This presentation was part of A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
by Gray Brechin
The CCC provided the labor for a vast expansion and improvement of the National and State Parks during the Great Depression while leaving a legacy of exquisitely crafted structures that enhance those parks. Championed by President Roosevelt as a means of rehabilitating both land and men, the CCC was also imbued with the ethos of the Arts & Crafts Movement that pervaded other work relief agencies of the New Deal. Designers and workers strove not only for structures which were in harmony with nature but whose construction infused their builders with lasting self-respect, a concept which emanated from the writings and example of John Ruskin and William Morris and their followers. Among those followers was Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, confidante, and advisor, Eleanor.
It is, thus, not coincidental that much of the impetus for the National Park Service and a vastly expanded State Park system flows from the Art & Crafts colony of Berkeley, California as well as from the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park, New York. The talk will explore not only the exceptional quality of the CCC-built lodges, camps, and infrastructure created in the parks during the Depression, but the redemptive philosophy which gave them form and the places from which those ideas emanated.
Gray Brechin is the founder and Project Scholar of the Living New Deal based at the University of California Berkeley Department of Geography from which he received his doctorate. He is an environmental writer, author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, and a Companion of the Guild of St. George established by John Ruskin in 1871.