61 C. Rim Village Remade: 1927-1941

Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987


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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Planning and Development at Rim Village: 1886 – present


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C. Rim Village Remade: 1927-1941

Construction of the new road was accompanied by an expanded water system and extensive utility work to service the proposed Rim Village development. Vint’s intention was to make the site a center for viewing the lake according to the evolving design principles of rustic architecture. In many respects, the plan for Rim Village’s layout resembled another project of his during this period, the Giant Forest site at Sequoia National Park. Unlike Giant Forest, however, the concession company’s willingness to finance improvements was limited and sporadic. Nevertheless, by 1941, the NPS had launched a successful revegetation program at Rim Village and endowed the site with many improvements that were to last for more than a half-century.

The army road was shorter than the realigned route that the Bureau of Public Roads completed for the NPS in 1927, but had grades up to eleven percent in places. [21] The new road from Munson Valley cut the steepest grades to six percent, and in so doing was aligned to enter Rim Village development from the northwest. Rim Village now had a southern and western boundary, something that allowed the NPS to begin implementing its plan for the area.

Development of the plaza began in 1928 with a cafeteria and store building designed by NPS landscape architects. It was accompanied by construction of housekeeping cabins, which until 1941 did not have running water or sanitary facilities. [22] Work on the promenade started in 1929, following a design by NPS landscape architect E.A. Davidson. Planting work started the following year under the direction of Merel Sager.[23]

Concurrent with the start of the revegetation program was the construction of a new trail to the lakeshore. Like the earlier Rim Camp Trail, the Lake Trail near the lodge had become hazardous. In response, the NPS spent two seasons building the Crater Wall Trail and located the new trailhead on the plaza across from the Cafeteria and Store building.

In 1930, construction got underway on the first federally-funded museum in a national park, the Sinnott Memorial. Its design borrowed heavily from the Yavapai Observation Station at the Grand Canyon. The link was more than incidental because both structures were viewed by the Carnegie Institution of Washington as the key interpretive sites in their respective parks. Carnegie’s president, John C. Merriam, was instrumental in getting funds for the Sinnott’s first exhibits and was heavily involved with the building’s design. Merriam also laid out the Discovery Point Trail, which originates from the promenade at the northwest corner of Rim Village. [24]

The 1931 season saw the virtual completion of a stone parapet wall along the promenade. The crenelated wall also featured several landscaped bays, a trail to the Sinnott Memorial, and a drinking fountain that had a miniature Crater Lake carved from a single boulder. Utility work in the summer included a new cement water storage tank on Garfield Peak. More improvements came that fall when Rim Village’s gasoline powered generators were eliminated by the installation of electric power through an underground line. As the construction season finished, the NPS was starting a fill south of the lodge so that additional parking might be provided.

The boom in construction at Crater Lake National Park during the Hoover Administration was largely due to the administration’s willingness to fund public works projects at an unprecedented level. [25] In order to give Congress an overall view of proposed developments in national parks so that appropriations could be secured, development plans were scrapped in favor of master plans. Responding to a request from Vint, NPS landscape architect Merel Sager produced a sample master plan for Crater Lake in 1931[26]

The early master plans consisted of large paper copies made from drawings produced on vellum. They were later hand colored and bound together on a roll. Comprehensive development plans at a scale encompassing the entire park were followed by larger scale drawings to depict individual developed areas like Rim Village. Eventually, a typed narrative accompanied the colored sheets as an insert and an attempt was made to update each park’s master plan every year.

Passage of the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act in 1933 provided for the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The resulting money and manpower allowed the NPS to employ Francis Lange as the park’s resident landscape architect. Previously, Lange had worked under Sager but could spend only part of the summer at Crater Lake because his duty station alternated between Sequoia and the NPS office in San Francisco. Lange worked as the resident landscape architect at Crater Lake from 1933 until 1939, when he got a promotion and was replaced by Lester Anderson.

By 1933, most of the landscaping projects at Rim Village were well underway. Stone curbs had replaced the log parapets which had defined the roadway and parking areas. Lange supervised the transplanting of more than a thousand trees from Munson Valley to Rim Village, while also continuing the “naturalization” work that Sager had started. Lange also designed rustic signs of wood with raised lettering to replace the painted metal signs that formerly gave directions or indicated points of interest.

In spite of all of the construction resulting from work relief programs in the 1930s, some proposals for Rim Village were never realized. The plaza development did not secure sufficient funding for the government contact building and new studio. These projects required more money than what was available through ECW allotments, which were the park’s main source of construction funds between 1933 and 1942. The proposed studio site on the plaza was eventually occupied by a comfort station finished in 1938. Designed by Lange, the comfort station’s orientation and stonework were to serve as the basis for future construction at Rim Village. [27] The government contact building had relatively complete plans drawn for it by NPS architect George Norgard in 1932. Construction of the building was complicated by its having to be built in two stages beginning in 1933. [28] It remained on every master plan for the park through 1940.

Further expansion of the campground was proposed after the CCC had put the finishing touches on a 45 unit campground at Rim Village, one that featured bathhouses, electric lights, as well as rustic benches, tables, and campstoves. [29] A cabin development was planned for the area southeast of the lodge, but the NPS could not convince the concessioner to undertake the project. The agency had to be content with some improvements to the lodge and housekeeping cabins (which subsequently became known as the “coldwater” cabins once they were serviced by new water lines in 1941), though the company did construct two “deluxe” four room cabins in 1942. [30]