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Cultural Landscapes Inventory, Rim Village Historic District, Crater Lake National Park, 2004

 

Statement Of Significance

 

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Rim Village is significant for its association with the activity of National Park Service master planning (criterion A), and for its 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 1927-1941. This period reflects the years when Rim Village was planned, designed, and constructed under NPS direction and to which the remaining landscape characteristics and features date. Rim Village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on 9/18/1997

Regarding criterion A, Rim Village reflects National Park Service planning efforts at Crater Lake during the 1920s and 1930s, embodying the broad range of goals associated with early master planning efforts. Conceived as a model “village” development, Rim Village was designed to concentrate visitor services in one place. Early in design and development stages, a range of overnight accommodations and visitor amenities including lodging, camping, meals, supplies, and various general services were planned. Moreover, other landscape elements, meant to further enhance the visitor experience, were included and resulted in the development of the promenade, observation bays, and the Sinnott Memorial; these walkways and viewing platforms, in concert with visitor services, provided people with a convenient setting in which to appreciate the lake’s unique beauty and geology.

Regarding criterion C, Rim Village represents the complementary styles of Rustic Architecture and Naturalistic landscape architecture (distinctive methods of construction). These methods of design were implemented during the period of significance when many of Rim Village’s landscape features were designed and constructed. Rim Village’s buildings, vegetation, roads, trails, and small-scale features incorporated 18th-century picturesque and 19th-century naturalistic theories of design, using the park’s indigenous stone, lumber, and native plants as basic materials. These theories and ideas were applied, refined, and advocated for by such NPS park planners as Thomas C. Vint and others on the NPS staff at the Western Field Office in San Francisco—where all planning and design work was conducted for Rim Village. Consequently, Rustic features at Rim Village 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.

The landscape of Rim Village is the result of two independent dimensions that were closely interwoven by NPS designers to create an image for the village. The two factors were function and aesthetics. In the mid 1920s, the Park Service recognized that Rim Village needed specific services to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors to the park. Lodging, meals, camping, travel supplies, and general services were among the park visitor’s needs. Planners such as Thomas C. Vint of the NPS San Francisco field office and Merel S. Sager of Crater Lake National Park (and the San Francisco Field Office) also knew that a site’s natural and aesthetic qualities were of equal importance to how it functioned. The Rustic style of design, then, became the “envelope” within which the functional needs of the village were addressed by the General Development Plan of 1926 and by the Crater Lake Master Plan starting in 1931.

In 1927 the NPS Landscape Division was transferred from Los Angeles to San Francisco, where a Western Field Office was created, combining landscape design work with the NPS’ Civil Engineering Division and the Bureau of Public Roads. This joint office brought together a number of professional disciplines for an era of unparalleled development in the parks. Concurrently, park appropriations significantly increased, leading to an increase in park staff and general development activities. It was during this time that comprehensive planning efforts were formalized, with master plans prepared for each national park. Landscape architect Thomas C. Vint headed up the San Francisco office, becoming the dominant and controlling figure in the implementation of planning in the parks—planning that was manifest in the Rustic style.

Although the Department of the Interior had jurisdiction over development in the parks, it was the concessionaires and railroad companies who first constructed buildings and other facilities in these areas. Some structures were good examples of the evolving Rustic style of design, others were not. Beginning in 1911, a series of National Park Conferences addressing development and design for the national parks were held in Yellowstone (1911) and Yosemite (1912) National Parks, and in Berkeley (1915), California. A number of professionals in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering, as well as Park Service officials, attended these forums to express their goals, desires, and ideas for appropriate ways in which to develop and design for these special areas (NPS, Proceedings of the National Park Conference, 1915). It was at one of these forums that Mark Daniels, a landscape engineer serving as the Department of the Interior’s General Superintendent of Parks, presented his “campaign plan” for improving the parks. A key component of Daniels’ plan was to concentrate visitor services in one place—a village. In his concept the village would be designed primarily for utility and functional needs of the visitor. Accommodations for every type of individual would be provided, from the visitor who wanted to stay in a hotel and take meals at a lodge, to the visitor who preferred cooking his own meals and sleeping in a tent. In Daniels’ plan, individual buildings would be carefully sited and arranged throughout the village, and architectural styles would be thoughtfully considered in order to enhance—in Daniels’ words—the “picturesqueness” of the site. Since the number of people traveling to the parks was increasing rapidly, Daniels felt the establishment of these villages, complete with their infrastructure of lights, water, utilities, supply stores, and lodging facilities, was inevitable for all the parks including Crater Lake. By 1915, a preliminary plan, to formalize the site already in use, was in place for a village at Crater Lake, along the south side of the rim overlooking the lake (NPS, Proceedings of the National Park Conference, 1915, 14-21). Early plans for the national parks focused on responding to specific functional needs, such as good roads and accommodations, rather than overall design or formal planning. An “official” design ethic for the parks came in 1918, two years after the National Park Service was established. The Secretary of the Interior (this is the "Lane Letter" written by Yard, Albright, and Mather for Lane to sign) wrote to the Director of the NPS, setting down policies and guidelines for the new bureau.

In America, antecedents of the Rustic style can be traced to the writings of 19th century landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing who followed British and German precidents. Influenced by British landscape traditions and writing in the mid-1800s, Downing espoused rural ideals for landscape gardening and design. By the turn of the century, the fancy gardens of the Victorian era had given way to the simple, economic, “naturalistic” and “informal” gardens, sometimes called "English" or "cottage" gardens championed earlier by Downing. Journals and landscape design books of the day popularized the style that drew its inspiration directly from nature. In their writings, landscape architects and horticulturists, particularly Fredrick Law Olmsted, Henry H. Hubbard, and Frank Waugh, set down principles for designing in the naturalistic style. These principles, in turn, set the framework for the design values and philosophy of the Rustic style.

At its best, the Rustic style achieved sympathy with the natural surroundings and with the past. The style became the means in which functional architecture was brought into natural environments in a visually pleasing and nonintrusive manner. Characteristics such as the use of natural materials used in proper scale, the avoidance of rigid, straight lines, and the visual character of a structure that appeared rugged, handcrafted, and built by pioneer craftsmen with limited hand tools, were the essence of the Rustic style. Structures, however, were always intended to be subordinate to their surroundings. The features to be preserved, emphasized, and appreciated in the parks were the site’s natural features and not the manmade ones. In the Rustic philosophy, the natural features were the overriding factors in determining the design vocabulary for both individual buildings and entire developments in the national parks (NPS, Park Structures and Facilities, 4).

Rim Village was evaluated as one cultural landscape, the Rim Village cultural landscape. As a result of this inventory, Rim Village was found to retain the following landscape characteristics and features that contribute to its historic integrity and was listed as of October 15, 1997 on the National Register as Rim Village Historic District. The landscape characteristics are Views and Vistas, Land Use, Spatial Organization, Natural Systems and Features, Small-scale Features, Buildings and Structures, Vegetation, and Circulation. Therefore, in association with the events of the American Park Movement, early NPS master planning, and for its distinctive method of construction, Rim Village is significant as an integral part of Crater Lake’s Master Plan. Rim Village maintains the intended character of the Rustic style as originally planned, designed, and constructed during the period of significance.

 

 

 

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