Resources 1984 – D. Structures Not Eligible for the National Register 1. Exhibit Building (Bldg. #066)

Historic Resource Study, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1984

XI. Summary of Important Structures


D. Structures Not Eligible for the National Register

   1. Exhibit Building (Bldg. #066)

The cornerstone of the Kiser Studio at Victor Rock, on the rim of Crater Lake, was laid July 12, 1921, by Will Steel. A crowd of 100 people gathered around as F.P. Salter the contractor, and his men, swung the lava block into place and Kiser took a motion picture of the ceremony. The structure was to be the headquarters for Kiser s photographic expedition in this part of Oregon, and the studio/salesroom for his hand-colored pictures of Crater Lake and the Northwest, for post cards and photographic supplies, and for literature about scenic beauties and encouraging their preservation. The studio was to be a story and a half, facing the lake, built of stone and timber, with a veranda across the front and a large plate glass window framing a vista of the lake. After the studio was completed, Kiser planned to surround it with a small rock garden and flower beds containing specimen plants and flowers of the Crater Lake area. Present at the occasion were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Prichard Eaton of Sheffield, Massachusetts. Eaton was visiting Crater Lake with Kiser to secure material for a Boy Scout book about the park and to obtain data for magazine articles about Oregon. [5]

Photographic studios were operated in the parks by private concerns for the purpose of taking and selling photographs therein under contract with the Department of the Interior. Kiser s company, Scenic America, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon, had the right, through contract, to take photographs for the purpose of sale in the park, while the Crater Lake National Park Co. had included in its contract only the right to sell photographs. Kiser was not the park’s “official” photographer in the strict meaning of the word, but only in the sense that he was authorized to conduct that particular business. It was hoped that Kiser’s reputation would help the park. And Kiser did have a reputation. He was recognized as one of the very finest artists on the Pacific Coast in photography work and was the first scenic photographer in the United States to apply opaque oil colors to the emulsion of a photograph and develop a system of producing hand-colored-in-oil photos for volume distribution. [6] For over twenty-five years he worked toward the development of Crater Lake National Park by publicizing it as much as possible.

In 1903 he made and displayed in different parts of the United States the first colored-in-oil photographs of Crater Lake. He assisted Will Steel in his efforts to establish Crater Lake and the surrounding area as a national park for three years by preparing and maintaining a complete set of colored lantern slides that Steel could use in his lecture work, as well as supplying Steel with photographs for publicity work. In 1917 Kiser persuaded the noted author Walter Prichard Eaton to come West and visit Crater Lake. Kiser personally conducted the author and his wife through southern Oregon and they camped ten days in the park. From his various experiences on the trip, Eaton wrote two books–Skyline Camps and Boy Scouts at Crater Lake–and numerous articles and short stories dealing with the area, bringing the lake attention from a nationally known author. [7]

Kiser illustrated the National Geographic Magazine for many years and was official photographer for the Great Northern Railway for six years. In 1906 he originated the slogan “See America First,” suggesting it to the railway’s advertising agent, who appropriated it for use by the company. [8] Kiser was an avid outdoor enthusiast and mountain climber. During his lifetime he endeavored to explore, photograph, and advertise the magnificent scenery in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. He devoted his entire life to conserving and portraying our scenic resources. A large collection of his hand-colored-in-oil enlargements of the Rocky Mountains in the northern Montana wilderness were shipped to Washington, D.C., and installed as an exhibit in the halls of Congress just prior to presentation of the Glacier National Park Bill. They were thought to have exerted a strong influence in passage of that legislation. In addition to making a complete record of all the major scenic regions of the Northwest, Kiser made scenic motion picture “shorts” of the region.