62 D. Post War Planning: 1942-1956

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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D. Post War Planning: 1942-1956

With the onset of World War II, planning responsibilities began to be shared with park staff. Although little seemed to result from these efforts, a fundamental shift in the NPS perception of Rim Village began to occur. Plans aimed at building a visitor center within what was going to be a day use area were eventually shelved, however, in favor of additional concession development in the mid 1950s.

The outbreak of World War II resulted in the dissolution of the CCC. This depleted the NPS of the manpower it needed to keep the master plans updated on a yearly basis. Although the large colored sheets in the plans for Crater Lake went without an update from 1941 to 1947, development outlines (which were an expansion of the narrative in master plans) were produced and revised during the war. The 1942 master plan proposed that the Rim Campground be converted to a picnic area because the overnight use was seriously damaging the vegetation. [31] A study was launched less than a year later to determine whether the campground was to be relocated to a site about one mile northwest of Rim Village. [32]

Connected with the campground relocation study was a proposal to build a tunnel from the new site to the lakeshore. Condemned by some NPS officials as mutilation, Director Newton Drury ruled out further consideration of a tunnel or elevator to the lake’s surface in early 1944. [33]

The question of how to best facilitate the visitor experience at Crater Lake remained. In 1943, there was a proposal to relocate the concession’s service station in Munson Valley to a site next to the cafeteria, but Superintendent Leavitt was in favor of a site west of the wye that separated Rim Village from the Rim Drive. [34] Some improvements were made to the Munson Valley facility in 1948, but the proposal would resurface again in the master plans of the mid 1950s. Another government contact building was designed by NPS architect Cecil Doty in 1943. Doty incorporated a museum, an exhibit area, and office space into a two story, multi-purpose structure. [35]

The “museum” proposal encountered opposition from E.A. Davidson, regional chief of planning (Crater Lake had been part of the NPS’s Region Four, headquartered in San Francisco, since 1937). Davidson objected to the possibility that the building’s size might approach “monumental character” and that it would increase congestion at Rim Village.[36] Leavitt, however, supported Doty’s design in a memorandum to Regional Director O.A. Tomlinson. He was convinced that the building would be a good example of “package” development (an idea that was being advocated by Davidson’s department) so that the need for other, smaller buildings dotting the landscape would be eliminated.[37]

Connected with this proposed “package” development was a prospectus for the building. This arose from the realization by NPS planners that development had been the ultimate result of master plans, so there had to be a statement of requirements for the proposed development. [38] The prospectus was to include an examination of the need for the development(s), an analysis of local factors (including the physical environment, visitation, and location of the proposal), an outline of the proposed development, and an estimate of costs. [39] A prospectus for the proposed government contact building was first prepared in 1942, and revised in 1947 by the park’s Chief Naturalist George Ruhle.[40]

In his revision, Ruhle mentions that it was NPS policy to bar any structure between the parking area and the rim of the caldera. This seemingly confined the proposed government contact building to the site first selected by Vint in 1926. In carrying this policy further, Crater Lake’s 1948 operations prospectus recommended that the NPS should be:

prepared to eventually condemn the existing public accommodations on the Rim and refuse to permit any rebuilding of such accommodations within the park area with the possible exception of a lunch room which could be located as to provide year-round, simple meal service and would not encroach upon the featured portion of the park. [41]

The operations prospectus reflected more than the desires of Superintendent Leavitt and the park staff. In a letter to NPS Director Newton B. Drury, the concession company’s vice-president, R.L. Kron, expressed “complete surprise” at Drury’s pronouncement that:

any new concession contract for operations in this area shall contain the condition that accommodations for the visiting public are to be provided in a new structure, or structures, erected on a site, or sites, to be selected, which will be some distance from the Crater Rim, and that the now existing Crater Lake Lodge will be razed. [42]

Drury’s statement reflected some long-standing problems that the NPS was having with the concessioners, particularly with regard to the lack of adequate fire safety measures in the Crater Lake Lodge. Although visitor complaints of this nature had begun as early as 1916, Director Drury and several inspectors accused concessioners Price and Kron of stalling in their compliance with fire safety requirements. [43] Price claimed that the company could not afford installation of an automatic sprinkler system in the lodge. In June 1947, Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug issued an order limiting occupancy of the lodge to the first and second floors. [44] After an urgent plea based on reservation commitments made for the 1947 season and Price’s assurances that special interim fire protection measures were to be undertaken, Krug allowed operation of the lodge to resume on the condition that fire protection requirements be met for the 1948 season.[45]

Price attempted to sell the concession in early 1948 to a prospective buyer who would then have to make the fire safety improvements stipulated by the NPS. Some of these measures were undertaken after the sale fell through so that the lodge could open for the summer, but the order closing the third floor remained in effect. When Krug found out that the concession was using the third floor to house employees, he threatened Price with cancellation of the contract. [46] A compromise that allowed guest and employee occupancy on the third floor of the annexes was reached in August upon recommendation of Frank Ahern, NPS Chief of Safety. [47]

The compromise did not change the conviction of many people in the NPS that the lodge would be at the end of its useful life as public accommodations in 1960. Rather than raze the building and restore the site, there was some interest during the late 1940s in an adapted structure that would house public contact functions, a museum, and NPS offices. [48] By utilizing the masonry walls of the lodge to develop a two-story building, the problems with securing sufficient appropriations for a visitor center might be lessened.

Most of the improvements and fire safety measures that saved the concession operation in 1948 were due to the efforts of Price’s son-in-law, C.W. Fyock. [49] By 1950, however, the structural deficiencies of the lodge’s Great Hall section were so obvious that it was necessary to add wooden columns for reinforcement of the overloaded laminated beams. [50] After attaching a transformer vault onto the lodge to remedy a fire hazard, the NPS decided to fund a structural survey and condition report on the lodge by N.W. Haner and Associates of Portland. Completed in 1953, the Haner Report recommended rehabilitation of the lodge rather than its replacement. It stated that if the rehabilitation measures were carried out, the building’s useful life as public accommodations would be extended upwards of 20 years. [51]

Price decided not to invest the $72,000 that the Haner Report recommended be spent on the lodge in order to extend its life. Instead, he sold the concession to Harry W. and Harry C. Smith in 1954. Although the Smiths were to implement very few of the rehabilitation measures that the Haner Report recommended, they did some renovation and planned an addition to the dining room for the 1955 season. [52] The expanded dining room did not materialize, but the new

concessioners doubled the size of the Cafeteria and Store building in 1956, enlarging it to house a lunchroom and a “winter warming area.” [53]

Director Conrad Wirth’s order to take design and construction functions out of the regions in 1953 changed the way that park planning had been done previously. Two offices, one in Philadelphia and the other in San Francisco, were organized prior to the inception of the ten year development program called Mission

66. This was done to centralize design and construction so that the NPS could justify hiring enough staff to meet the demands of park projects brought on by aging facilities and increased visitation.

Near the end of 1954, the new Western Office of Design and Construction (WODC) drew a museum building that was to be located downslope from the site of the Community House. The proposed building was to be connected to the Sinnott Memorial by an underground walkway. The walkway’s purpose was to allow visitor access to a glassed-in Sinnott Memorial for all-year use. [54]

A winterized Sinnott Memorial had been part of NPS planning for Rim Village since 1947, but Congress provided barely enough money for operations at Crater Lake despite Drury’s best efforts. [55] To Wirth, the only way to meet park needs for new facilities was to launch a coordinated program whose time horizon could coincide with the publicity generated by the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary. With the initiation of Mission 66, park officials fully expected that construction of a visitor center and winterized Sinnott Memorial would begin in 1957. [56]