Mission 66: Birth of the Modern National Park

Mission 66 across the National Parks

The rustic style for park buildings in the pre-World War II period of major park construction was no longer working. Pre-war construction relied on inexpensive labor supplied by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and other Depression- Era public works projects. After World War II, labor was much more expensive and design and construction practices had changed in response to new materials and methods. National Park Service planners moved to a modern style of construction and design that was quicker, cheaper, and in the spirit of the times.

The Gettysburg Visitor Center constructed under Mission 66
Not all Mission 66 structures remain. The current Gettysburg National Military Park visitor center and museum replaced the Mission 66 visitor center demolished in 2008.

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Across the country, the National Park Service constructed new visitor centers as one of the central elements of Mission 66. By the final year of Mission 66, 111 visitor centers were either under construction or completed. Many of these structures are still in use today. Notable examples include the Flamingo visitor center, the Grand Teton visitor centers, and smaller locations like the Fort Pulaski National Monument visitor center outside of Savannah, Georgia.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was constructed with the same design as the observation tower at Shark Valley.
Old Faithful Visitor Education Center in Yellowstone National Park

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The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center in Yellowstone National Park is an example of a Mission 66 building with lingering touches of the older rustic architecture in the national parks.

Last updated: September 29, 2021