When President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of a series of New Deal programs, its purpose was simple: to give honest work and a sense of pride back to a generation of young men who had been robbed of both by the Great Depression. Unemployed, single males between the ages of 18 and 25 signed up in droves, rolling up their sleeves, hewing stone and lumber, and sending crucial funds to their families back home. Credited as the most successful public relief program of the time, the CCC employed over 2.9 million men. These public works, however, had an additional unforeseen benefit—the total reinvigoration of the American park system, and a renaissance in traditional design that would eventually engender an entirely new school of architecture.
The emerging aesthetic, known today as “National Park Service Rustic,” was applied to parks and public facilities across the country, from Yellowstone to the Smoky Mountains. Its reliance on organic materials and pre-industrial construction methods was especially effective in Texas, where distinctive regional environments helped to create a series of outdoor projects stunning in its diversity. Whether it was kilning traditional tiles to renovate a Spanish mission in Goliad State Park, using native oyster shells in the Goose Island refectory, or incorporating indigenous stone into the scenic lookouts of Davis Mountains’ Skyline Drive, the Civilian Conservation Corps was directly responsible for taking neglected state facilities and turning them into natural and architectural wonders actually worthy of the Lone Star State. And while memories of the Great Depression may have faded with the years, the legacy of the CCC has not. Its work and its brilliance are both very much alive in the parks of Texas today, apparent in every expertly carved log, evident in each carefully quarried stone.
To learn more about the architecture of the CCC in Texas, click here.