On-line Book


Table of Contents


I. In the Beginning: 1872 - 1916

II. The Landscape Influence: 1916 - 1918

III. The Formative Decade: 1918 - 1927

IV. Maturity Achived: 1927 - 1932

V. Roosevelt's Emergancy Programs: 1933 - 1935

VI. The Decline: 1935 - 1942


Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Author's Note

National Park Service
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Rustic Architecture:
1916 - 1942

II. The Landscape Influence: 1916-1918

Although the years between 1900 and 1915 had witnessed major improvements in park hotels and other tourist facilities, little progress had been made in park administration. By 1915 most of the major parks were nominally under the control of the Department of the Interior, but day-to-day administrative responsibilities were distributed in a confusing manner among numerous offices. This uneven and poorly coordinated park administration system was incapable of developing or implementing organic policies on a multi-park basis.

The crying need for such policies was readily apparent to the small number of Americans actively interested in the park system. A by-product of President Roosevelt's interest in conservation was an increased public interest in natural resources, including parks. Beginning in 1908. J. Horace MacFarland, a concerned businessman from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, led the campaign for a Federal bureau of national parks. His organization, the American Civic Association (A. C. A.), initiated a lobbying effort toward that end which grew steadily. By 1910, the Secretary of the Interior. Richard A. Ballinger. had been converted to the cause. In his Annual Report for that year Ballinger recommended the creation of “a bureau of national parks and resorts, under the supervision of a competent commissioner, with a suitable force of superintendents, supervising engineers, and landscape architects...1

The professional services perspective of the A. C. A. was not surprising. The association contained a wide variety of professional men, and it was only natural that they should incorporate their own fields of expertise into their concept of a properly administered national park system. Ballinger's landscape architecture comment is particularly significant in relation to our topic, for it demonstrates that one of the problems the parks bureau would be expected to tackle would be the sensitive development of the parks.

In 1910 the need for landscape improvement in the parks was readily apparent. In most of the parks, little had been done to protect roadside beauty or to screen the necessary evils of development. Butcher shops, markets, cabins, corrals, and their appurtenances had been placed without regard for the environment and scenery.

The campaign to create a professional park bureau accelerated after Ballinger's endorsement. In February.. 1912 President Taft added his support when he recommended the establishment of such a bureau to Congress. The 1913 change of administration, however, put new men in Washington's top positions, so MacFarland and the A. C. A had to reorganize their campaign. One of their first new converts was recently-appointed Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane.

Anticipating the creation of the new bureau, Lane centralized the administration of the existing parks. Adolph C. Miller, an assistant to the Secretary , was assigned responsibility for all aspects of the Interior Department parks program. Miller, in turn, searched for someone to fill the newly created position of General Superintendent of the National Parks. He chose a young acquaintance named Mark Daniels. Daniels was a landscape architect practicing in California, a graduate of the University of California (Berkeley) in 1905. Daniels spent the summer of 1914 visiting the parks and identifying their individual problems. Again during 1915 he went into the field. During the winters he returned to his private practice. 2

During his less than two years in departmental service, Daniels had little opportunity to exercise his landscape skills. Development funding was severely limited, and no major projects were undertaken. It is possible, however, that Daniels played a consulting role in the design of some of the privately built hotels which appeared in the parks during his time and shortly after. Major hotels were either planned or constructed during the Daniels period in Yosemite, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and Glacier. Perhaps Daniels' most important significance is the confirmation his appointment gave to the concept of a landscape-oriented national park administration. Daniels' background makes it apparent that the Department of Interior believed in 1915 that the landscape problems of the national parks were important.

The 63rd Congress refused to enact a park bureau bill before it adjourned in 1914, so the campaign was again renewed the following year. Recognizing that the problem was mainly one of salesmanship, Secretary Lane brought Stephen Mather, a wealthy borax promoter and Sierra Club conservationist, into the Department to spearhead the effort. Mather had made his fortune as a promoter and seller of borax products and was a master lobbyist. An 1887 graduate of the University of California, at Berkeley, Mather had developed a deep and sincere interest in conservation. He was an avid participant in the annual Sierra Club trips into the wilderness. Since he had joined the club he had come to know Yosemite intimately. When Lane asked Mather to apply his persuasive talents to the park bureau campaign, Mather eagerly accepted. He would donate a year to the cause, he vowed.

Mather was doubtlessly familiar with the MacFarland concept of a park bureau containing professional expertise in several fields including landscape architecture. When he arrived in Washington in January. 1915, he accepted the MacFarland concepts without hesitation and plunged into the campaign. Serving as Daniels' immediate supervisor. Mather had no difficulty accepting the idea that a landscape man was appropriate for the position of General Superintendent. Only later, when he began to doubt Daniels' administrative abilities, did Mather ask for his resignation.

Once in Washington Mather applied himself vigorously to his specialty, publicity. During 1915, Mather and his assistant, Horace Albright, generated a sea of publicity about the necessity of a national park bureau. While they were educating America to the value of the parks. Mather and Albright also took the time to improve their own knowledge regarding their new responsibilities. During the summer of 1915, Mather and Albright undertook a tour of the western parks. Beginning in San Francisco, where they attended a conference of national park superintendents and concessioners, the two journeyed across the West visiting Sequoia, General Grant, Yosemite, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone. Seeking contacts with influential local citizens, they cataloged and registered the varied needs of the individual parks. At the same time, Mather and Albright were exposed to the existing structures and facilities in the parks. The variety was enormous, and it was inevitable that they would react by liking some and disliking others. The existing government buildings were mainly small and simple, most only a room or two except in those few parks where the Army had built permanent facilities. Some of the parks had almost nothing to show in the way of permanent development. Sequoia, for example, had only a few frame buildings, and some tents. Glacier, on the other hand, was relatively well developed because the Great Northern Railway had committed itself to a system of hotels, chalets, and roads. Mather must have noted that some of the structures were much more pleasing in relation to their settings than others. The hotels at Glacier, for example, made heavy use of native stone and logs. The harmony of building materials and environment must have been apparent. Certainly, nothing Mather nor Albright saw caused them to reconsider their acquired belief that landscape architecture would, of necessity, be an important facet of their hoped-for bureau.

The year 1915 ended with the park bureau yet unborn, and Mather and Albright agreed to continue the campaign into the new year. Mather, working closely with cooperative portions of the press, flooded the national media with national park news. MacFarland and the American Civic Association continued their efforts, especially in relation to professional groups. When the American Society of Landscape Architects (A. S. L. A.) met in Boston in February, 1916, the A. C. A. lobbyists were there. One session of the conference was donated to the exploration of the national park problem and its relationship to the landscape architecture profession. In response the A. S. L. A. passed a resolution supporting the park bureau bill introduced by Congressman Kent of California in January, 1916.

The A. S. L. A. had no trouble seeing the relationship of the proposed bureau to its own activities.

    “Whereas, the need has long been felt, not only for more adequate protection of the surpassing beauty of those primeval landscapes which the National Parks have been created to perpetuate, but also for rendering this landscape beauty more readily enjoyable through construction in these parks of certain necessary roads and buildings for the accommodations of visitors in a way to bring the minimum of injury to these primeval landscapes...(it is resolved)…that the American Society of Landscape Architects endorses the Bill (H. R. 8668), entitled a Bill to Establish a National Park Service, and pledges its utmost efforts in cooperation with the American Civic Association, to secure its passage.” 3

The belief that the Mather-Albright administration was properly committed to these landscape values was incorporated in another portion of the resolution.

In another statement made during the same A. S. L. A. session, Landscape Architect James S. Pray of Harvard University, clarified the relationship between the hoped-for bureau and the landscape architecture profession:

    “Let me go on the record as believing that the surpassing beauty of our National Parks is neither safe, nor will be made enjoyable for the maximum number of people with the minimum injury to that landscape beauty, unless the administration of the National Park areas employs the best expert council it can secure in the profession of Landscape Architecture. ...” 4

Pray went on to specify four areas where landscape expertise was essential:

    "First, a careful determination of proper boundaries of the National Parks, not arbitrary, as those at present, but in consonance with the topography and with landscape unity; second, the development of comprehensive general plans for every National Park and Monument showing roads, bridges, trails, buildings, etc.,so far as these may be needed, and at the same time can be built without injury to the landscape, and the adoption of a definite policy of development; third, the approval of designs for buildings and other special structures; fourth, prescribing a system of intelligent and scrupulous maintenance having particular regard to the protection of the beauty of the landscape. "5

Mather was quick to capitalize on the interest of the profession. When he was unable to attend the conference, he sent a message inviting the A. S. L. A. national parks committee to visit the parks during the summer of 1916 and make professional recommendations for their development and improvement. Mather went on to emphasize how much he had learned during his own 1915 summer tour.

The park bureau campaign continued through the spring and summer of 1916. Mather again took to the field. In fact he was near Sequoia National Park when word arrived from Albright in Washington that the Kent bill to create the National Park Service had suddenly passed Congress and been signed by President Wilson on August 25, 1916.

Mather had never intended to administer the new bureau. He had seen his role merely as a facilitator in its creation. After the resignation of Daniels. Mather chose Robert Marshall of the United States Geological Survey for the position of Director. By the end of the summer of 1916, however. Marshall and Mather fell to quarrelling, and Marshall returned to the U. S. G. S. This left Mather and Albright at the helm. Almost before Marshall could clear his office. Mather, too, was temporarily out of the picture. The incredible pace of the past two years had taken a heavy toll, and Mather collapsed with a nervous breakdown. When Congress finally authorized initial funds for the organization of NPS in an act of April 17. 1917. Horace Albright, officially Mather's assistant, was Acting Director. Albright's hopes for professionalism in the bureau had to be put off, however, for the United States had declared war on Germany eleven days before the Service was funded.

When Acting Director Albright filed his first Annual Report of the Director of the National Park Service in October. 1917, he could report only minimal progress toward the resolution of the major problems of the parks. A small building program had been carried forward with funds authorized before the creation of the Service. These few structures were apparently designed by the park managers with such assistance as they could arrange. A five-room ranger house built at the Cedar Creek entrance to Sequoia, for example, was only a plain, if comfortable, board and batten ranch house. On the other hand, two ranger cabins erected at Crater Lake were formally styled log cabins that bear a striking relationship to later, purposely rustic, park structures. Albright included a photo of one of the Crater Lake cabins in his report with the caption that the structure was illustrative of the type of ranger station adopted for that park.

The highly stylized appearance of the two Crater Lake cabins suggests, that either a landscape architect or an architect sensitive to the environment played a role in the buildings, design. Unfortunately, it has been impossible, as yet, to confirm this supposition.

Mather returned to the Service to assume the Director’s position in the spring of 1918, and, together with Albright, he played an important role in the formation of the Service’s first “Statement of Policy.” In most respects, this statement, dated May 13. 1918. confirmed the MacFarland concept of a professionally oriented National Park Service. The influence of the A. S. L. A. was clearly evident.

“In the construction of roads, trails, buildings, and other improvements, particular attention must be devoted always to the harmonizing of these improvements with the landscape. This is a most important item in our programs of development and requires the employment of trained engineers who either possess a knowledge of landscape architecture or have a proper appreciation of the esthetic value of park lands. All improvements will be carried out in accordance with a preconceived plan developed in special reference to the preservation of the landscape. and comprehensive plans for future development of the national parks on an adequate scale will be prepared as funds are available for this purpose.” 6
The reference to comprehensive plans is apparently a result of the influence of J. S. Pray. Taken as a whole, the above paragraph represents nothing less than the charter of the NPS rustic architecture program of the next twenty years.

Despite the new policy statement, the building program of 1918 closely paralleled that of the previous year. Only a small number of simple structures and related facilities went up in the parks. In Glacier, for example, several rather common bungalow-style residences were built.

In Sequoia, three utility buildings with an interesting exposed redwood frame were erected. Again, the designer is unknown, although one of the Sequoia structures was pictured in the Annual Report as a model for future development in that park. In the case of the Sequoia buildings (and perhaps some of the others) it is not improbable that they were designed by George Goodwin, a civil engineer first employed by Mather in 1916. At least one building proposed for General Grant National Park in 1917 was designed by Goodwin.

Despite the continuing war in Europe, Mather took steps during the summer of 1918 to initiate the professionalization of the NPS building program. On July 191 Charles P. Punchard arrived in Yellowstone bearing a letter from Mather appointing him National Park Service Landscape Engineer. 7 Punchard, previously a landscape architect for the City of Washington, D. C. I was suggested to Mather by Arno Cammerer, who would shortly join the Service himself. 8 Punchard's duties were wide and varied. Primarilyl Mather visualized his new employee as an advisor in the layout and design of both government and concessioner facilities. As Mather summed it up in his 1919 Annual Report:

    "Besides the designing of gateways [for which Mather had a strong affection], it has been the duty of the landscape architect to plan employee's cottages, ranger stations, gasoline and oil stations, automobile checking stations, comfort stations, etc.,or to criticize plans submitted by the superintendents for such buildings. "9

Together Punchard and Civil Engineer Goodwin formed the nucleus for the professional park bureau staff which had been conceptualized by MacFarland before 1910. The policy statement of May, 1918 could now be executed.

1. Shankland, 52.
2. Letter, Horace Marden Albright to William Tweed, June 4, 1976.
3. American Society of Landscape Architects, "Our National Parks: A Conference," Landscape Architecture, A Quarterly, VI (April, 1916), 111-112.
4. Ibid., 119.
5. Ibid., 120.
6. National Park Service, Report of the Director of the National Park Service (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918), 274.
7. national Park Service, Report of the Director (1919), 260.
8. Shankland, 254-255.
9. National Park Service, Report of the Director (1919) ,26.


William C. Tweed, Historian
Laura E. Soulliere, Architectural Historian
Henry G. Law, Architect

National Park Service
Western Regional Office
Division of Culutral Resource Management
February, 1977

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