Preservation and Stewardship

OSS image of cabin camp 4 craft lodge
This 1945 image of the Camp 4 Craft Lodge shows the OSS added asphalt shingles.

National Archives and Records Administration


In the fall of 2012, Prince William Forest Park implemented its plans to replace the roofing system on its historic 1930s era cabins. Park staff work around the clock to maintain these historic structures to historic standards, replacing board for board and nail for nail. In planning for the long term stability of the structures, park managers must work to balance the historic standards requirements with ever-present funding constraints and park goals for environmental stewardship. It is the goal of the park to eventually replace all of the cabin roofs in alignment with this plan.

1930s cabin with campers
The original cedar shake roofs in 1936

The Historic Cabins

The Prince William Forest Park cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression to provide overnight, outdoor recreation for impoverished youth from Washington, DC. During World War II, these same cabins were taken over by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the WWII predecessor the CIA and America's Special Forces, for use as Special Operations and Communications Training Camps. Though many of these cabins have been on the National Register of Historic Places for many years, the park, in its entirety, was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places this year based in a large part on the cabins' Great Depression and WWII era history.

About the Cabin Roofs

The cabins were constructed following the tenets of the rustic architecture movement which was very popular in the early 20th century. This movement used locally-harvested materials to achieve a naturalist, pioneer-made look, despite the use of machines for some construction. For the cabin roofs at Prince William Forest Park, the CCC used hand-made, cedar shake shingles on all of the buildings. You can view a Works Progress Administration worker hand-making these shingles in the early park film, The Human Crop.

a green roof cabin

During the OSS era (1942-1945), some of the original cabin roofs were replaced with asphalt shingles which was cheaper and less labor intensive, despite being aesthetically opposed to the rustic architecture movement. Since the 1940s, layer after layer of asphalt shingles have been laid upon the roofs with more regard to structural preservation that architectural aesthetics. Over the years, the roof color has varied from the original, faded gray for a cedar shake, to brown, green, and gray asphault shingles.

a brown roof cabin

Considering Our Options

Prince William Forest Park management considered a variety of materials for the proposed roof replacement, and has concluded that the use of authentic cedar shake shingles would be fiscally prohibitive not only due to the cost of the materials themselves, but also because of the frequency with which the shingles would have to be replaced. This new roofing plan will return to a more aesthetic and sustainable roofing material that maintains the character of the rustic style architecture originally used on the camp buildings, as well as to provide for the long-term preservation of these historic buildings. The NPS chose not to select asphalt shingles because they do not match the appearance and visual qualities of wood shake.

A worker holds up a original cedar shake to the roof of a cabin covered in the chosen composite material

About the Roofing Proposal

Park management has selected to replace the existing asphalt shingles with a substitute material shingle, made of composite, recycled material, which best meets the purpose and need of this project. These shingles are made to replicate the look and profile of the original cedar shake shingles that were hand-made by the CCC and installed on the cabins in the 1930s. They are a faded grey color, matching the look of cedar after a few years of weathering. The long term life cycle replacement (how long the shingles are on the roofs until they need to be replaced) far outstretches both asphalt shingles and the original cedar shake shingles. The composite shingles are fire and mod resistant. These factors led the park to choose the composite shingle for its roofing needs on the historic cabins.

Last updated: September 29, 2017

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18100 Park Headquarters Road
Triangle, VA 22172



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