The Kennedy Years (1956-1964): Mission 66 - Long Term Construction Progress


Mission 66 - Long Term Construction Progress

Whitman National Monument's delayed development was a typical problem of National Park Service areas after World War II. National Park Service administrators struggled for ten years trying to reorganize their parks after the war; Superintendent Weldon's administration is an example of this effort. When conditions had not improved by 1955, National Park Service Director Conrad L. Wirth responded by initiating a long-term national recovery program for the National Park Service called Mission 66. This ten-year rehabilitation program was designed to improve facilities, staffing, and resource preservation at all areas in time for the 50th anniversary of the Service. [100] Congress provided an estimated $786 million for the ten-year program. [101] The Whitman National Monument development project cost $451,300.00. [102] Assigned to the Whitman National Monument the same year the Mission 66 program began, Superintendent Kennedy had as his primary responsibility overseeing Mission 66 development at Whitman Mission. After Public Law 85-388 provided the needed land for construction in 1958, new project ideas flowed from administrators in anticipation of the impending development.


The monument's "Mission 66 Prospectus" planned for superintendent's and historian's residences. On May 9, 1958, Superintendent Kennedy recommended new locations for these buildings. Rather than locating them "easterly of the Frazier residence and a little to the north of the present Monument boundary" [103] Kennedy suggested a more visible location to deter vandalism: "I feel that if the residences are to be constructed they should be placed in sight of the Mission Grounds . . . . I suggest a location near the present Frazier buildings." [104] Rather than constructing a combined utility building and visitor center: "It might be better to have the utility building separate . . . to place it a little east of the residence out of sight of the Mission Grounds." [105]

Regional Director Merriam concurred, and these revisions were incorporated into the park's master plan.

National Park Service Director Wirth visited Whitman National Monument in 1960 to check on the park's Mission 66 progress. Certainly a noteworthy occasion, Director Wirth's visit was made more memorable when, at a reception given by Superintendent Kennedy and his wife, "[Director Wirth] helped catch the sheep that jumped over the fence into our yard while we were having cocktails and a picnic dinner." [106] When not busy rounding up sheep, Director Wirth suggested a few changes to the park's development plan. He objected to the visitor center's proximity to the mission site and the parking area's proximity to the Great Grave:

Mr. Wirth suggested that the visitor center be moved northward approximately 400 feet and one parking area designed to serve both visitor center and the Monument . . . . A trail from the monument [on Shaft Hill] southward to the historic Oregon Trail was also suggested. This would permit a circulatory walk to all the important features from the one parking area . . . . [107]

Director Wirth's suggestions and those of Regional Director Merriam and others were incorporated into the "General Development Plan" and approved by Superintendent Kennedy, Regional Director Merriam, Chief of Design and Construction Vint, and Director Wirth on August 31, 1960 (see plan, Appendix M). This layout combined with the master plan narratives written by Kennedy provided the basis for construction from 1961-1963.


Last updated: March 1, 2015

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