60 B. The First Rim Village: 1914-1926

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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B. The First Rim Village: 1914-1926

A new road to the lodge and campground was opened in 1914, and coincided with the first comprehensive planning for what was now called Rim Village. Little came from the planning, however, because the Department of Interior (the National Park Service assumed managerial responsibility in April 1917) had neither the funds nor the infrastructure to direct the site’s development. Visitation increased enormously during the years following World War I, so the NPS soon found itself in the position of having to accommodate an automobiling public and its associated impact.

The name “Rim Village” can be attributed to Mark Daniels, the first General Superintendent of National Parks. [10] His position was created two years before the birth of the National Park Service to facilitate orderly development in national parks. Daniels visited Crater Lake in August 1914 to begin work on a model village similar to the one that he had planned for Yosemite National Park. Daniels’ villages were to include sanitary, water, and telephone systems, electric lighting, and a system of patrolling (presumably by a newly created ranger force that he was advocating). Building locations were to be carefully thought out and the type of architecture determined by careful study. [11]

Like his successor Stephen Mather, Daniels believed that there must be some plan for the development of accommodations in national parks. Daniels delineated four classifications of accommodation: the hotel or mountain chalet, the permanent camp (where the tourist sleeps in a tent and eats in a dining room), a camp where the tent is rented and the tourist cooks his own food (having purchased it at the village store), and a camp where the tourist brings his own tent and food. [12]

Although it is probable that Daniels designed three trails that were constructed near the Crater Lake Lodge during this period, most of his development plans for Rim Village have been lost. [13] By 1915, Alfred Parkhurst was providing for Daniels’ first classification by opening the lodge. [14] Daniels’ two surviving drawings pertain to its interior. Besides being General Superintendent, Daniels was allowed to work as a private consultant to national park concessioners by the Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Lane, One drawing, that of decorations for the Great Hall of the lodge, was beyond the ability of the financially strapped Parkhurst to implement. [15] Daniels seems to have realized this, because a more austere rustic drawing of a lobby counter and main stairway for the lodge was produced. The counter and stairway were built as planned and the drawing specified that all logs used were to retain their bark. [16]

Parkhurst’s lack of capital and difficulties with running the lodge during its first six seasons led to the forfeiture of his 20 year lease in 1921. A new company, headed by E.V. Hauser and R.W. Price of Portland, took over the lodge and began improvement of the accommodations which had formerly been the subject of much complaint. To the east of the building and along the Rim, Hauser and Price erected tent houses with wooden floors and walls to meet visitor demand. They were serviced by a comfort station built by the NPS, who had also installed the campground’s first water system in 1919.

The new company did not have exclusive control over all of Rim Village’s concessions, however. The Kiser Studio was constructed on a site just south of Victor Rock in 1921, over the objections of Superintendent Alex Sparrow and other NPS officials. Its location took advantage of the road’s routing through Rim Village, having entered it near the site of the present concessioner’s employee dormitory and going by the lodge to become the West Rim Drive. Fred Kiser sold his photographs of Crater Lake in the studio, whose design influenced the appearance of the comfort station east of the lodge. [17]

The granting of a 20 year contract to Hauser and Price in 1922 led to the construction of annexes onto the Crater Lake Lodge. These were well underway the following summer, but visitation had grown to where a structure was needed at the campground. In 1923, Superintendent C.G. Thomson recommended:

a shake community house, designed in imitation of a wigwam and containing a large central circular fireplace be constructed at the Rim auto camp ground. [18]

Community houses had proven popular in auto camps throughout the western United States as a place for campers to mingle after sunset, and Thomson saw construction of one as a way to establish a National Park Service presence at Rim Village. In 1924, a considerably less ambitious building than the one Thomson had suggested was erected.

Implementation of Daniels’ recommendation for a village store to service rented tents or cabins took considerably longer to realize. A development plan worked out by NPS landscape architect Thomas Vint in 1925-26 called for the construction of housekeeping cabins and a building to house a cafeteria and store. Vint envisioned the cafeteria and store building as being one of a group of three structures set on a plaza. The other buildings were to be a photography studio and a kind of visitor center/museum/auditorium/dormitory called a “Government Contact Building.” [19]

Although Vint’s plan called for the removal of his studio, Kiser was reluctant to give up his location and pay for construction of a new building in the plaza development. He did have a small wing added to his studio during the summer of 1926, but subsequent business reversals forced Kiser to forfeit the building in 1929. It has remained under NPS control ever since, being known subsequently as the Information Building, the Exhibit Building, and the Rim Visitor Center.

The development plan also addressed how the public would view the lake from Rim Village. It called for:

a Rim-way walk with a dustless surface behind which would be the roadway and parking area. After designing all necessary road ways and walks the intervening unused ground can be provided with a ground cover or other plant growth to stabilize the dust. The Rim walk will be one of the most important units of the Rim Area development and its center of attraction will be at Victor Rock. [20]

The “Rim-way walk” was one way of tackling the problem of unrestricted automobile parking next to the Rim which had destabilized or destroyed much of the vegetation and had scarred the area with vehicle tracks. Construction of a new main access to Rim Village was in progress during 1926, a project that was to set the circulation pattern on the site for over six decades.