This poster was presented at A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
By Lynn A. Neal
The Sunset Crater National Monument (SUCR) Visitor Center Complex Historic District (VCC) has historic significance at the national level as an excellent example of a Mission 66 development that is exceptional among such developments for three main reasons: 1) unlike most Mission 66 visitor centers, the VCC was located outside the monument to preserve the natural landscape around the park’s primary interpretive feature (the Sunset Crater cinder cone); 2) its original development was exclusively a Mission 66 design that did not build on any existing developments; and 3) the VCC was designed by Cecil Doty and represents an unusual design for this prominent NPS architect. Buildings contributing to the historic significance of the VCC are one-story NPS Modern-style clad in wood shingles with lava rock water table walls. Two of the buildings (the visitor center and maintenance garage/shop) have large glulam structural systems that form dramatic angled profiles. The VCC is comprised of six main properties that contribute to the Mission 66 complex’s historic significance and 13 non-contributing properties.
In keeping with the Mission 66 vision, Cecil Doty (and others) designed the administrative complex at SUCR to centralize visitor facilities and park operations. The visitor center (VC) serves as the only public building in the complex. The center welcomes park visitors from the front parking area while partially concealing other park facilities from the public. In addition to the visitor center building, Doty’s design for the complex included two other one-story buildings—a maintenance garage with a carport-style equipment storage area and two-unit apartment building. A tubular steel and lumber-framed fence with cedar shingle siding atop a lava rock wall formed wing walls extending from the visitor center and maintenance garage to make a rectangular enclosure around an employee parking area. In elevation the visitor center, maintenance yard, and maintenance shop/storage building appear as one unit forming a compound. Immediately adjacent to this compound is an apartment building. Taken altogether, the complex includes the visitor center building, public parking area around the VC, maintenance/storage building and fenced compound, apartment building, and to the north the water tower and old pump house. These buildings and structures were designed and constructed at nearly the same time by the same architect and are by and large located adjacent to each other.
Other facilities, such as offices, maintenance areas, and residential areas, are positioned behind the public area so that they are effectively hidden from public view. The maintenance garage and equipment building, also set behind the VC, was designed in 1965 and constructed in 1967. Around 1980 walls were added to the carport-style storage area to create office space, a lunchroom/conference room, and an enclosed storage room. Three shed roofs were added in the parking area compound to provide new carport-style equipment storage areas. These types of modifications illustrate appropriate adaptive reuse. The original structural elements though in part hidden from view are still intact, and the buildings retain sufficient integrity of design and function to contribute to the Mission 66 complex’s historic significance.
Lynn Neal is a Registered Professional Archaeologist and long-time resident of Flagstaff, Arizona. She serves as Cultural Resources Program Director and Vice President with EnviroSystems Management, Inc. She graduated from The College of Wooster with a B.A. and Northern Arizona University with a M.A. in Anthropology/Applied Archaeology, specializing in the Colorado Plateau’s diverse cultural landscape. Neal has worked for both the private and government sectors as an archaeologist, ruins stabilization specialist, and historic preservationist. She has documented and repaired prehistoric masonry sites across the Colorado Plateau including at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon national monuments, Homolovi Ruins and Lyman Lake state parks, Hassayampa Ruin in Prescott, AZ, Tuzigoot National Monument, and Guadalupe Ruin in northwest
NM. This training/experience and an overall interest in the built environment have drawn Neal to structural and preservation assessment of historic buildings.