Table of Contents



Biographical Vignettes

Recommendations for
Further Reading

Parks and People

Evolution of a National Park Concept

Wildiands Designated...But Vulnerable

Creating a Service to Manage the System

Expanding the Scope

Revising the Mission

Rehabilitation and Expansion

Partners and Alliances

National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Expanding the Scope
National Park Service Arrowhead

Parks and People:
Preserving Our Past For The Future

                                          by Barry Mackintosh

Bryce Canyon National Park visitors, Queens Garden Trail, circa 1930.
(Courtesy of Union Pacific Museum Collection)

Expanding the Scope

Gilbert Stanley Underwood
Gilbert Stanley Underwood.

Through the 1920s, the national park system was really a western park system. Of the Service's holdings, only Lafayette National Park in Maine (renamed Acadia in 1929) lay east of the Mississippi River. Reflecting the Service's western orientation, its landscape architecture, engineering, education, and forestry functions were headquartered in San Francisco. Serving as superintendent of Yellowstone after 1919, Horace Albright received the additional job of field assistant director in 1927 to better oversee the parks from that location.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr..

If the park system were to benefit America's predominantly eastern population and maximize its support in Congress, it would have to expand eastward. Unfortunately, natural areas meeting national park standards were less common in the East, and most eastern land was in private ownership. In 1926 Congress authorized Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, and Mammoth Cave national parks in the Appalachian region but required that their lands be donated. With the aid of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and other philanthropists, the states involved gradually acquired and turned over most of the lands needed to establish these parks in the next decade.

Horace Marden Albright
Horace Marden Albright.

The Service's greatest opportunity in the East lay in another realm — that of history and historic sites. Congress had directed the War Department to preserve a number of historic battlefields, forts, and memorials there as national military parks and monuments. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia and Tennessee was the first battlefield area so designated, in 1890, followed by Antietam National Battlefield Site and Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg national military parks. Civil War veterans who had fought at these places were active in the campaigns for their preservation. Other War Department parks and monuments included Fort Marion (later renamed Castillo de San Marcos) in St. Augustine, Florida, Baltimore's Fort McHenry, Abraham Lincoln's Kentucky birthplace, and the Statue of Liberty.

Road construction crew, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, circa 1900.

Herma Albertson Baggley
Herma Albertson Baggley.

Albright, who had a personal interest in history, sought the transfer of these areas to the National Park Service soon after the bureau was created. After succeeding Mather as director in 1929, Albright resumed his efforts. As a first step, he got Congress to establish three new historical parks in the East under National Park Service administration. Parts of two of these, Yorktown Battlefield at Colonial National Monument, Virginia, and the Revolutionary War encampments at Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey, edged the Park Service into military history, advancing its case for the War Department's areas. The Service hired its first park historians at Colonial in 1931.

Isabelle Story
Isabelle Story.

Albright's big moment came soon after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933. When Roosevelt went to inspect ex-President Herbert Hoover's fishing retreat at Shenandoah National Park for his possible use, Albright was invited to accompany him. On the return drive to Washington through Civil War country, Albright turned the conversation to history and mentioned his plan to acquire the War Department's areas. Roosevelt readily agreed and directed Albright to initiate an executive order to bring about the transfer.

Frank Pinkley
Frank "Boss" Pinkley.

Roosevelt's order, effective August 10, 1933, did what Albright had asked and more. Not only did the Service receive the War Department's parks and monuments, but it also achieved another long-time objective by getting the 15 national monuments then held by the Forest Service — among them Timpanogos Cave in Utah and Walnut Canyon in Arizona. It also assumed responsibility for the national capital parks, then managed by a separate office in Washington. They included the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and Rock Creek Park, a unique urban natural area established simultaneously with Sequoia and Yosemite national parks in 1890.

Roger Wolcott Toll
Roger Wolcott Toll.

This merger of all the national military parks, national monuments, and national capital parks in a single national park system had major implications for the National Park Service. With the addition of nearly 50 historical areas in the East, the system and Service were now truly national. Henceforth, the Service would be the leading federal agency in historic as well as natural preservation, acquiring many more historic sites and assuming important historic preservation responsibilities beyond the parks. The national capital parks would give it high visibility in Washington with members of Congress and visitors from around the nation. Of necessity, the Service would become a much larger and more diverse organization.



Last Modified: Dec 1 2000 10:00:00 pm PDT

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