Oregon Caves
Cultural Landscape Report


In February 1992 a considerable portion of the developed area at Oregon Caves National Monument was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Oregon Caves Historic District. The following statement of significance and integrity draws on information from the National Register nomination form; Historic American Building Survey reports documenting the Chateau, Chalet, Ranger Residence, and Concession Cottages; and the "Analysis and Evaluation" section of this document.

Under USFS administration, Oregon Caves was established in 1909 as one of the country's first national monuments. By the time the National Park Service assumed administration in 1934, resort development at the cave entrance had been underway for twelve years. During this time, architectural design of and circulation for the evolving development, as well-as the concessioner's presence, became well established. Over the next nine years, working within the rustic design idiom, NPS landscape architects and Civilian Conservation Corps workers continued "detail" development at Oregon Caves to attain the "rustic alpine village" nestled within a mountain setting envisioned by Arthur Peck. Naturalistic design principles dictated the use of indigenous plant materials and stone work, and careful siting of structures preserved the rugged topographic character of the canyon. Cedar-bark sheathing created design unity among buildings at the monument and effectively integrated the development with the mixed conifer forest to appear "naturalistic" in character.

Landscape architect Arthur L. Peck and architect Gust Lium set the tone for the rustic development at Oregon Caves, and NPS landscape architects Thomas Vint and Francis Lange continued to shape the monument landscape. Historic drawings, photographs, monthly project completion reports, and recent interviews with Lange provide detailed information about monument development and application of the non-intrusive design tenets known as the Rustic Style.

Landscape foremen Armin Doerner and Howard Buford managed landscape design implementation at the monument using CCC crews. Their contributions provided the design finish that distinguished CCC construction; the work was also consistent with design work undertaken at Crater Lake National Park and at state and U.S. Forest Service developments in the Siskiyou National Forest.

Monument development at Oregon Caves by 1942 had achieved a high degree of design cohesiveness under a public and private partnership. The structures and related landscape design embody the philosophies, themes, materials, and rustic architectural character practiced between 1922 and 1942 in western national parks, monuments and forests. Primary characteristics of the Oregon Caves designed landscape are the sympathetic use of native materials to define circulation, blend structures into the natural environment and augment visitor experience.

The Oregon Caves Historic District, designed and built between 1927-1942, is significant as a historic designed landscape under National Register Criterion A: for its association with events that made significant contributions to the broad patterns of history; under Criterion B: for its association with the lives of persons significant in our past; and under Criterion C: for distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of design.

CRITERION A: Oregon Caves is integrally linked to efforts by the National Park Service to develop, manage and protect the natural, recreational and scientific resources of one of the country's first national monuments. Extant landforms, major features such as roads and trails, and cedar sheathing and stonework, all contribute to the rustic character of the district. Components of the designed landscape survive in ample proportion to demonstrate the direction of park planning and construction of the Rustic design developed during the late 1920s and 1930s which endeavored to tie Rustic style buildings to their environment. Design implementation by CCC workers identifies the landscape of Oregon Caves as representative of the major expansion period in the National Park System during the early 1930s, when the Hoover administration's efforts followed by the New Deal public works programs made this work possible. Detail design features at Oregon Caves, specifically the cedar-bark sheathing and native stone masonry, set precedents for state park and USFS architecture in the Siskiyou National Forest.

CRITERION B: Rustic architecture and naturalistic design at Oregon Caves exemplify the tenets of site planning and design promoted first by private enterprise and later adapted by public agencies. Rustic design development at Oregon Caves was initiated by Arthur Peck, and implemented by local architect/contractor Gust Lium, and NPS landscape architects Thomas Vint and Francis Lange, and CCC landscape foremen Armin Doerner and Howard Buford. Peck is noted for his contributions to the plantings and landscape design of the Oregon State University (OSU) campus (formerly Oregon Agricultural College) and the Oregon State Highway system. He was an important figure in the creation of an Oregon state park system and the city park layout of Corvallis, Oregon. Similarly, Peck was influential to generations of OSU students as an instructor and the first Landscape Architecture Department chair. At Oregon Caves, early rustic design development from 1916-1933 was directed by Peck's site plan and his recommendations for the use of native plant and building materials. Peck established an appropriate precedent for NPS efforts after 1934 and effectively differentiated Oregon Caves from other resorts in national forests.

Gust Lium continued the rustic theme established by Peck in the design and construction of the Guide Dormitory, Concession Cottages, Chateau, and the (second) Chalet. Locally prominent, Lium is credited with designing and building many structures in Josephine County. Lium's work on Forest Service lands began with the Oregon Caves Concession Cottages in 1926; his work with the Forest Service (1936-1940) included architectural designs for CCC projects. At Oregon Caves Lium transformed different design concepts into coherent expressions of rustic architecture. By allowing the site to dictate design, Lium established the Chateau as the central component for the development and used landscape work and details as accent.

NPS chief landscape architect Thomas Vint was responsible for planning the developed areas in western national parks and monuments. Although specific design development was performed by park landscape architects and CCC landscape foremen, Vint ordered the monument to be kept as natural as possible, and barred development in Cave Creek Canyon. Vint recommended acceleration of landscape work initiated by the concessioner through the use of CCC labor.

Crater Lake's resident landscape architect during the years 1934-1940 was Francis Lange. He had direct responsibility for development at Oregon Caves and supervision of CCC landscape foremen Armin Doerner and Howard Buford. Lange designed many of the CCC improvements at Oregon Caves and drew the 1936 and 1938 master plans for the monument, using a similar design strategy as that employed at Crater Lake. Lange's contribution to the monument which he oversaw to completion was his design for and siting of the Ranger Residence.

Armin Doerner prepared the initial 1934 master plan for Oregon Caves. However his main contribution to monument development, along with Howard Buford. was the implementation of the landscape design. While Doerner was specifically responsible for plantings at the cave entrance and exit trail, both Doerner and Buford were responsible for landscape design around the Chateau. Under Buford's direction, CCC workers completed the finishing portions of the planting and site details of the designed landscape at Oregon Caves.

CRITERION C: The designed landscape of Oregon Caves is significant nationally as an expression of naturalistic design developed and used by the National Park Service from the late-1920s to the early 1940s. The rustic design initiated by the concessioner at Oregon Caves set precedent for work continued by NPS landscape architects. The monument structures and site plan contain features associated with NPS Rustic, a design approach that influenced state park systems and national forests throughout the country. In western mountain parks and monuments, buildings were constructed of native materials and incorporated local colors, shapes, and textures: building forms were designed to suit local conditions and environments, and were sited to blend into the surrounding landscape. At Oregon Caves, larger site planning efforts and design detailing successfully blended the overall physical development with the natural setting. Principle features of the designed landscape at Oregon Caves are: structures skillfully sited into the forested canyon on an improved bench with minor disturbance to the surrounding natural topography; the use of cedar-bark sheathing and native stone to integrate the structures with the surrounding landscape; and the practical and aesthetic use of native plant materials, both in terms of location and massing, to provide shade and accent. View development and enhancement bring key aspects of the Rustic Style and naturalistic design into a cohesive landscape composition.

The historic designed landscape of Oregon Caves Historic District possesses integrity of:

Location: The primary landscape features defining the historic district at Oregon Caves, including buildings, the circulation system, vegetation, and detail elements such as rock walls and cedar sheathing, are in their original location.

Design: The original spatial organization for the site, including land use functions (resort/administrative/residential) and activities is intact. Although snow, flood and landslide damage have necessitated revegetation work, the framework and intent of the original planting scheme is evident.

Setting: The landscape surrounding the Oregon Caves Historic District remains virtually intact and appears much as it did during the significant historic period. The Ranger Residence and Guide Dormitory sited along the steep slopes of the canyon walls, and the Chalet, Chateau, and Checking and Comfort Station sited on the canyon bench, retain the "rustic alpine village" appearance intended by the original developers/architects/designers. The surrounding forest continues to outline the service road and developed area with a dense canopy. Plaza trees continue to provide shade and accent. Views across the plaza between the Chalet and Chateau and from the plaza to the Ranger Residence remain unobscured.

Materials: Structures at Oregon Caves remain generally intact with the following exceptions: general site rehabilitation work has occurred due to landslide and flood damage; the stone steps in front of the Chalet were replaced with concrete steps; wooden verandas were replaced with steel fire escapes on the Chateau; and the Concession Cottages were removed from the site. Volunteers have generated from the stumps of trees removed from around the Chateau pond, and the original ferns planted within the dry-laid walls of the courtyard have regenerated. Also, view obscuring coppice growth has developed from maple stumps west of the Chateau. However existing plant materials are compatible with the historic site, and plantings in the plaza are remnants from the historic period.

Workmanship: The structures of the Oregon Caves Historic District are a cohesive collection illustrating Rustic Style architecture that is both reflective of NPS Rustic and CCC-designed construction in the national forests of the Pacific Northwest. Public and private design efforts over the years composed a complementary naturalistic design appearance to the overall design.

Feeling: The historic district possesses a distinct character, evoking a sense of an earlier era in which great thought went into the design and development of a complex which harmonized with the surrounding environment. The buildings, structures, circulation system, materials and organization all contribute to the rustic feeling associated with the district.

Association: Oregon Caves continues to function as it did historically, as a resort and destination for observing unique natural wonders. The historic district continues to reflect its associations with the CCC and the Rustic Style of design through its buildings, structures, circulation system, materials, and organization.

Construction of the new Chalet, east view, 1942. ORHI 84535.

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Last Updated: 05-Feb-2002