to Washington with prepared testimony, although the subcommittee did not call him as a witness. In Sceva's place, Representative Tollefson testified on the difficulties faced by investment capital in Mount Rainier National Park. Other witnesses included a representative of the Union Pacific Railroad Company's interests in Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks, a representative of the Western Conference of National Park Concessionaires, the president and general manager of the Lassen National Park Company, and NPS Director Drury. The concessioners expressed frustration and even a willingness to shut down their operations unless NPS concession policy was modified on their behalf. [17]

Despite the tenor of the hearings, however, neither Krug nor Drury were willing to yield much ground to the RNPC. They still held out hope that new investors could be found, either for the company itself or for a new franchise that would buy out the RNPC. In the meantime, the RNPC must be induced to make preparations for the following year. On May 28, 1948, in the very midst of the hearings, the NPS offered the RNPC a one-year contract for 1949. It called for the company to make various repairs and improvements to its buildings, including the installation of sprinklers in Paradise Inn in order to bring the building up to code. The sprinkler system had been under discussion for the past two years.

This proposal was still on the table when the Secretary announced, on July 26, 1948, that all national park concessions must comply with the department's labor initiative instituting a 40-hour work week. The Secretary's order met with strong protest from concessioners, who had traditionally subjected their employees to 48-hour work weeks. They objected that they could ill-afford to hire the necessary employees when feeding and housing more employees would add to their operating costs. Sceva calculated that the 40-hour work week would cost his company $10,000 per year. Discouraged by the department's new labor ruling and its insistence on a sprinkler system for Paradise Inn, the RNPC's board of directors voted to reject the one-year contract offer. On August 25, 1948, Sceva sent Drury a counterproposal, which called for an interim five-year contract. The longer term was necessary, Sceva insisted, to protect the RNPC's investment in the sprinklers and other improvements. Drury rejected this proposal on September 10, indicating that the department would soon issue a new type of concessioner contract for the RNPC's consideration. Not waiting for this, Sceva wrote to the Secretary of the Interior on September 30, 1948, that the members of the board had voted not to seek another contract with the government after the current one expired on December 31, 1948. [18]

Relations between the RNPC and the NPS had reached a low ebb when a meeting took place that fall which had disturbing implications for the Park Service. In late November, Acting Superintendent Harthon L. Bill informed Drury that a number of organizations involved in Washington's tourist industry had come together to reconstitute the Rainier National Park Advisory Board. The Advisory Board, it will be recalled, had been an important agent in the allotment of federal funds for park road construction during the 1920s. Finding its influence much diminished by the Depression and New Deal, the Advisory Board had gone out of existence in 1936. Now it was back, called into being by the excitement over the Tollefson bill and recent press reports that the RNPC might be forced out of business at the end of the year. Precisely what role Sceva played in its restoration is unclear; he informed the acting superintendent that he had attended the first meeting of the new Advisory Board in an "unofficial capacity." [19]

On the surface this seemed like a throwback to an earlier era. Like the first Rainier National Park Advisory Board, the new Advisory Board was animated by a desire to secure federal aid for the development of Mount Rainier National Park. But the first Advisory Board had focused on roads, while the new Advisory Board concerned itself with public accommodations. Arguably there was not much difference. In a resolution in support of the Tollefson bill, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce commented,

To date the Government has spent many millions of dollars in Mount Rainier National Park for access roads, trails, bridges, administrative buildings, and facilities. The additional ownership of the tourist facilities is a small matter when considered with the over-all program and is believed to be fully in accord with the purposes for which the National Park Service was established. [20]

But this overlooked the fact that roads were a public enterprise almost anywhere they were built, whereas tourist accommodations were not. Road construction contractors did not have a vested interest in commercializing the park, but the tourist industry did. Giving federal assistance to the concessioner carried the risk of binding park administration too closely to commercial interests. Park development could then be pushed too far.

On December 31, 1948, Secretary Krug sent another one-year contract proposal to the RNPC. Sceva replied, on January 4, 1949, that the RNPC would accept no less than a two-year contract, that the contract must preserve the present labor agreement of a 48-hour work week with payment of time and one-quarter for all overtime, and that any infringement of that agreement would enable the RNPC to terminate its contract after 30 days notice. Krug then replied on January 17 that the controversial labor ruling would not now take effect until January 1, 1950; therefore, if the RNPC would accept a one-year contract, the labor issue could be dispensed with for the time being. The company accepted an interim contract on these terms. Both parties expressed hope that Congress would act on the Tollefson bill in the course of the year.

A Law Passed, A New Contract Signed

Tollefson reintroduced his bill in the House on January 18, 1949. The Committee on Public Lands delayed its second hearing on this bill until July, at which time Tollefson made yet another plea for government ownership of the buildings on the grounds that the public was entitled to adequate facilities in the national park even if private enterprise refused to invest in them. Opponents of the measure asserted that Tollefson's bill would only be a means of "bailing the Rainier National Park Company out of a losing business," for the RNPC had used poor judgment in developing facilities at such high elevations in the first place. The committee took no more action on the bill in that session. [21]

In the absence of this law, RNPC and federal officials went through nearly the same posturing as the year before. On August 30, Sceva sent notice to the Secretary of the Interior of the company's intention to discontinue service after December 31, 1949, and demanded to have the RNPC's buildings appraised. Krug replied, on September 13, that the RNPC would have to remove all saddle stock and equipment from the park, and advised that the NPS "at this time does not contemplate the use or demolition of any of the buildings or appurtenances...formerly used by the Company." Sceva then wrote a conciliatory letter to Superintendent Preston on September 21, proposing five ways in which operating costs could be trimmed under another one-year interim contract. On Drury's recommendation, the Department consented to two of these: the RNPC could raise the rates it charged employees for room and board, thereby recovering some of the added labor costs which it would incur under the Secretary's new labor directive; and it could suspend winter operations. Hastily, the park made alternate arrangements for a winter season centered at Cayuse Pass instead of Paradise. [22]

Meanwhile, efforts continued on behalf of the legislation. Sceva lined up support from Senator Warren G. Magnuson and the freshman congressman from Everett, Henry M. Jackson, as well as the backing of the new Secretary of the Interior, Oscar L. Chapman. Secretary Chapman reported favorably on the bill when the House Committee on Public Lands considered it again in 1950. After the House passed the bill that summer, Drury expressed hope that Senate approval would follow quickly and "end the agony" during the current session. [23]

In the final version of the bill, the section that would authorize the Secretary to repair, reconstruct, and build new facilities was stricken out; the bill's purpose was narrowed to purchasing the RNPC's buildings. A limitation of $310,000 was placed on the purchase price. Truman signed the measure into law on September 21, 1950.

The fact that the law carried a virtual government subsidy for private enterprise led everyone to minimize the law's significance for public policy. Both the House and Senate committee reports emphasized that government ownership of the facilities would not require that they be operated by the NPS. The House report went further, insisting that the circumstances at Mount Rainier were peculiar and that the bill was "not intended to set a precedent or pattern for Government acquisition of concessions in any other national park or monument." But this pronouncement was followed by the contradictory statement that the bill was "in accord with the 1948 report of the Concessions' Advisory Group to the Secretary of the Interior." [24] That 1948 report clearly advocated a policy of government acquisition of concession facilities throughout the national park system. In reality, the act constituted an important turning point in the relations of government and private capital in national parks. Three weeks after Congress passed the Tollefson bill, on October 13, 1950, the Secretary of the Interior issued a new statement on national park concessions, reiterating and strengthening the principle of federal subsidization of visitor facilities in national parks. [25]

A year and a half after passage of the act, the government agreed to pay the RNPC $300,000 for its facilities. This was equal to one-third of the company's total investment of $884,000 exclusive of automotive equipment. [26] RNPC and federal officials settled on the figure after one full day of negotiations in Tacoma headed by Sceva on the one side and the new director of the Park Service, Conrad L. Wirth, on the other. [27] Final payment and transfer was made in August 1952, following another six months of negotiations over the finer points of the deal. [28]

NPS officials maintained that a fair financial settlement and a new concession contract were strictly separate issues; to combine them into a single negotiation would be to give the RNPC a competitive advantage over other prospective concessioners. Yet the new contract was so contingent upon the success of the legislation that it was hard to separate the two issues. Mainly for this reason, the longterm contract was delayed even further. From January 1, 1951 through December 31, 1952, the RNPC operated under a two-year interim contract. During this time the NPS produced a 21-page prospectus that purported to seek competitive bids for a new concession. This was virtually pro forma; it had become clear by now that no other capital was interested and the RNPC would continue under a new operating lease. But the RNPC had to accept still another one-year interim contract for the calendar year 1953 in order to give the parties time to negotiate a new longterm contract to begin January 1, 1954.

In the course of these discussions, NPS officials concluded that the development of overnight lodging and ski facilities and the changing visitor use pattern at Mount Rainier contained too many variables to allow the granting of a twenty-year concession contract. Instead, the government concluded a five-year contract with the RNPC for the term January 1, 1954 to December 31, 1958. In negotiating and carrying out the new five-year contract, the NPS and the RNPC found two main points of contention: (1) how to structure the company's obligation to plow excess profits back into maintenance of what were now the government's properties, and (2) how to define the company's exclusive privilege for providing transportation to and inside the park. These two problems are discussed in the following sections.


The rambling complex known as the Paradise Inn and Annex was from twenty-five to thirty years old in 1946, while the Paradise Lodge and Sunrise Lodge were half that age. All of these buildings had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. Exposed to high winds, drenching rains, frequent freezing and thawing, and enormous snow loads, the buildings took an extraordinary pounding from the elements. Their age worked against them not only because of the cumulative effect of so much weathering, but because the buildings contained design elements and construction materials that were now known to be impractical for structures located at such high altitude. Moreover, in the postwar era of reinforced concrete, steel girders, and automatic sprinkler systems, these wooden hotels held an unacceptably high risk of fire. And if the buildings did not actually fall down or burn up, they simply looked bad. Their dilapidated appearance was unbecoming for a national park.

Sceva provided a vivid description of the RNPC's maintenance problems for the congressional subcommittee which convened in the lobby of the Paradise Inn in 1947:

Perhaps if you walk around Paradise Inn and you see some of the braces that have been broken, if you look on the front of this building here and see that we've got these cables, iron rods, inch and a quarter rods, fastened to the building, tying the building down to dead men to keep this building from sliding. This wing of this building, although built in 1930, we thought was to stand it, drove 8 inches out of plumb, this building over here the interior of the chimney collapsed and came down into the pit below. So it is almost impossible for us to hold them—our buildings in place...

Last night Mr. Grater told you about the erosion or wearing down of the mountain. We are on the mountain gentlemen, and we are wearing down the properties of the Rainier National Park Co. and we can't keep pace with that sort of destruction. [29]

What to do toward rehabilitating these buildings was a complicated problem and a critical test of the restored partnership. The immediate problem was to prioritize between basic structural reinforcements, fire safety requirements, and the innumerable cosmetic needs of the buildings, or what the Park Service called "face lifting." Rehabilitation efforts also had to be weighed against the alternative of razing each structure and starting over. Finally, the NPS had to use its contract with the RNPC as a lever for making the RNPC commit resources to maintenance. Not surprisingly, obtaining a proper level of maintenance proved to be the pitfall of the new policy of government ownership and private operation of visitor facilities.

Fire Protection

Government officials were gravely concerned about the high fire hazard in Paradise Inn. On June 17, 1947, Secretary Krug issued a directive that guest rooms in the inn were not to be occupied above the lobby floor that summer and that the RNPC must install automatic sprinklers by the next summer or else the restriction would still apply. Sceva wired back that the directive would cause a financial hardship for the company and much inconvenience to the public as many reservations would have to be cancelled. On July 3, the Secretary modified his directive, stipulating that room reservations could be kept on the condition that the RNPC put a night watchman on each floor where rooms were rented out. The RNPC duly posted the night watchman. It also held fire drills every two weeks for its employees and had a fire truck stationed at Paradise throughout the summer. It did nothing toward installing a sprinkler system, however, due to the fact that its contract was expiring. [30] During the contract negotiations in 1948, Sceva was emphatic that the company would not invest in a sprinkler system, and the NPS dropped the request thereafter. [31]

The subject of fire came up again in the fall of 1953. Now the buildings had been acquired by the government, and Director Wirth and Sceva were negotiating a new operating contract on the basis of the Secretary's announced policy of government ownership and private operation of visitor facilities. Now it was Sceva's turn to demand some protection against the fire hazard, and he requested that the five-year contract include an escape clause in case the Paradise Inn should be destroyed by fire. Wirth was too diplomatic to remind Sceva of his company's earlier refusal to install sprinklers, but he did agree to strengthen the contract's escape clause. [32] The following April, the NPS included a sprinkler system in a comprehensive list of improvements for the Paradise facilities to be accomplished over the next fifteen to twenty years. The estimated cost for the sprinkler system was $58,000, or ten percent of the total for all repairs. [33]

By 1960, the sprinklers were still in the offing, while the cost estimate had risen to $200,000. Under the circumstances, RNPC and park officials tried to maximize public safety by discontinuing use of the Paradise Inn's oil furnace and increasing the night watchman's surveillance to a complete patrol of the building every thirty minutes. But for the time being, government officials were reluctant to sink a lot of money into the old building when there was such a public clamor for new, overnight lodging facilities at Paradise. The new building, it was emphasized, would be built of fire resistant materials. [34]

Rehabilitation Under Contract

Sceva's portrait of the inexorable destruction of the company's buildings at the hand of nature told only part of the story. NPS and RNPC officials all recognized that the deterioration of the buildings had accelerated during World War II due to lack of routine maintenance. This record of negligence partly sprang from the fact that the NPS-RNPC partnership was structured around a twenty-year contract. As the end of the contract neared, the RNPC grew more and more wary of reinvesting capital in the upkeep of its buildings. The NPS, meanwhile, had no means of forcing the RNPC to perform proper maintenance of its own buildings. A principal aim of the new contract was to rectify this situation by clearly delineating the responsibilities of both parties for maintenance and rehabilitation.

In negotiating the new contract, Sceva and Wirth agreed that much rehabilitation was required to place the plant in an operating condition. They also agreed that this would be a joint venture: the NPS would dedicate a portion of the park's annual maintenance allotment to rehabilitating the government-owned visitor facilities, and the RNPC would spend a designated amount each year on rehabilitation in lieu of a franchise fee. Most of the cost for major rehabilitation projects would be born by the government, but the RNPC's contribution was important because it would be available immediately. The new contract called for the RNPC to spend up to $30,000 in the first year (1954), and $7,500 per year for the remaining four years of the contract (1955-58). In addition, any profits above $16,000 per year would be put toward rehabilitation. The NPS would decide how the money would be spent. [35]

Unfortunately, the RNPC's total contribution of $60,000 covered far less rehabilitation work than the NPS had hoped. As federal funds for major rehabilitation projects failed to materialize, the RNPC's money was frittered away on minor repairs. The contract stipulated that the $60,000 was for rehabilitation, not routine maintenance, which the RNPC had to cover as an operating expense. But the poor condition of the buildings caused one problem to lead to another such that "routine maintenance" costs could hardly be considered routine anymore. As a result, the RNPC sought to apply its rehabilitation funds toward repairs which the NPS defined as maintenance items. The distinction between rehabilitation and maintenance was vague in any case. Superintendent Macy fought a running battle with Sceva over what projects constituted rehabilitation and what constituted maintenance. [36]

Inasmuch as rehabilitation of the visitor facilities was a major focus of the restored partnership between the government and private capital, the arrangement was seriously flawed. When the five-year contract expired on December 31, 1958, much rehabilitation work remained to be done on all the major buildings, particularly the Paradise Inn. Beginning in 1959, the NPS returned to the interim contract, with each year's lease stipulating that the RNPC would spend a specified amount of money, plus any profits above $16,000, on rehabilitation and maintenance. In 1965 the NPS once more granted the RNPC a five-year contract, finally eliminating the requirement for rehabilitation and maintenance. Now the concessioner paid an annual fee to the government based on a percentage of gross revenue, while the NPS handled all rehabilitation and maintenance—an eminently more sensible arrangement. [37]


The NPS had always looked upon visitor transportation service as an integral part of the concession. The same assumption applied to transportation as to public accommodations: the creation of a regulated monopoly was supposed to lead to better, more reliable service at reasonable rates. Alternatively, if the Park Service allowed anyone to compete for the business of carrying passengers to and from the park, the result would be a vigorous competition during times of peak travel and a loss of service when visitor use was at a low ebb. [38]

Eventually the transportation portion of the concession acquired added importance as the most consistently profitable area of national park business. Profits from the transportation service underwrote other parts of the park concession that were marginal or even a consistent money loser from the standpoint of the concessioner. By the 1940s, the RNPC's stage service between Seattle and Tacoma and Mount Rainier National Park accounted for only about one-sixth of the company's annual gross sales but it was one of the few concession departments consistently in the black. [39] The RNPC's exclusive transportation privilege was one of its most prized assets. It guarded its privilege jealously, especially in the decade after World War II when its tenuous, year-to-year contracts with the government seemed to encourage a spate of challenges to its transportation monopoly.

Ski Club Charter Busses

Soon after the concession policy was established in 1916, the NPS found that it needed to differentiate between public transportation, which fell under the concession's exclusive privilege, and private transportation, which did not. It will be recalled that the conflict between the park administration and the Cooperative Campers of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1920s arose directly out of this ambiguity. In the conflict with the Cooperative Campers, the Park Service was torn between its desire to protect the park concession on the one hand, and its reluctance to alienate a sympathetic group of outdoor enthusiasts on the other. After World War II a similar situation arose with regard to ski clubs.

When Sceva first raised the issue with the Park Service in the winter of 1947-48, Superintendent Preston informed Regional Director Tomlinson that there had "long been a steady demand by skiing enthusiasts of public and private schools for permission to enter the park by private bus." It was Preston's practice to grant these requests on the basis of Section 2.36 (a) (1) of the Park Service's rules and regulations, which held that charter busses would be denied entry unless they were "carrying only members of educational, welfare, and scientific organizations such as boy scouts, accredited schools and universities, or bona fide mountaineering organizations." Preston interpreted "bona fide mountaineering organizations" to include ski clubs. [40]

Sceva disagreed. Mountain clubs like The Mountaineers, the Mazamas, and the Sierra Club were old, established organizations, whereas ski clubs were sprouting like mushrooms. Most skiers were high school or college age and did not own cars—good potential customers for the RNPC's charter busses. The test case involved a request by the Olympia Ski Club to run its own bus between Olympia and Paradise for club members only. Sceva objected that this was really a charter bus; its admittance into the park would be in violation of the RNPC's contract. Moreover, Sceva alleged that a certain individual in the Olympia Ski Club who was trying to chisel into the RNPC's business by using ski clubs as a front. On the basis of Sceva's complaint, Drury decided that further requests for admittance of ski club charter busses would be denied.

Superintendent Preston felt strongly that skiers had a good claim to the title of mountaineers and the distinction was unfair and unenforceable. Upon further investigation of the Olympia Ski Club's request, Preston thought the bus in question was owned by a member of the club. He thought the club was legitimate; it was not organized primarily to circumvent the RNPC's transportation privilege. The owner of the bus had no profit motive; he was not using the club as a front for chiseling into the RNPC's business. With the concurrence of his superiors, Preston sought advice on this issue from the agency's chief counsel, Jackson E. Price. Price noted that the NPS had considered the question with regard to a California ski club in 1942, but it had been left unresolved. Price advised that ski clubs were not well-defined legally; the NPS could interpret ski clubs' prerogatives under this regulation whichever way it chose. [41]

Drury reiterated his position in support of the concession on May 12, 1948. "It appears to me to be stretching the point to interpret ski clubs as being bona fide mountaineering organizations," Drury wrote.

Since there can be no hardship to groups of skiers wishing to use charter bus service to the park by having that service furnished by our established transportation concessioner under rates approved by the Service, I am not willing to make an administrative determination pertaining to Section 2.36 (a) (1) that a ski club is a mountaineering organization. [42]

Preston continued to argue that ski clubs should qualify under this rule, but he did not change Drury's mind on the issue.

Gray Line Tours on the Mather Memorial Parkway

Another threat to the concessioner's transportation privilege arose from the special situation pertaining to the Mather Memorial Parkway. This stretch of park road had been built by the state of Washington prior to the area's inclusion in the national park and the road's dedication as a parkway. According to the act of Congress which extended the boundary of the park, the NPS could not charge entrance fees for traffic over this road. But Park Service officials had persuaded state officials that it was in the best interest of the state's tourist industry to protect the RNPC's exclusive transportation privilege, and soon after the highway was completed over Chinook Pass the NPS and the State Department of Highways reached a "gentleman's agreement" instituting a fee. A single exception was made for through-traffic of the Washington Motor Coach Company, which had since merged with Greyhound Corporation. [43]

In the summer of 1948, Gray Line Sightseeing Company of Seattle began advertising trips to Mount Rainier National Park via the Mather Memorial Parkway. The company offered single-fare day trips from Seattle to Tipsoo Lake and Chinook Pass and return. Thus, while limiting its use of the park to the state highway, Gray Line nevertheless undercut the RNPC's business. Sceva objected that Gray Line, billing these excursions as trips to Mount Rainier National Park, was guilty of false advertising. This was a narrow basis on which to challenge the rival bus company, but Sceva knew that his company had no other legal recourse. [44]

The Park Service did what it could to protect the RNPC's interests. Preston informed Gray Line of the State Department of Highways regulation prohibiting vehicles with a gross weight in excess of 5,000 pounds from using the Chinook Pass route. [45] He urged the State Department of Highways to cooperate with the Park Service, adding that the gentleman's agreement between the two agencies "had worked so well down the years that it has almost become a tradition." [46] But recognizing the limitation on its authority under the 1931 act extending the boundary of the park, the NPS also insisted on an amendment of the RNPC's interim contract as follows:

The right of the Company to provide and operate transportation facilities and services shall not be preferential or exclusive pursuant to Article IX of the original contract as to State Route No. 5 (U.S. Highway No. 410) to the Tipsoo Lake area within the Park. [47]

In the final analysis, Drury found that the NPS could not take any legal action to prevent the Gray Line's bus tours except to prohibit the sightseeing busses from leaving the highway right-of-way while in the park. The best approach was to cooperate with state authorities, Drury concluded, and he advised Preston "to work out some local arrangements with the State of Washington which will adequately cover the use of this highway if there still exists a need for such clarifying arrangements." [48] State officials were uncooperative, however, and the Gray Line Sightseeing Company's tours became a new fixture in the public use of Mount Rainier National Park. The RNPC grudgingly accepted the rival business under the terms of its interim contracts. [49]


The longtime owner and developer of the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Company, Dr. Albert W. Bridge, had a stroke in 1944. One year later, two gentlemen with power of attorney for Bridge applied to the NPS for permission to transfer Bridge's concession contract to a new operator. Taking stock of this twenty-year-old development in the southeast corner of the park, Superintendent Preston recommended that the NPS allow the transfer to a new operator, but with the stipulation that there would be no expansion of facilities and that the NPS might insist on the elimination of the entire operation at a later date. Regional Director Tomlinson concurred in this judgment. [50] Thus, the overall problem of the Ohanapecosh concession after World War II became one of finding an equitable way to phase it out of existence.

This process dragged on for fifteen years and ended sadly in a law suit with the concessioner. When Preston and Tomlinson articulated the Park Service's position toward this franchise at the end of World War II, their reservations about the Ohanapecosh concession focused primarily on its sanitarium-like atmosphere, which they deemed to be inappropriate in a national park. But by the early 1950s, park officials were becoming more concerned about the mental stability and competency of the concession's replacement operator, Martin Kilian. Suffering from alcoholism, Kilian displayed bouts of violent behavior that shocked park visitors and embarrassed park officials. Although the small hotel, cabins, and bathhouse were closed down in 1960, they were left standing for another few years while a law suit, Martin Kilian v. United States, remained pending in court. Kilian accepted an $18,000 out-of-court settlement in 1965.

From Sanitarium to Overnight Lodge

At the end of World War II, the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs resort consisted of the original log and cedar shake hotel with accommodations for about eighteen overnight guests, some thirty-one cabins, a dining room and grocery store, and a bathhouse with hot water piped in from the mineral springs. The hotel, now twenty years old, had been structurally reinforced a few years earlier and was not unattractive in appearance. The cabins, however, ranged from fair to poor in quality, with only the more recent ones being equipped with toilets and running water. The concession catered to a mixed clientele, some of whom desired only a night's lodging and meal service and others of whom came for longer stays in order to take the waters. [51] The trend appeared to be toward more and more use by transient park visitors who were not interested in the mineral baths. [52]

Preston's immediate aim was to prevent any further development of the Ohanapecosh concession along the lines of a sanitarium. A large swimming pool and dressing rooms, programmed for construction by the concessioner since 1937, were still listed on the master plan. In discussions leading up to the transfer of the concession contract to Martin Kilian, NPS officials informed the new concessioner that these developments would not be permitted after all. In fact, the NPS favored the elimination of the bathhouse, too, which would effectively convert the resort into an overnight lodging establishment. Kilian insisted on preserving the bathhouse, however, since it accounted for nearly a third of the company's revenues. In view of the company's marginal economic performance over the past ten years, Preston decided to permit the bathing facilities to remain. [53]

It fell to Preston's successor, Superintendent Macy, to terminate this contract in 1952. Instead, Macy extended Kilian's contract for one year, then another. In retrospect, this appears to have been a mistake, a case, perhaps, of taking the easy course. In Macy's defense it could be said that he had a much bigger concession problem to worry about at this time with the RNPC. In fact, Macy soon formed the idea that under new ownership the Ohanapecosh concession might evolve into something more in keeping with the park's needs. With the coming of the Mission 66 program, many things were possible.

One idea that Macy proposed was to divide the preferential concession rights in the park into two areas, giving the Paradise-Longmire area to one concession and the east side of the park to another. This would have the advantage, Macy argued, of promoting sound development of both the Sunrise and Ohanapecosh areas to a greater extent than in the past when the park's primary concessioner had stubbornly focused on the Paradise area. [54]

Another idea that Macy considered was to relocate the visitor facilities at Ohanapecosh to some other site in the southeast corner of the park. The purpose would be to convert this concession into a low-elevation overnight lodging facility inside the park. With the anticipated opening of the Stevens Canyon Road in 1957, the lodge would receive some of the overflow from the Paradise area. The concession might be induced to give up the hot springs location in favor of a new site that would capture more of the expected flow of park visitors between the south and east sides of the park. [55]

It is a matter for speculation whether either of these proposals were really viable when the NPS was already experiencing difficulty in finding interested capital for the park's primary development at Paradise, much less its secondary developments elsewhere in the park. Yet it is conceivable that the Ohanapecosh concession might have evolved into something else had it been under different ownership. As it was, the troubled relations between the NPS and the concessioner, Martin Kilian, finally made it impossible to do anything with the Ohanapecosh concession other than get rid of it.

Terminating the Ohanapecosh Concession

Martin Kilian had been manager and custodian of the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs resort since the early 1930s. Park officials had found his performance mediocre at best, and relations with him were not cordial. But three years after Bridge fell ill, Kilian was still the only person expressing an interest in the concession. NPS officials reluctantly agreed to transfer the concession contract to Kilian partly out of necessity and partly out of a sense of decency to Bridge, for as Preston remarked to Tomlinson, he did not "think it would be a fair thing to insist that the contract lapse at this time when Dr. Bridges [sic] has been stricken." [56] The assignment of the contract was executed in Tacoma in March 1947 and approved by Assistant Secretary of the Interior C. Girard Davidson in October. [57]

Two incidents in the late summer of 1952 alerted park officials to the possibility that Kilian' s struggle with alcoholism was impairing his ability to operate the concession. On the night of August 16, Kilian berated four guests for parking their car in front of his garage. According to the registered complaint, Kilian acted in an irrational manner, drove his car into the garage such that he narrowly missed their vehicle, and returned later to shine a flashlight into their car where their children were sleeping. [58] On the night of September 23, Kilian caused another disturbance. District Ranger William Heckman was summoned to the lodge by Mrs. Kilian, who reported that her husband had become violent. Heckman took four men from the trail crew and entered the Kilian home where they found Kilian trying to dress himself and "shaking all over." Kilian said that he had awakened to find the room strung with electronic units that would explode on contact. Mrs. Kilian and Heckman called an ambulance and Kilian was taken away at 1:35 a.m. Two loaded guns were removed from under Kilian's bed. [59]

These incidents put a cloud over Kilian's contract extension. The regional director had already expressed qualms about Kilian the previous June, and reiterated those concerns at the end of October. Yet for reasons that are not completely clear, Macy overcame the regional director's objections and offered Kilian a "lease" for one year. Apparently the NPS hoped that Kilian would soon dispose of his holdings for a "reasonable value" to a successor, even though Kilian's latest asking price of $80,000—twice what he had paid for it—was "out of reason." If this logic was not dubious enough, NPS officials approved the contract extension despite their consensus "that Mr. Kilian's facilities are sub-standard, and that his past behavior makes it extremely doubtful that he can be counted on to conduct a satisfactory operation." [60]

As it turned out, Kilian would neither lower his extortionate price nor make any improvements to his sub-standard buildings. His feeling was that the government should purchase his holdings at fair market value, just as it had bought the RNPC's buildings. Further, he urged the NPS to include $10,000 in its Mission 66 program for electrification of the 31 cabins. He complained to Senator Magnuson that the concession prospectus was unrealistic. When the Park Service finally located one potential buyer for the concession, Kilian allegedly told the man that he would not sell his property at its appraised value. Despite these difficulties, the NPS continued to extend Kilian's contract from year to year. From 1953 to 1959, the park administration simply endured this unsatisfactory situation. [61]

After negotiations with the prospective buyer fell through, Macy recommended that the concession be terminated. It was now clear that Kilian would sue the government for what he thought was a fair price for his holdings, and the government therefore began to prepare its case. First, instances of Kilian's instability and poor management were documented back to 1949. Second, documentation was assembled to show that the NPS had made a good faith effort to secure another concessioner—counter to Kilian's allegation that it had deliberately undermined such course of action. Third, Kilian was given a further one-year lease provided that he would hire a manager and avoid any contact with guests himself. Kilian agreed to the terms but the manager soon quit; on January 9, 1961, the NPS notified Kilian that his contract was terminated and that he must remove himself from the premises. [62]

That summer, while park officials boarded up the buildings and posted U.S. government property signs, Kilian obtained an independent appraisal which placed the value of the Ohanapecosh lodge and cabins at $117,000 (nearly three times what he had paid for them in 1947). The NPS placed the facility's "book value" at $3,000. An item was included in the park budget for 1962 for removal of the buildings, but the project had to be postponed in the event that it might prejudice the government's legal case.

Kilian sued in the U.S. Court of Claims in 1962. The case of Martin Kilian v. United States turned on the court's interpretation of Section 12 (b) of the concession contract, which required the NPS to compensate the concessioner for the "book value" of the property in the event that the concession was terminated. After three years on the court docket, the case was settled out of court on July 29, 1965, the plaintiff accepting a compromise offer of $18,000. [63]

All buildings formerly associated with the concession were torn down or removed in the following year.


Mount Rainier began to draw increasing numbers of climbers after World War II. The number of summit attempts approached 300 in 1947, the most since the NPS began to keep accurate records. The number of summit attempts reached 400 in 1951, and 500 in 1956. The popularity of the climb increased steadily through the early 1960s, then jumped into the 2,000-3,000 range after 1965—boosted, it was thought, by the publicity which Mount Rainier received as a training ground for the first American assault on Mount Everest in 1963. [64]

The growing popularity of summit climbs raised two issues for the park administration. How was the park ranger force going to protect these visitors from mishaps or rescue them when accidents inevitably occurred? And how could a professional guide service be provided to the public most advantageously?

Development of Search and Rescue

As Americans pursued the sport of mountain climbing in record numbers after World War II, there was a significant increase in the number of mountaineering accidents nationwide. In the summer of 1947, for example, there were eleven mountaineering fatalities in the United States. This was a smaller total than in the European Alps during the same period, but relative to the number of climbers on either continent it constituted a much higher accident rate than Europe's. The American Alpine Club tracked this "startling increase," and committed itself to a national mountaineering safety campaign. The club's directors voted on October 4, 1947, to form a Safety Committee of the American Alpine Club, whose purpose was to investigate the causes of mountaineering accidents and formulate a program of accident prevention. It is unclear whether the American Alpine Club directly prompted the Park Service to action, but a copy of the club's report did find its way into Mount Rainier National Park's files. [65]

When the Park Service's four regional directors met in January 1948, they proposed that the NPS establish mountain climbing and rescue training schools for NPS rangers and cooperating agencies. Director Drury approved the proposal on April 19, 1948. When it was decided that the Western Region should initiate the first school, Regional Director Tomlinson naturally picked Mount Rainier for the site. It had the most suitable terrain as well as a number of qualified instructors already on staff. [66]

Mount Rainier National Park hosted the nation's first mountain safety and rescue training school on September 13-17, 1948. The course drew participants from numerous national parks as well as the Forest Service, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, National Ski Patrol, and Seattle Mountaineers. Instructors for the course included nine Mount Rainier rangers—William J. Butler, Gordon K. Patterson, Robert Weldon, George Senner, Robert W. Craig, Bruce Meyers, Forrest Johnson, Cornelius Molenaar, and Dee Molenaar—as well as former Mount Rainier ranger Charles Browne. At least two of these instructors had trained on Mount Rainier with the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. [67]

The training school included half-day and full-day courses in ice work, rope work, rock climbing, improvisation and movement of stretchers, and accident prevention. Rangers from eleven national parks and monuments attended. Many of these men were already skilled mountaineers, and the object was to train these key men so that they could give instruction to their fellow rangers when they returned to their respective areas. An additional benefit of the school was to create closer ties between the park staff and other organizations with an interest in search and rescue, including The Mountaineers, National Ski Patrol, and various public agencies. [68]

Tomlinson considered holding another training school in 1950, but decided it was not necessary to repeat the school on a service-wide basis that often. He based this decision primarily on the cost of such intensive training, but pointed out also that the kind of rock and ice training to which Mount Rainier lent itself was more appropriate for some national park areas than others. It might be more worthwhile, Tomlinson suggested, to conduct mountain safety and rescue training in each region. [69]

While this was the end of Mount Rainier's role as a mountaineering and rescue training center for the entire national park system, the close relationship between Mount Rainier's ranger staff and the local climbing community continued to flourish in the 1950s. Park rangers participated in the establishment of the Mountain Rescue Council, with headquarters in Seattle, and prepared a search and rescue organization plan for the Council's use. The Mountain Rescue Council drew participants from an ever-widening circle of organizations. [70]

The large number of cooperating entities meant that the park had no shortage of volunteers when climbers got into trouble or turned up missing. Indeed, the outpouring of civic support for search and rescue operations created its own set of problems. In the summer of 1956, for example, the park administration mounted two search and rescue operations that involved several hundred volunteer workers, and in the summer of 1957 there were two more searches in which volunteers assisted. Such operations were unwieldy and themselves hazardous. Superintendent Macy raised the question of whether the government was liable for volunteers who were injured during search and rescue operations. Was the government liable for volunteers who were injured while under the supervision of a park ranger? Was it liable for injuries to a person under volunteer leadership, but involved in a search and rescue operation under the overall direction of the park administration? Did the government's liability extend to injuries which might occur while a volunteer was in NPS quarters or an NPS vehicle? Macy also pointed out that there was a tendency to accept too much volunteer assistance. "Because of humanitarian considerations," he explained, "it is very difficult to state the minimum personnel needs for individual rescue operations." [71] Acting Regional Director C.E. Persons agreed. "To accept or refuse the assistance of volunteer help requires the exercise of considerable judgment and tact on the part of the search leader," he advised the director. "To refuse the offer of volunteers to locate a small child could no doubt lead to disastrous adverse publicity against the Service." [72] This made the question of liability all the more problematic.

Macy also raised questions about the costs of search and rescue. Should it be standard policy to feed volunteers at government mess or to provide them with sleeping bags? Could emergency volunteers be hired on a similar basis as firefighters on a forest fire, and if so, would the costs be reimbursable from service-wide contingency funds? The regional office relayed these points to the director, stipulating that the problem of large numbers of volunteers mainly pertained to searches. (A search was defined as the activity of locating a missing person, while a rescue was the activity of transporting a person or persons to safety.) But the Washington office preferred to keep a loose rein on search and rescue operations, which it saw as a local concern. To Macy's specific request for reimbursement of $1,788 for emergency search and rescue operations from the service's contingency fund, it replied that such payments would not be automatic but would be considered on a case by case basis at the end of the fiscal year. [73]

The Guide Service Becomes a Separate Concession

During World War II there was little climbing activity on Mount Rainier and the RNPC suspended its guide service. After the war, the Park Service converted the guide service concession into a separate, one-year permit, which it offered to a series of informal climbing partnerships. Veteran climber Ed Kennedy became chief guide in 1946, assisted by Gordie Butterfield, Jim Nussbaum, and international ski racer Bil Dunaway. Dunaway continued the operation in 1947 with Bob Parker, Chuck Welsh, and Dee Molenaar. The following year Dunaway and Parker went to Europe, Molenaar became a park ranger, and the park was once again without a guide service. Welsh took over the guide service in 1949, with assistant guides Bob Craig and Bob Kuss, both of Seattle. All of these men belonged to a local climbing fraternity; a number of them had served in Italy in the 10th Mountain Division.

In 1950 two French mountaineers and skiers, Roby Albuoy and Ollie Chiseaux, headed the guide service. Dunaway took it over again in 1951, recruiting for his assistant guides Jim and Lou Whittaker—young twins from Seattle who were destined to have a long association with the mountain. The Whittakers held the permit in 1952, turned it over to Paul Gerstmann and Dick Krizman in 1953 while they served in the army, and resumed their guide service in 1954. [74]

Dee Molenaar describes the Whittakers' accomplishments in his book The Challenge of Rainier:

During 1938-42, and after the war until 1951, guided parties chiefly used the Kautz [Glacier] route. When the Whittakers began guiding in 1951 they concentrated on developing routes that could again utilize the cabins at Camp Muir. The twins reopened Gibraltar as a guide route in 1951 and thus virtually ended use of the Kautz by the guide staff

The Whittakers were the first of the postwar generation of climbers to guide on the mountain. Many young mountaineers followed in subsequent years, both as guides and future participants in major expeditions to all parts of the world... .Doubtless the most widely heralded has been Jim Whittaker, who in 1963 was the first American to plant Old Glory on the summit of Mount Everest.

The Whittakers continued guiding during the summers after their return from the Army, then went into the outdoor and recreational equipment business. Eventually Jim became general manager for Recreational Equipment, Inc. in Seattle while Louie opened Whittaker's Chalet, an outdoor-equipment store chain in Tacoma. Both men continue to climb Rainier and Louie currently (1970) serves during the summer as chief guide. [75]

During these years the mountain guides worked under a simple concession permit that authorized the permittees to lead park visitors on summit trips, glacier trips, and ski mountaineering tours, and to offer ski instruction. The NPS permitted the guide service to occupy the shelter at Camp Muir and one end of a duplex in the Paradise campground. The permittees were responsible for hiring qualified guides, registering their clients for all summit attempts, and lending support for rescue operations on the mountain. The NPS approved a modest schedule of rates and charged the guides a permit fee of $50 per year. [76]

Lou Whittaker described the guide service in his memoirs:

In the fifties, we charged $28 for a two-day guided climb to the summit. Today, that same climb costs a little more than $300. In 1950, we also charged $4 per person to go to the ice caves. It was our most popular trip. The ice caves were a series of tunnels on the lower mountain, formed at the outlets of a few streams that emerged from the end of the Paradise-Stevens Glacier. Back then, we'd climb to the summit maybe twelve to fifteen times during the summer, but we'd go to the ice caves twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We'd take anywhere from three to forty people each time. It was a three-hour round trip, and our biggest source of income. The ice caves were closed around 1970, because they had melted back and grown smaller. [77]

In 1956, the Whittaker brothers turned the guide service over to Dick McGowan and went into the recreational equipment business. That same year, Paul Sceva expressed a willingness to handle the guide service as a subcontract to the RNPC's concession. The NPS duly modified the RNPC's concession agreement in 1956. [78] Superintendent Macy did not like the new arrangement, but the guide service nevertheless remained a part of the main concession for sixteen more years. [79] McGowan served as chief guide for the RNPC from 1956 until 1965. [80]

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2000