The Flamingo Lodge Debate
Everglades National Park, which was dedicated in 1947, was conceived as a wilderness park. National Park Service Director Conrad Wirth initially envisioned most visitors to Everglades to be day-use only, so no lodging was included in the plans for construction. However, he quickly ran into major opposition from south Florida interest groups that advocated park lodging as a way to promote tourism. Despite opposition from the Audubon Society, the American Nature Association, and other conservation groups, in 1957 Wirth gave in to the political pressure and agreed to a motel at Flamingo with sixty units and a pool.
Congressman Dante Fascell, for whom the visitor center at Biscayne National Park is named, speaks at an event while Warren F. Hamilton, Everglades National Park superintendent, and Conrad Wirth, National Park Service director, look on in 1961.
Despite the concerns of conservation groups, Wirth understood that visitor accessibility needed to go hand-in-hand with preservation and the lodge was opened in time for the park service 50th anniversary in 1966.
Cecil Doty served the National Park Service as lead architect throughout the Mission 66 program, working to design various visitor centers. The buildings in Flamingo were designed in the American Modern style of the 1950s. Harry L. Keck, Jr. of Coral Gables, Florida, designed the Flamingo visitor center. The visitor center and the first housing units were two-story structures set on columns in order to minimize storm damage. Other buildings, including the marina store and original gas station, were single-story structures.
BIRTH OF THE MODERN NATIONAL PARK
Last updated: October 22, 2021