National Capital Parks
A History
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Superintendent of National Capital Parks

The office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital was absorbed by the newly designated office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations, Department of the Interior by Executive Order on June 10, 1933, under authority of the act of March 3, 1933. [58] Under this reorganization, which became effective on August 9, 1933, the Buildings Division and the Parks Division were separated. However, both these divisions remained under the direct control of the office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations, Department of the Interior. Actually the separation at this time was not completely effected as both divisions remained closely coordinated. Frank T. Gartside, who had been Chief of the Park Division from 1925 to 1933, was appointed the Acting Superintendent of the Park Division on August 20, 1933.

National Capital Parks

The cumbersome name of the office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations, Department of the Interior was changed to the "National Park Service" in the Interior Department Appropriation act of March 2, 1934. [59] The name National Capital Parks was officially used for the first time when the Park Division was called "National Capital Parks" in the District of Columbia appropriation act of June 4, 1934. [60] National Capital Parks, as the direct legal successor to the office of the original three Federal Commissioners, retained many of the same duties and powers once exercised by these commissioners of 1791. Due to the growth of the Capital, certain functions once performed by the original office were transferred to newly formed Government agencies. The control of most of the utilitarian type of public buildings was shifted to a new agency in 1939, when the functions of the administration of public buildings was transferred to the Public Buildings Administration of the Federal Works Agency. [61] However, certain historic public buildings continued to be administered by the National Capital Parks office. Among the most important of these structures was the Executive Mansion. The Park office retained control of the public reservations and also all official records of public reservations in the District of Columbia. Many of these original land records were transferred to the National Archives for protection and preservation.

While the office of National Capital Parks is a unit in the National Park System of the United States, it occupies an unusual place with respect to all other field units in the National Park Service. It is older than the National Park Service, since its legal continuity can be traced back to 1790. At the same time many of its functions are entirely different from other field units in the National Park System. In addition to performing work similar to other National Parks and National Monuments, the office supervises a vast system of municipal parks and parkways, which in itself differs from all other National Parks. Not only does the office supervise a municipal park system, but it supervises the park system of the Nation's Capital, established for the enjoyment of the people of the United States.

In general, the office of National Capital Parks in 1934 was charged with the design and development of park areas, the maintenance of all areas and facilities, protection of park property and park visitors, operation of recreational facilities and the general supervision and administration of recreational facilities, cooperation with the National Capital Park and Planning Commission in general planning of parks and parkways for the District of Columbia and surrounding territory as a major part of city and regional planning, and care and maintenance of the Executive Mansion and grounds. [62]

General Organization

On October 9, 1933, C. Marshall Finnan was appointed Superintendent of National Capital Parks by the Secretary of the Interior and was in general charge of the office until July 31, 1939. [63] Associated with the Superintendent in the overhead administration was one assistant Superintendent, six division chiefs, a landscape architect, a park Naturalist, and an assistant clerk—stenographer. [64] During the years following 1934, certain new divisions and new functions were added to the office. It is interesting to view these changes in administrative procedure as they occurred. Although the organization of the office in 1934 differs somewhat from the present organization in 1952, the duties and functions of the office have remained much the same.

Indicative of the steady growth of National Capital Parks is the fact that the number of employees increased from 724 in 1934 to 1011 in 1951. [65] Over this period of 16 years the duties of the Superintendent increased tremendously. In the present day organization of the office, the Superintendent is assisted by an Associate Superintendent, an Assistant Superintendent, and a Special Assistant, each of whom, is delegated supervisory power over various divisions.

Superintendent of National Capital Parks

With the intense development and growth of the National Capital, the duties of the Superintendent became increasingly complex. On July 28, 1950, Edward J. Kelly succeeded Irving C. Root as the Superintendent of National Capital Parks. Mr. Root had served from January 2, 1941 to July 28, 1950. According to the following official organization chart for 1950, the responsibilities of Superintendent Kelly were many and included certain duties identical to those performed by the three Federal Commissioners of 1791.

The Superintendent

Supervises the administration, maintenance, operation, improvement, and protection of the National Capital Parks System. Supervises the administration, maintenance, and improvement of the Executive Mansion and Grounds. Supervises park concessions and facilities. Directs the preparation of detailed plans in accordance with general plans of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission for the development of the District of Columbia recreation system and maintains these areas for the District of Columbia Recreation Board; directs the maintenance and improvement of grounds and plantings of other government agencies. The Superintendent is a member of the District of Columbia Coordinating Committee of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission and a member of the District of Columbia Recreation Board, Motor Vehicle Parking Agency, and the Commissioner's Traffic Advisory Board. [66]

Working directly under the Superintendent is a staff of specialists in various phases of park work. Functioning as a coordinated unit this staff constitutes a competent and experienced park force for the Capital of the United States.

Significant Changes, 1933—1951

From 1933 to 1951 several significant changes have occurred in the office of National Capital Parks. These changes have caused the discontinuance of certain divisions and the addition of other divisions. They relieved the office of certain duties and they added other new responsibilities.

The D. C., W. P. A. contributed to park development in connection with the following projects: Fort Drive at Fort Reno, Piney Branch Road from Arkansas to Beach Drive, Coolidge Recreational area, Banneker Recreational area and swimming pool, Turkey Thicket, and the demolition and regrading of the 16th Street reservoir.

Civilian Conservation Corps

The introduction of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 as a part of the Emergency Works Program introduced certain changes in the operating procedure of National Capital Parks. CCC operations in the National Capital Parks definitely commenced with the authorization dated September 23, 1933 from CCC Director Robert Fechner to Director Cammerer of the National Park Service. [67] This authorization provided for the establishment of CCC Camps at Fort Hunt, Virginia, and Fort Dupont, District of Columbia. These two camps were set up on October 15, 1933 and October 23, 1933, respectively. [68] Subsequently, eight additional camps were established in the Washington area.

According to the operational procedure of the CCC, each Government Department had a representative on the Advisory Council of the CCC. This representative acted as the general supervisor of the program of his respective department. National Capital Parks operated as a field unit like other National Parks under the National Park Service. [69] At first, the National Capital Parks CCC Camps were under the general supervision of the Regional Park Service office No. 1, located at Richmond, Virginia. This procedure was modified on August 1, 1939 so that National Capital Parks could deal directly with the National Park Service Washington office staff handling CCC operations. [70] Collaboration was maintained with the State Park Division of the National Park Service in the operation of CCC Camps in State park areas adjacent to the National Capital Parks and in the Chopawamsic (later the Prince William Forest Park) and Catoctin recreational demonstration areas, both intended for transfer to National Capital Parks jurisdiction. [71] CCC operations continued up until 1942, during which time, numerous achievements in park development were accomplished.

CCC workers
CCC Construction of Parking Area at Roaches Run

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Last Updated: 31-Jul-2003