This poster was presented at A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
By Lisa Jackson
As one passes through the gates and portals of the many national, state, or municipal parks throughout the country, visitors may notice a common theme: the structures that were built with Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labor and National Park Service (NPS) guidance maintain a similar architectural style. The buildings were constructed with hand tools whenever possible and building materials were native to each region. This architecture is purposefully and distinctively rustic. Government Rustic or Parkitecture were terms used as descriptors of this style of architecture chosen by the National Park Service. Just being rustic was not enough. The use of native materials allowed the structures to blend in with the surroundings.
In 1928, Stephen Mathers, the first NPS director, presented a policy in respect to building trails, roads, and structures on NPS lands. He believed that “…particular attention must be devoted always to the harmonizing of these improvements to the landscape.” Under the guidance and watchful eye of NPS, CCC construction itself fell under the premise that the structures were ancillary to the beauty and features of surrounding landscapes. The structures offered comforts for the visitor, but did not intrude upon what nature provided. This was the NPS architectural ideology that was practiced during the 1930s.
At Palo Duro Canyon State Park, in the Texas Panhandle, the structures not only blend with the surrounding natural environment, the architecture went a step further towards a primitive version of Government Rustic. The NPS regional architect who oversaw construction at Palo Duro Canyon was Herbert Maier. His inspiration was Harvey House architect, Mary Colter. Her Hopi House built in 1905, greatly influenced him when he designed Yavapai Point Observation Station in 1929 – both on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The stone buildings and walls in Palo Duro Canyon reflect the same architectural dynamics and the similarities are striking. Comparisons will demonstrate perfect examples of Colter’s influence and Mather’s directive in this little “Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon State Park.