The Rustic Landscape of Rim Village, 1927-1941
The Rustic Style at the Rim
Because it was one of the early parks in the system, Crater Lake National Park was a laboratory for NPS planners and designers working in the Rustic style. It was also an older park, with many needs to address. With monies in place for park development, and a professional team in the Western Field Office transforming ideas and concepts into master plans for the parks, the time was right for design implementation. At Crater Lake, the period of intensive development was 1927 to 1941, and one area of focus was Rim Village.
The key players developing the design concepts for Rim Village were assembled in San Francisco, and led by Thomas Vint. Along with Vint, landscape architect Merel S. Sager had the greatest influence in the design program for Crater Lake’s Rim Village. Crater Lake was one of several Pacific Coast parks that benefited from Sager’s expertise. It was Vint, however, the “veteran,” who was responsible for teaching Sager and the other young professionals about the principles of non-intrusive (Rustic) design.
Vint was charged with the job of implementing the NPS’ Rustic architecture program in the parks. He did this through the use of general development plans and later, beginning in 1931, by instituting a Master Plan Program. In this program, each park in the system would have a plan establishing design criteria to guide development. These plans would govern all construction and maintenance work in the parks and in Vint’s eyes be “progressive” and revised regularly to reflect new issues, annual progress, or new information. The plans themselves were comprised of two components: written statements detailing policy and objective statements about the park’s intended use; and a series of site plan drawings. The drawings served both as an inventory of existing conditions, and as design documents showing proposed facilities. In order to prepare these plans, Vint assigned each member of his team of professionals to specific parks. Summers were spent in those areas conducting topographic surveys, photography, and other field work critical for site design.
At Crater Lake, the construction season was extremely short, due to the area’s harsh weather conditions. Substantial amounts of snow fell annually at the park, blanketing the place for almost nine months a year. These conditions made planning work schedules difficult, as the actual work season varied from one year to the next. In a typical year the workforces began their operations in June and were forced to stop in October. Occasionally, crews were able to begin as early as April. No matter when the work season started, the park’s landscape architects were prepared to begin, working on unfinished projects from the previous year that required completion prior to undertaking new tasks. As the season drew to a close and over the course of the winter, the park’s landscape architects assessed what was completed during the previous season, and what was needed next season, and designed their proposed work schedules accordingly.
Extensive and detailed monthly narrative reports were prepared by the assistant or resident landscape architects and forwarded to the chief and/or regional landscape architect through the park’s superintendent. Returning to San Francisco in the fall, the architects and landscape architects would use the winter months to synthesize their field observations and notes, and draft the information into cohesive master plans for each park. The master plans were primarily conceptual: what was delineated on a master plan drawing during any given year was not necessarily found on the ground for the same year. Often, it took years before design ideas were actualized on the site. In addition, many design decisions were made “in the field.” For example, if a good idea occurred to one of the designers or planners working at the site, that idea was often implemented immediately and the master plan drawings and narrative text later adjusted to reflect the new design element or feature.