The Rustic Landscape of Rim Village, 1927-1941
The Rustic Style at the Rim
Although it is not known whether individual landscape areas were specifically targeted in the preliminary designs for the site, the landscape at Rim Village was organized into distinct landscape zones: the linear edge following the caldera wall; the area surrounding the lodge; the campground area; and the open expanse in front of the cafeteria building. In general, work progressed from one zone to the next. As construction of walkways and plantings were completed along the caldera wall, for example, work shifted to the next zone of concern, the lodge. Upon completion of circulation improvements and planting around the hotel, work efforts then turned to the campground. The fourth zone of concern, the west plaza where the cafeteria and store were located, was the last to be addressed, principally because Vint’s plans called for a major overhaul of this area and the construction of new buildings.
Several primary landscape elements were addressed in the design and site development of Rim Village. First and foremost, in order to achieve a “naturalistic appearance,” a hallmark of the Rustic style, NPS designers respected the natural topography of the area and worked to fit their designs to the natural features and lay of the land. Vegetation at the site, although minimal due to years of abuse, was retained and protected to the degree possible for incorporation into the new design. The NPS enhanced the site’s extant landscape fabric by bringing in a variety of native plant materials. While these plants were found elsewhere in the park, they were not necessarily indigenous to Rim Village. In looking at other areas of the park, Merel Sager found a landscape that matched his vision for the barren site at Rim Village in Sun Notch, a verdant swale of meadow grasses and wildflowers situated east of Garfield Peak. Transposing this verdant appearance to Rim Village would satisfy Sager’s plan in two ways: first, the area would be “improved” by the addition of new plants and the diminishing of the “dust evil” that was prevalent at the site; second, and perhaps more importantly, the landscape at the rim would be “restored” to its original, lush appearance. The effort to bring back to the rim the native plants once thought to blanket the site was called “naturalization” by Sager. Naturalization was undertaken in all four zones at the rim; around buildings, structures, walks, and even on the slopes of the caldera, in order to enhance the appearance of the area while simultaneously reducing the visual impact of the man-made improvements. Ultimately, naturalization was the means by which the buildings, roads, sidewalks, and curbs, which theoretically did not belong in a natural environment, were visually tied together into a cohesive design. Accomplished successfully, it made all of the improvements appear as though they belonged to the site, as though they “grew” out of the land.
The critical years of design implementation at Rim Village can be divided into two periods of construction. The first period, between 1927 and 1932, was characterized by the Park Service completing tasks recommended by Vint and his colleagues. Park staff, the concessioner, and private contractors together built structures, made parking and circulation improvements to the site, and initiated the “naturalization” program at the rim. The second period, from 1933 until the onset of the second World War, was characterized by the presence of the Civilian Conservation Corps. With this new source of manpower, the continuation and maintenance of the “naturalization” program occurred and a concerted effort to rehabilitate the Rim Campground into a pleasant environment for park visitors began.