Crater Lake lookout is under renovation
August 18, 1999
By PAUL FATTIG
CRATER LAKE — The weathered Watchman is getting a face lift.
The Watchman fire lookout tower and trailside museum, built in 1931-32, is being rehabilitated in the Crater Lake National Park as part of an effort to preserve the past as well as continue the tower’s main task as a fire observation outpost.
“The Watchman as a fire tower will always have a role for spotting fires,” said Kent Taylor, the park’s chief of cultural resources management, of the site that rises to 8,013 feet above sea level.
“It has a clear view of the west side of the park, and a full view of the upper Rogue (River) area,” he added. The lookout has remained staffed since the rehabilitation work began two weeks ago.
It’s a classic example of the “Cascadian rustic architectural style,” Taylor said.
That style incorporates large native lava boulders and heavy wooden beams into an attractive structure that blends in with the majestic scenery at the park.
This summer’s work, which ends Sept. 21, includes restoring the catwalk surrounding the observation deck, the exterior stairway and the museum roof, Taylor said.
Next summer the rehabilitation will turn to restoring the observation deck, and the interiors of the observation room, museum and lower rooms, he added.
The restoration work is based on the original construction drawings from 1931.
Leading the work will be preservation specialists from the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Md. While doing the rehabilitation work, the specialists will teach 10 trainees from Crater Lake and other national parks the technique.
The $430,000 cost of the two-year project comes from park entrance fees established through the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, authorized by Congress in 1996.
The Watchman tower was built as a fire lookout, Taylor said, noting that the museum was built as the same time as an educational tool.
“When they built it, there was already a feeling (within the agency) of developing appropriate facilities in the park for the public,” Taylor said.
“In doing the restoration, we’re staying with theme of forest fires. But it will also reflect the current thinking that fire is not the evil thing people used to portray it as.”
During the past two decades, park officials have come to see fire in the forest habitat as a natural occurrence that can improve forest health, he explained.