Designing the Parks

National Park Service architects and master planners created a distinctive look for the parks built in Texas by the CCC.

Inspired by Nature

The "rustic look" of CCC buildings and structures in state parks was the culmination of a design philosophy that slowly had emerged over several decades. During the second half of the 19th century, the naturalistic parks of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and the Romanesque-inspired buildings of architect Henry Hobson Richardson expertly cultivated a blending of new construction within a natural setting. Their work heavily influenced the Arts and Crafts Movement prevalent at the turn of the 20th century, a movement that sought an alternative to revivalist historic styles and the machine aesthetic of the Industrial Revolution. Period publications such as The Craftsman spread these new design ideals to a wide audience, and rustic stone bungalows and "hand-made" furnishings grew in popularity. Frank Lloyd Wright, the iconoclastic American architect, rejected any architectural style and advocated instead "organic architecture"—buildings that seem to grow from the environment and take form from the very nature of the materials. It was to this aesthetic that the National Park Service architects turned in the 1920s and 1930s.

Crafted by Hand

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's simple concept for the CCC, the National Youth Administration, and other New Deal depression-relief programs was to put America's youth to work, while conserving American soils, forests, and scenery. Each CCC camp of about 200 enrollees also employed "local experienced men," known as LEMs, as blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, or other mature skilled workers that a CCC project needed for completion, and more importantly, as men capable of instructing and supervising the enrollees who would be assigned to carry out these tasks by hand. The results in Texas state parks range from forged door hinges and handles at Bonham to window grillwork at Goliad; from the rustic stone latrine at Davis Mountains to the stone retaining wall and refectory at Meridian; from knotty-pine paneling inside Bastrop's refectory to the fancy carved walnut mantels in its overnight cabins.

CCC Design Undercover

Texas state parks are more than what immediately meets the visitors' eyes or serves their conscious needs. All parks have "infrastructure," the complex mechanical and maintenance systems generally out of public view. Park roadways are carefully designed to limit speed and noise while automobiles glide through the natural setting. Below the roads might be stone-lined drainages and culverts, leading to magnificent bridges that gave the CCC enrollees plenty of handwork in the 1930s. Other products of their skills may be more visible but never obtrusive. Look for the stone picnic tables at Blanco and the masonry outdoor ovens at Palmetto. Where the CCC stayed the longest for a park's development, there are more elaborate trail systems, stone benches, and scenic overlooks, as the improvements at Bastrop, Lake Brownwood, and Garner attest.

Building a Mission

In 1931 the extensive 18th-century ruins of Spanish Mission Nuestra Señora de Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga and other historic and scenic features were brought together as Goliad State Park, fulfilling the single-minded dream of local county judge James Arthur White. Early depression-relief funds allowed the 1932-1934 restoration of the granary, while the State Highway Department built the Texas Revolution Memorial Highway connecting park features. In 1935 Judge White and Texas Centennial planners secured a CCC company of World War I veterans to restore more mission buildings and install campgrounds along the winding San Antonio River. Through more good fortune, the National Park Service tapped virtuoso architect Samuel C. P. Vosper and his understudies Raiford L. Stripling and Chester Nagel to guide reconstruction of the mission complex. Their research at similar missions in Mexico, and their artistic drawings guiding the extensive Goliad CCC work, created a colorful, enduring, and invaluable collection.