25 Buildings

History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park


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Other Designed Features along Rim Drive


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The NPS actively encouraged visitors to see the Sinnott Memorial “as soon as possible” upon arriving in the park because it helped them locate places of interest. Although situated in Rim Village, “Observation Station No. 1” functioned as the main orientation point prior to participating in a naturalist-led Rim Caravan or taking a self-guided excursion on Rim Drive. In this respect, the official park brochure for 1938 described the parapet as featuring high-powered field glasses

“on the important features, helping the visitor to understand the geological history of the lake and to appreciate the relationship between the scenic and scientific. Displays in the exhibit room, maintained in connection with the observation station, further aid the visitor to appreciate the beauties of the park and to interpret the moods of Crater Lake.”

Built in 1930, the Sinnott Memorial’s design borrowed heavily from the slightly larger Yavapai Station erected on the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 1927. Merriam was the main force behind both buildings and saw to it that each incorporated an open porch or parapet along with an enclosed display room or museum. Sager drew the plans for the Sinnott Memorial, but Merriam expressed the underlying purpose of the building as

“a window through which it is planned to show the visitor things of major interest at the Lake. The active use of the structure is strictly that of looking out and the museum aspect should be reduced to a minimum, using only such materials as are helpful in development of the window idea.”

trail to Sinnott Memorial
Victor Rock Trail to the Sinnott Memorial.

Although operational with the installation of parapet exhibits in 1931, Merriam and park officials did not consider the Sinnott Memorial completed until August 9, 1938. That morning an exhibition aimed at helping visitors appreciate the aesthetic values of Crater Lake opened in its museum room. The featured photographs, paintings, and lighted transparencies were intended to induce visitors to see various aspects of the beautiful landscape for themselves. Merriam and his associates hoped that a “new phase” of educational work at Crater Lake might thus begin, one where the interpretation of scenic and scientific values at the Sinnott Memorial might inspire visitors as they explored the park on their own.

Apparent success with reaching visitors at the Yavapai Station prompted NPS Chief Naturalist Ansel Hall to suggest in early 1930 that a fire lookout planned for the Watchman be enlarged to accommodate an “educational lookout station or branch museum” on the lower floor. Albright and Merriam received copies of Hall’s letter to Solinsky, and by March landscape architect Charles E. Peterson had prepared a sketch for the building that included an elevated lookout with a “trailside museum” adjoining it but at ground level next to a “terrace” on the lakeside. After making a more definite study of the building’s location, Sager sent Hall a revised sketch by Lange in June 1931 incorporating all three elements. An allotment of $5,000 and the final drawings prepared by Lange allowed laborers to complete most of the building that summer. Work at the site continued in 1932, at which time workmen built a masonry parapet wall around the point in front of the building along with a bituminous walk. Hall installed field glasses for the use of visitors to reinforce dual purpose of the structure.

Assistant Superintendent and Chief Park Naturalist Donald Libbey described plans for exhibits and the mounting of range finders at each corner of the parapet prior to official opening of the Watchman Observation Station in 1933, but his transfer that year put installation of those interpretive devices on indefinite hold. The NPS, however, continued to promote the building as an observation station throughout the 1930s by offering a shortened version of the full Rim Caravan that ran from Rim Village to the Watchman Overlook and culminated with a hike to the lookout. The trip was so popular that it became a daily feature of the naturalist program, relegating the full Rim Caravan to the status of a special offering held just once a week.

Visitors using the north entrance eventually obtained their first view of Crater Lake at the Diamond Lake Junction. The ranger station located there became known as the “North House” to employees upon its construction in 1930. The initial design called for exterior walls made of logs, but Sager drew the final plans to specify the use of stone masonry in line with the precedent established at Rim Village. The North House contained public restrooms, made possible by piping water from a spring located near the Devil’s Backbone, with an office situated between them. In being slightly recessed into a gentle slope back from the rim, the structure provided an attractive seasonal residence that could also double as a visitor facility. Nevertheless, the park’s master plan started calling for its removal in 1939, since improvement of the North Entrance Road (Route 8) in the interim allowed for fee booth and associated quarters to be located next to the park boundary.

Funds for building a “checking kiosk” near the North House became available in the fall of 1933, but work did not begin until the following summer. Robertson commented that frequent storms led to periodic delays during the project, which was finally completed over the summer of 1936. Until that time rangers collecting park entrance fees at the road junction enjoyed no protection from the elements because the North House had been located some 80′ removed from Rim Drive. Collecting fees remained difficult, however, because the volume of traffic that resulted from opening the Willamette Highway in 1940 led to longer lines and congestion at the road junction. As a result, the NPS placed a portable station near the actual north entrance in July 1941 that Superintendent Leavitt described as greatly improving fee collection. Despite the advantages of being on the rim to provide visitor information, moving the checking operation spelled a quick end to the kiosk’s effective life.

A development seen as complementary to the Diamond Lake Junction was briefly considered for Kerr Notch near the end of 1936, though not referenced in the site plan by Lange for a parking overlook. Envisioned for the junction of Rim Drive and the East Entrance Road, a ranger station similar in size and appearance to the North House would take the place of a log structure built in 1917 near the park boundary some 7 miles distant. Crews razed the latter structure in 1938, but the new ranger station at Kerr Notch did not materialize even though the building could have used the same water system that allowed use of a drinking fountain at the parking overlook.