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Construction of Olympic National Park Headquarters in Port Angeles begins in October 1939.
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In October 1939, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crews begin building the headquarters site for the recently created Olympic National Park. The site is on Peabody Heights in the city of Port Angeles, a few miles beyond the northern boundary of the park, which then comprises 680,000 acres in the heart of the Olympic Mountains. Olympic National Park is the first to have its headquarters located outside its boundaries. Over the next two years the CCC crews will build six headquarters buildings in the National Park Service's distinctive Rustic style, utilizing local materials and native landscaping.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park was created on June 29, 1938, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1881-1945) signed legislation establishing a 680,000-acre park that protected the rainforests and glacier-covered peaks of the central Olympic Mountains. (The park bill authorized the president to enlarge the park and over the next 15 years Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman [1884-1972] expanded it to encompass nearly 900,000 acres.) Like national and state parks around the country, the newly created Olympic park relied heavily on the CCC and other Depression-relief agencies of Roosevelt's New Deal for funding and labor.
A headquarters was obviously a top priority, and nearly half the $470,000 that the federal Public Works Administration (PWA) allocated to the National Park Service in 1938 for the new park was dedicated to that purpose. It took a year for the government to obtain title to the chosen 37-acre headquarters site on Peabody Heights overlooking the city of Port Angeles. By October 1939, the building plans and designs were complete and crews from the CCC began clearing and grading the site.
More than two hundred people worked on the headquarters throughout 1940. By that October, a year after construction began, the main Administration Building and the park Superintendent's Residence were completed. Two physical plant buildings, the Gas and Oil House and Transformer Vault and Pump House, were finished later that fall. Two more maintenance buildings, the Equipment Shed/Carpenter Shop and the Equipment and Supply Storage Building, were built by June 1941, shortly before the CCC program was abandoned.
All six buildings were of masonry and wood construction in a late version of the distinctive Rustic architectural style characteristic of many National Park Service buildings in the first half of the twentieth century. The style relies on native or local building materials utilized so that the buildings fit naturally into the landscape. The Administration and Residence buildings featured first stories of stone quarried nearby at Tumwater Creek and second stories of locally cut wood shakes.
The buildings were joined by stone walkways that were illuminated by stone light fixtures designed to look like natural rocks. The headquarters grounds were extensively landscaped with native plants, including rhododendrons, vine and big leaf maples, dogwood, mock orange, red flowering currant, sword ferns, and cattails.
Over the ensuing decades, 10 additional buildings, in compatible styles, were added to the park headquarters. In 2005, when the Olympic National Park Headquarters District was named a Washington Heritage Register historic landmark, the Administration Building continued to serve its original function and all six buildings constructed by the CCC remained essentially intact.
"Historic Sites," State of Washington, Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation website accessed July 17, 2007 (www.dahp.wa.gov); Murray Morgan, The Last Wilderness (New York: Viking Press, 1955), 181-87.
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