Refectory, Palmetto State Park, 2008


Set along the San Marcos River, amid a verdant Central Texas landscape of bottomland forest festooned with Spanish moss, dwarf palmettos, woody vines, and extensive marshes, Palmetto State Park exemplifies many of the harmonious-with-nature concepts so integral to NPS and CCC’s work. The building designs came from Olin Smith, an architect working for the State Parks Board but funded by NPS. Landscape architects Mason Coney and C.C. Pat Fleming helped to fashion the structures and features in ways that complemented the site’s distinctive natural resources. The horizontal stretch of the rock pools in the picnic area and the stone-and-wood water tower (set back from the road and almost hidden in the dense vegetation) won accolades from the NPS officials during the 1930s.

Carrying the design aim of indigenous architecture further than any other likeminded project, the remarkable native-sandstone, splayed-boulder refectory seems to grow right out of the ground. With the area's lush “tropical” vegetation and unusual wetlands in mind, architect Smith designed the sandstone to appear as if emerging from the soil to form walls, thus blurring the distinction between nature and culture. To complete the illusion, the building’s first roof was thatched with palmetto fronds—reportedly cut and carried from Huntsville State Park.

Park Location
Gonzales County, 10 miles northwest of Gonzales and southeast of Luling, US Highway 183 to Park Road 11
CCC Company
873, 886, 1823(CV)
Activity Dates
CCC Construction
Park Road 11, Low Water Crossing on the San Marcos River, Water Tower/Storage Building, Refectory, and Residence (currently the park headquarters), Barbeque Pits, Picnic Seating, Rock Pool and Retention Dams, Rock Table, Culverts, Concrete Picnic Tables, and two sets of Entrance Portals (one stands on private land where park extension was not realized).
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Learn More
Park information from Texas Parks and Wildlife website