Mission 66: Birth of the Modern National Park

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.

(Left to Right) Warren F Hamilton, Everglades Superintendent, Conrad l. Wirth, National Park Service Director, and Congressman Dante Fascell

NPS photo (EVER 12973)

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.
The construction of the Flamingo Lodge in December 1963
This December 1963 image shows the construction of the Flamingo Lodge following the debate for its necessity.

NPS Photo (EVER 15164b)

Conrad l. Wirth, National Park Service Director by the Flamingo lodge motel
NPS director Conrad Wirth walking, with the Flamingo lodge motel in the background

NPS photo (EVER 16143)

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.
The pool at the Flamingo Lodge
The lodge included everything that visitors needed for comfort and enjoyment, including a pool.  However, after the destruction of the lodge in 2006, the pool was filled in and can no longer be seen.

NPS photo (EVER 16361)

Architectural model of Flamingo Visitor Center
This architecture model of the Flamingo Visitor Center shows one design that architects Doty and Keck proposed. Can you spot the similarities and differences between the model and the current design?

NPS photo (EVER 17703)

Architectural Design

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.

Last updated: October 22, 2021