Texas state parks are home to a vibrant architectural treasure of buildings, planned landscapes, and recreational facilities.
National Park Service architects designed them, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built them.
Enlisted by the Department of Interior, National Park Service design professionals provided necessary guidance to state parks on all aspects of park building.
Planners, architects, landscape architects, and engineers collaborated, working on interdisciplinary teams.
Well, they had also developed the concept of a master plan for their own national parks--and they brought this directly to state park development-insisting that the State Parks Board in Texas have an office, have a drafting board, have some experinced architects and landscape architects which was a fairly new profession at the time...
to develop parks from the standpoint of border to border segregation of land and how it is going to be used, circulation patterns for automobiles and for people...
and then to decide exactly what services were needed in every park or a particular park to then develop the buildings that we see today or smaller facilities all around us to fulfill the master plan. Herbert Maier, the National Park Service Acting Director in charge of Texas, was an accomplished architect who had designed park buildings in major national parks like Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite in the 1920s.
Playing key roles in translating Maier's vision into reality were men from the National Park Service-- Assistant Director Conrad Wirth; Director of State Park Cooperation Herb Evinson; and Senior Inspector of Texas George Nason.
Those park structures inspired by Maier generally held to the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 1900s.
You can recognize their characteristics: the use of native building materials, horizontal lines, low silhouettes, and time-honored construction techniques.
Herbert Maier, for his part, is credited with giving the concept what he called the "Horizontal Key".
If you look at the stonework behind me, and the woodwork, even, on all of these cabins, you'll see a consistent horizontal fabric— no matter what the fabric is. And that puts it in line with the ground, close to the ground. And at a place like Bastrop, and any other place that has a prominent offering of trees, you get this wonderful horizontal-vertical combination-where the horizontal is the ground and anything that might be built by man and the trees are the vertical natural contribution.
Visit Palmetto State Park's refectory. It emerges seamlessly from the ground while maintaining an unobtrusive profile that fits in with its setting.
At Palo Duro Canyon this stone building sits on the canyon's rim, merging the building with the rock strata below.
Longhorn Cavern and Garner State Parks make good use of locally quarried limestone, so plentiful in some areas of Texas.
Vibrant red sandstone from nearby hills forms the walls of the concession building at Abilene State Park.
Locally harvested timber is used for construction in Lockhart and Bastrop, where the men cut shingles out of wood.
Any number of combinations, an infinite number of combinations, of what material's available, how it can wind up being used in a building.
Here at Bastrop it's stone and wood. In the Davis Mountains it's stone and adobe. Elsewhere, it might be whatever wood is available. The color of the stones vary tremendously.
Employing these materials properly was the task of the CCC enrollees; it was labor intensive and often done by hand.
Guiding their efforts were locally experienced men hired by the National Park Service who were skilled in carpentry, stone masonry, and blacksmithing.
Artistic work often resulted.
At Bastrop, CCC enrollees crafted wood carvings to decorate the refectory, and they laid a stone mosaic for the gatehouse floor.
At Bastrop and many other Texas parks wrought iron chandeliers and decorative iron hinges testify today to the talents of these men.
The National Parks Service's design philosophy, today known as NPS Rustic, taught that all structures within a park were intrusive and should be designed to harmonize with the setting.
Picnic tables, drinking fountains, stairways, footpaths, and fire pits were made to blend into their surroundings.
By their very design, the buildings and features invite people to appreciate and enjoy nature.