The Kennedy Years (1956-1964): Construction

 

Construction: First Phase

Construction proceeded in three main phases. During the first phase, a contract for roads, trails, parking areas, and utilities was awarded to Edward Mardis of Walla Walla in 1961. [108] Supervised by Herbert Quick, Project Officer from the Western Office of Design and Construction, San Francisco, and assisted by Thomas L. Weeks, Landscape Architect from Washington, D. C., several projects were completed by June 1962. The parking and picnic areas were constructed, two septic tanks installed, a 50,000-gallon reservoir built on Shaft Hill, the irrigation ditch and millpond dikes were restored, and the millpond filled with water for the first time since the Whitman era.

 

Construction: Second Phase

The second phase of construction began in 1963 and included two contracts--one for the visitor center and utility building, the other for a three-bedroom residence. Two invitations to bid were issued for the visitor center since the lowest bid was 10 percent over the government estimate. [109] Both contracts were finally awarded Mr. Mardis and supervised by Project Supervisor Robert F. Smith. [110] After eight months of construction, the visitor center opened to the public on September 28, 1963. [111] This building also provided administrative offices, previously located in the temporary museum in 1956, in a house trailer near the temporary museum from June 1957 to September 1961, and finally in the Frazier residence in 1962. While the new visitor center finally alleviated the cramped office space problem, the new utility building, constructed from January-May, solved many long-term storage problems. [112]

In 1961, W. A. Bailey of Walla Walla removed the Frazier farm buildings in preparation for construction of the three-bedroom residence. [113] The residence was built from March-May 1963; Superintendent Kennedy moved in on May 29. [114] The next step was remodeling the old Frazier residence into the historian's residence, but in 1964 the decision was made to forgo remodeling and, instead, remove it altogether. In April 1964, the house was sold to Mr. W. F. S. Nelson of Walla Walla and removed by May 28. [115] By the end of 1964 the historian's residence was planned but not built.

 

Construction: Third Phase

The third and final phase of development included a landscaping contract awarded in 1963 to Staneks, Incorporated, of Spokane. [116] Supervised by Project Supervisor Thomas L. Weeks, Washington, D. C., these jobs included planting lawns around the visitor center, laying trails and sidewalks, installing sprinklers and restoring the Oregon Trail. [117] When Staneks, Inc., obliterated the temporary museum in October 1963 [118] its destruction symbolized the passing of an era in facilities used to manage the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site's Mission 66 program culminated on June 6, 1964, with the dedication of the visitor center. More than one thousand guests attended the ceremonies in a tribute to the successful development. The dedication culminated not only the work of Director Wirth, Superintendent Kennedy and the mission and regional staff, but included the work of all those who since 1941 strove to make the Whitman Mission development project a reality.

 

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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