National Park Service Cultural Landscapes Inventory: The Watchman, Crater Lake National Park, 2001
Statement Of Significance
Watchman Observation Station and Watchman Trail are significant for their association with the event of National Park Service master planning (criterion A), and for their distinctive method of construction, associated with the National Park Service Rustic and Naturalistic Landscape architectural theories of design (criterion C). For both National Register criteria A and C, the period of significance is 1916-1933. This period reflects the years when Watchman Observation Station and Watchman Trail were planned, designed, and constructed under NPS direction and to which the remaining landscape characteristics and features date.
Watchman Observation Station and Watchman Trail reflect National Park Service master planning efforts at Crater Lake during the 1920s. The trail and observation station contributed to the broad range of goals of early master planning efforts and were designed as part of a network of wayside points and trails located around Crater Lake’s caldera to educate park visitors. The observation station and trail supported this goal through the use of interpretive waysides on the trail and through the incorporation of a museum and observation platform located at the building.
Regarding distinctive methods of construction, Watchman Observation Station and Watchman Trail represent the complementary styles of Rustic architecture and Naturalistic landscape architecture. These methods of design were implemented during the period of significance when many of the trail’s features were designed and constructed. The observation station’s rustic features incorporate 18th-century picturesque and 19th-century naturalistic theories of design, using the park’s indigenous rock, lumber, and native plants as basic materials. Consequently, rustic features represented the trend during the period of significance to blend built structures with their surrounding environment, appearing hand-crafted or primitive, as if created without the use of technology available at the time—preserving the surrounding beauty of the landscape. Designers also intended to ease the burden of travel up Watchman Trail by conveying water off the trail tread, surfacing the trail with oil to prevent dust, and maintaining a uniform 15% grade throughout.
In association with the events of the American Park Movement and early NPS master planning, Watchman Observation Station District and Watchman Trail, a component of the Rim Drive circulation system, are significant as an integral part of Crater Lake’s Master Plan. The observation station and trail maintain the intended character as originally planned, designed, and constructed during the period of significance.