This presentation was part of A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
By Hugh C. Miller, FAIA
The National Park Service (NPS) Park Historic Architecture Program came of age following the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The National Park System had numerous historic structures in its care; however, there was little involvement of historical architects in their preservation as a system-wide program. The organization of the NPS Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) in 1967 to implement the 66 Act gave historic architecture a place at the table in the NPS Washington Office (WASO).
Henry A. Judd, Branch Chief Park Historic Architecture, was an experienced restoration architect who helped write the 1964 Administrative Policy for Historic Areas in the National Park System. These policies defined planning, preservation treatments and management of historic resources. But there was no list of classified structures (LCS) and no knowledge of the number of historic structures system-wide. In the regional offices and parks these policies and the Historic Preservation Act often were ignored. Neglect and demolition of historic structures was so common that NPS Director George B. Hartzog mandated that demolition of all buildings over 50 years old would be approved by him. This review and approval process was delegated to Park Historic Architecture.
The author joined Park Historic Architecture branch in November 1971 and began consulting to the parks and regions. There generally was a lack of knowledge about preservation, the NPS policies, the 66 Act and the 1971 Executive Order 11593 requiring that all Federal agencies survey their properties. Some superintendents had rehabilitated their CCC buildings. In one recreation area, a superintendent abandoned colonial farms and taverns. One regional director claimed there were no archaeological sites, nor historic buildings, in the region’s national parks. With the expansion of the Park Historic Architecture Program, the LCS was established and the NPS training courses were organized focusing on “Maintenance is Preservation.”
In 1973 OAHP was organized into external and internal programs that became “Park Historic Preservation” directed by Robert M. Utley with history, archaeology and historic architecture divisions. Henry Judd was the “Chief Historical Architect.” It was decided that the regional offices should develop professional staffs reflecting those in WASO. With professional cultural resource staffs in the regions, including historical architects, there was a new interest in preserving historic buildings in the parks – rustic architecture, including concession buildings. At the same time, NPS had to grapple with the large number of historic structures in the new recreation areas.
Gary Everhart became Director in 1975. He had a negative attitude toward historic preservation and in a reorganization of WASO Robert Utley’s leadership roles were diminished. Utley left the NPS in 1976. The Park Historic Architecture programs continued, but the vision of park historic preservation programs in WASO had to wait for the next generation that occurred in 1980 with a re-organization. The regions continued moving forward educating superintendents about historic preservation and developing their own preservation programs. With historical architects in each region, as well as some parks, historic structures were being preserved, rehabilitated and reconstructed.
Hugh C. Miller, FAIA, has worked as a historical architect, preservation planner and teacher for over 55 years. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, and is a registered architect and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Joining the National Park Service in 1960, he served as the Chief Historical Architect from 1979 to 1988. In 1989 he was appointed as the first Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and State Historic Preservation Officer; serving for five years. Since 1996, he has been teaching and directing graduate theses at Goucher College for their Masters of Arts in Historic Preservation program. He has had a broad experience in significant national and international projects and programs.