The Rustic Landscape of Rim Village, 1927-1941
April 17, 1990
To: Chief of Interpretation
From: Stephen R. Mark, Historian
Subject: Historic sign types and their application
Since its establishment, Crater Lake National Park has used wood, metal, and plastic for sign material. Historically, eleven “types” of signs have been employed. Four types were wood, five have been metal, and two plastic. A description of each is below and is followed by a number in brackets for reference.
The first wood signs had dark letters (black or green) painted on a white background. These were prevalent from about 1905 to 1935. In the early 1930s, several log sections with routed letters (some had green letters painted on a white background) were placed around Rim Village. These were discontinued in favor of a type most closely associated with the park’s rustic architecture theme. The “rustic” sign was pressurized wood impregnated with oil and carved so that the letters were raised. A dark brown sign with yellow-orange lettering (for visibility) resulted and became dominant in the park from 1935 to 1957. Rustic signs have given way to a routed type that was instituted at the beginning of Mission 66. These latter signs are generally brown with creme white lettering, though a variety of colors have been utilized for interpretive purposes. I know of two examples that would have to be classified as “miscellaneous” since there is only one historic occurrence associated with each. One was a wood sign with white lettering that was placed over the south entrance arch in 1925. The other was a circa 1928 branchwork sign that read “Cascade Divide” on West 62.
Plaques were the earliest use of metal in Crater Lake signs. The first were on the 1908 boundary monuments (west and south entrances) and were followed by plaques at Discovery Point (1925), for the Mather Memorial (1930), and the Sinnott Memorial (1931). Metal signs with a white background and raised blue or green lettering appeared along the park’s boundaries and trails in the 1930s. Enamel signs first appeared in 1928 and were used into the 1950s. They were often used alongside the wood rustic signs, but they had a white background and green lettering (one interpretive sign had white letters on a green background). Their design was not individualized (as was the case with rustic wood signs) and they had an affinity with Forest Service signs of the same period. In the 1950s, these were replaced by signs with black letters and a metallic background. In contrast to the enamel, many of these signs were used for interpretation. Reflecting signs have been in use (generally for traffic) since the 1940s.
Plastic signs have been more recent. A white mylar sign with blue lettering was used to post boundaries in the early 1970s. Interpretive signs presently used along roads are multi-colored and usually fitted to a rock base.
The various sign types can be categorized by their historical functions. Below are seven applications followed by the type number in brackets.
a. Buildings [3,4,7]
b. Identification of natural features [1 ,3,4]
c. Interpretive [4,5,6,8,11]
e. Traffic [1,7,9]
f. Directional [1,3,4,6,7]
g. Boundaries [3,5,6,9]
Sign locations have varied only slightly once the present road and trail system was completed in 1940. Master plans did not include the locations of signs but a circa 1940 map showing sign locations has been found. Some tracings and sign drawings exist in the park’s maintenance files. Although incomplete, there is some photographic record of sign type and location. The best represented are types 3,4, and 7. Examples are included in the attached photocopies.
Nine of the eleven sign types are represented by extant examples. Only one of them (the log sections) might have a longevity problem. The others have, at times, been left up all year.
Appropriate design should be an important part of the proposed sign program. Although types 5,8, and 11 were designed as part of past or present interpretive programs, there is no indication that they were intended as models for wider application. Only type 3 signs were designed specifically for parkwide application at Crater Lake; their size, placement, and appearance were determined individually by a resident landscape architect who saw them as part of individual site design. Wood rustic signs were intended to be adaptable to various functions and are still used to a much greater extent by Lassen, a park whose site design bears great similarity to that at Crater Lake.
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