Essential Architecture- Search by style
National Park Service Rustic
|Mount Rainier Administrative Building, Longmire||Trail shelter at Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park||Exterior of the LeConte Memorial Lodge|
|The Ahwahnee Hotel in December||Ahwahnee Hotel||Old Faithful Inn|
|Mount Rainier's Nisqually Gate||An early view of the El Tovar Hotel||Fireplace inside Hermit's Rest|
|Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon||Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood National Forest|
|National Park Service Rustic
National Park Service Rustic, also colloquially known as Parkitecture, is a style of architecture that arose in the United States National Park System to create buildings that harmonized with their natural environment. Since its founding, the National Park Service consistently has sought to provide visitor facilities without visually interrupting the natural or historic scene. The structures are characterized by intensive use of hand labor and rejection of the regularity and symmetry of the industrial world, reflecting its connections with the Arts and Crafts movement. Architects, landscape architects and engineers combined native wood and stone with convincingly "native" styles to create visually appealing structures that seemed to fit naturally within the majestic landscapes. Examples of the style can be found in numerous types of National Park structures, including entrance gateways, park roads and bridges, visitor centers, trail shelters, hotels and lodges, and even maintenance and support facilities. Many of these buildings are listed as National Historic Landmarks.
Development 1872 - 1916
The first national parks were a response to the romanticism that restructured the American concept of wilderness in the nineteenth century. As seen in the artistry of John James Audubon, James Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Cole, George Catlin, William Cullen Bryant and others, the idea of wilderness developed during the course of the nineteenth century from an entity to be feared and conquered into a resource that should be preserved and treasured. The early wilderness preservation philosophies--expressed through painting, poetry, essays, and later photography--helped lay the foundations for the acceptance of the first national parks. Beginning with Yosemite in 1866 and Yellowstone in 1872, public lands were set aside as parks. Early administration of these reserves was haphazard. Yosemite fell prey to a politicized board of state commissions, while Yellowstone was given an unpaid superintendent and no appropriations.
In 1883, because of extensive poaching and political scandal, the Army was authorized to protect Yellowstone although it was not called upon by the Secretary of the Interior to do so until 1886. The Army stayed in Yellowstone in an administrative capacity until 1916. After 1890, the Army also was called on to protect Sequoia, the General Grant tree, and Yosemite. In each of the Army parks, the War Department was compelled to erect basic facilities for its own use. Fort Yellowstone, Wyoming, was the most important of these complexes. The army buildings there were constructed to standard Army specifications. The Army had no direct interest in the landscape, and this was echoed in their architecture.
In those early parks where the Interior Department retained administrative responsibility (including Crater Lake, Mount Rainier and Glacier), government buildings usually were limited to primitive, vernacular expressions of facility need. Crude frame shacks, log cabins, or tent frames usually sufficed. These early government facilities could be simple because responsibility for housing and transporting the park visitor was delegated to the park concessioners.
The early park concessioners received little supervision. Their structures were typical make-shift frontier efforts. Not until after the completion of the northern transcontinental railroads in the 1890s, did more advanced concessioner facilities appear in Yellowstone, for example. Among the first of these was the Lake Hotel, constructed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1890. The formal classicism of this structure, with its ionic columns, three projecting porticos and symmetrical façade, made it clear that the building owed nothing to its setting.
The railroads brought the first major developments to the parks. At the same time, as a part of this process, they also introduced their architectural and engineering expertise. The railroads' search for architectural styles suitable for park settings occurred at a time when landscape architecture was beginning to exert major influence on architectural design and theory. In 1842, landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing had publicized his ideas on "picturesque" landscape and the importance of nature in architectural design in his widely- distributed book Cottage Residences. Several decades later, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., a friend and pupil of Downing, working in conjunction with architects such as Henry Hobson Richardson, strengthened the connections between architecture and landscape architecture. Building forms responded to their sites, landscaping becoming an integral part of the design. While buildings generally were constructed of natural materials such as native stone, timbers, and shingles, few were intentionally "rustic." Early "rustic" examples were usually "follies"--gazebos and small pavilions. Larger buildings intentionally rustic in style appeared in the Adirondack Mountains in the 1870s, creating the style known as Adirondack Architecture. This influence began to appear in park architecture after 1900.
As the Park Service became more organized in the 1920s, it established a policy of rustic design. Promulgated primarily by landscape architect Thomas Chalmers Vint, with support from architect Herbert Maier, rustic design became entrenched as standard practice in the Park Service. During the 1930s, the Park Service administered Civilian Conservation Corps projects in state parks, and used the opportunity to promote rustic design on a widespread scale. However, in the postwar period, it became apparent that facilities could not be built in sufficient quantity to contend with a huge increase in automobile-borne park visitation. In the Mission 66 program, Vint and Maier consciously abandoned the rustic style in favor of a leaner and more expeditious modern style.
In 1903, the Sierra Club erected LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley. Designed to serve as the Club's summer headquarters, it contained a library and a club information center. Weathered native granite dominated the symmetrical Tudor Revival building, which bore the strong imprint of its architect, Bernard Maybeck, in an exaggerated roofline which comprised more than half of the height of the structure, a huge granite fireplace, and its rough-finish exposed roof beams.
The Yosemite Valley Railroad had constructed a depot in 1910 at El Portal near the park boundary, and a stage depot in Yosemite Valley. Although the railroad's operations were on a much smaller scale than those at the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, its buildings were significant expressions of local park architecture. Both structures were built in a rustic Stick Style reminiscent of nineteenth century Adirondack camp architecture. The wood frame buildings were covered with panels of decorative boughs. The diagonal brackets of the depot were small logs, complete with protruding knots. The Yosemite Valley Stage Depot, which also served as a telegraph office, had a steeply gabled roof, which comprised more than half the height of the building, and diamond-shaped window panes. Both structures were representative of a local movement of "rustic" architecture that developed in Yosemite after 1900. Several buildings at nearby Camp Curry shared the style.
Glacier Point received a new hotel in 1917. Erected by the Desmond Park Company, the two and three story, shingle-covered structure had a distinctly Swiss chalet design emphasis. The steeply pitched roofs, numerous roof gables and intricate balconies added detail to this alpine structure. Although situated so that it had a magnificent view of the Yosemite high country, the hotel was sufficiently removed from Glacier Point proper to reduce its visual impact.
Parsons Memorial Lodge was constructed by the Sierra Club in 1915 at Tuolumne Meadows. Parsons Lodge was a wide building of low profile, whose walls appeared to be granite dry stone masonry. Actually, the architect had experimented with a new construction technique so that the battered stone walls had concrete cores. This philosophy of using new building methods in visual imitation of pioneer building techniques matured in the 1920s in structures like Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel. A contemporary architect stated: "The building seems to grow out of the ground naturally and to belong there just as much as the neighboring trees and rocks."
At Yellowstone National Park in 1903, the Northern Pacific Railroad constructed the Old Faithful Inn. This six-story resort was in the Swiss Chalet-Norway Villa tradition, but executed in a very western frontier manner. The exterior of the log frame structure was sheathed with shingles, and the building was heavily articulated with logwork piers and corners. Two stories of projecting dormers protruded from the enormous main gable, which was the dominant architectural feature. The combination of the logwork, shingles, and form resulted in a masterful structure. The Inn was designed by Robert Reamer, who is said to have "sketched the plans while coming shakily out of a monumental submersion in malt, and some authorities claim to be able to read that fact in its unique contours.”
A series of four "trailside museums" were designed for Yellowstone by Herbert Maier in the late 1920s at Madison, Norris Geyser Basin, Fishing Bridge and Old Faithful. Maier designed many park structures in the western national parks during his tenure as an active Park Service architect, and went on to become an influential administrator in the Park Service regional office.
Mount Rainier National Park, as the fifth national park created in 1899, has many structures in this style, including the dramatic timbered Nisqually entrance sign, Longmire Inn and Visitors Center, Paradise Inn (newly remodeled) and various other structures at Longmire and around the park.
In Arizona, in 1901, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway completed a branch from its Chicago-Los Angeles main line to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, several years before Grand Canyon National Monument was proclaimed. In partnership with the Fred Harvey Company, the railroad built a luxury hotel, El Tovar, at the south rim in 1904. The Santa Fe retained Charles Whittlesley of Topeka, Kansas, to design the building, which boasted more than one hundred bedrooms. It opened in January, 1905. Built with turn-of-the-century eclecticism, El Tovar incorporated, according to Fred Harvey literature, exterior elements of the Swiss Chalet and Norway Villa, with an exotic combination of interior motifs, including a fifteenth century dining room, and a series of "art rooms " which contained Thomas Moran paintings, Navajo rugs, and other Native American artifacts. The hotel was "stained to a rich brown or weather-beaten color, that harmonized perfectly with the grey-green of its unique surroundings. It is pleasant to the eye.”
Hopi House, directly adjacent to El Tovar, was constructed by Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe in 1905. The building was designed to serve as a gift shop where Native Americans could sell their wares. In that way, it provided an outlet for the Hopi who lived within part of it as well as for the Navajo who built traditional hogans nearby. Hopi House closely copied the Hopi pueblo at Oraibi, Arizona, and was designed by Mary Colter, architect for the Fred Harvey Company. The building was constructed in the traditional pueblo style, an idiom well suited to the setting. The Hopi House work had a lasting effect on park architecture, and on contemporary southwestern architecture, although later pueblo adaptations were generally less concerned with authenticity. The stylistic choice on the part of Miss Colter and the Fred Harvey Company was primarily commercial, designed to stimulate interest in Native American goods. Judged by such standards Hopi House was successful; it served as a handsome marketing facility. Hopi House symbolized the partnership between commercialism and romanticism that typified so much of Fred Harvey architecture.
About 1914 the Fred Harvey Company initiated a major expansion of its Grand Canyon facilities. One of the first new structures was the Lookout Studio, designed by Mary Colter. Built of native stone, the canyon-rim structure had an uneven parapet roofline that matched the form and color of the surrounding cliffs.
Hermit's Rest, another one of Colter's fantasy buildings, was constructed at the head of the Hermit Trail in 1914 to serve as a refreshment stand and gift shop. Constructed of native stones and massive logs, the building seemed to have grown in its setting, and was carefully screened by vegetation. Its most impressive feature was its enormous fireplace.
Concessions at the Grand Canyon's relatively-remote North Rim were built and operated by the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad. Concession operations there are centered at Grand Canyon Lodge, constructed at the canyon's rim in 1927-1928. Designed by noted architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the massive, rustic-style lodge was built of timber, logs, and native limestone. A total of 120 rustic guest cabins spread outward from the main building. The original lodge structure burned in 1932, but was rebuilt in 1936-1937 on its original footprint. The rustic design ethic of the original lodge was retained in the 1937 building, and today the Grand Canyon Lodge complex is considered to be the best-preserved of the era's rustic National Park hotels.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park was established in 1910, immediately north of the main line of the Great Northern Railway. The railroad immediately began a massive concession development program in and near the park, which included the construction of two major hotels and nine smaller "chalet" complexes. The cornerstone of the project was Glacier Park Hotel (now Glacier Park Lodge), located just outside the park boundary at Glacier Park Station (East Glacier). The hotel had a capacity of 400 guests. The enormous log frame complex was four stories high, and six hundred twenty-eight feet long. Complete with music and writing rooms, sun parlor and emergency hospital, the hotel boasted unpeeled log pillars up to four feet in diameter. Used on both exterior and interior, the logs brought nature inside for the pleasure and comfort of the guests. As described in contemporary promotional literature, the “Forest" lobby included an "open camp fire on the Lobby's floor; here tourists and dignified Blackfeet chiefs and weatherbeaten guides cluster of evenings about a great bed of stones on which sticks of fragrant pine crackle merrily.” The structure included on its 160-acre (0.6 km2) tract a Blackfeet Indian camp.
The railroad's other major Glacier development was Many Glacier Hotel, a huge and rambling Swiss Chalet-style property on the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake in the northeastern portion of the park. Glacier's third rustic-style hotel, now known as Lake McDonald Lodge, was constructed privately in 1913 and added to the Great Northern concession in 1930.
The chalet camps scattered throughout the park were log or stone structures, built "on the Swiss style of architecture. " Most were log cabin complexes while others, notably Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet, were stone buildings. Each of the isolated facilities had a huge stone fireplace. Spaced within easy travelling distance of each other, the chalets were located in the most scenic portions of the park.
Construction on the Crater Lake Lodge in Oregon began in 1914, although numerous additions were built later. The hotel was constructed directly on the crater rim approximately 1000 feet above the lake. The original plan was fairly symmetrical. The lower story which was constructed of stone, included handsome arched windows. The upper stories were shingled. The roof, interrupted by rows of dormer windows, had clipped gables at the ends. Although the hotel incorporated local materials into its design in an attempt to integrate with the site, the complex remained relatively prominent, a result of its siting.
Other National Parks
Other National Parks with structures in this style include:
Bryce Canyon Lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Civilian Conservation Corps buildings in the Bandelier National Monument.
Oregon Caves Chateau located in the Oregon Caves Historic District at Oregon Caves National Monument.
Painted Desert Inn in Petrified Forest National Park.
Zion Lodge in Zion National Park.
US National Forests
The term has even been applied to some structures in a similar style located in National Forests:
Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood National Forest
US State Parks
The style was adopted by a number of state parks in the United States. The work was often performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Some examples are:
Illinois' Starved Rock lodge
Sylvan Lake lodge, and other buildings in Custer State Park, South Dakota
Mount Magazine State Park lodge in Arkansas
The CCC Shelter at Pokagon State Park in Indiana
Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet County, Texas
^ [Berke, Arnold; Vertikoff, Alexander (Photographer) (2002). Mary Colter; Architect of the Southwest, Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1-56898-345-X.]
William C. Tweed, Laura E. Soullière, and Henry G. Law, Rustic Architecture: 1916 - 1942 (NPS, 1977)
National Park Service, Park Structures and Facilities (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1935), 3.
Merrill Ann Wilson, "Rustic Architecture: The National Park Style," Trends, (July August September, 1976), 4-5.
Roderick Mash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), 101.
D. G. Battle and E. N. Thompson, Fort Yellowstone Historic Structure Report (Denver: National Park Service, 1972), 72.
L. M. Freudenheim and E. Sussman, Building with Nature: Roots of the San Francisco Bay Region Tradition (Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1974), 3.
W. E Colby, "The Completed LeConte Memorial Lodge," Sierra Club Bulletin 5:66-69 (January, 1094).
Robert Shankland, Steve Mather of the National Parks (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1954), 117.
G. W. James, The Grand Canyon and How to See It (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1910), 17.
Great Northern Railway, "Glacier National Park, Hotels and Tours," (promotional pamphlet, circa 1915), 3.
Sierra Club, "Report on Parsons Memorial Lodge," Sierra Club Bulletin, 10:84-85 (January 1916).
Barnes, Christine; Pfulghoft, Fred (Photographer); Morris, David (Photographer) (April 2002). Great Lodges of the National Parks: The Companion Book to the PBS Television Series, W W West. ISBN 0-9653924-5-7.