Built to Last
Posted on May 24, 2019
Instituted under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program in the March of 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided a work relief program for the increasing unemployed segment of the American populace.
The program enticed young men between the ages of 18 to 25 with a promise of manual labor and $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent home to their families. The minimum contract required six months of service and the man serve a total of four terms, or two years.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was tasked with conserving natural resources, cleaning National Forests and Parks, animal population control, and animal disease control. Their initial focus consisted of preventing erosion by using multi-tiered terraces and reforestation.
To better manage their work the Corps task groups created camps throughout the nation and built what we know as the National Parks architecture. In Texas, the Corps often replicated traditional Texan stonework architecture and experimented with the Arts and Crafts style. By using resources found throughout the park, or parks nearby, the structures built were reflective of their natural environment.
A task group would have been responsible for building a variety of buildings including a medical facility, barracks per 50 men, recreational facilities, bathroom facilities, educational halls, mess hall, a tool room, blacksmith shop, and even garages. These buildings have since been adapted to modern needs.
The CCC also built other small infrastructure within the parks including fire lookout towers, roads, airport landings, terraces, dams, and campgrounds. Overall the Corps restructured 800 parks, planted 3 billion trees, employed 2.5 million men, and completed 9,700 miles of road. Today, these facilities are still in use and kept up to date by a select task force.
Enrollees who learned, through the educational opportunities of the CCC, or could demonstrate their talents in a building trade prior to enlistment were given special tasks. Some campsites became well-known specialty shops such as; the blacksmith at Garner camp, timber mills at Bastrop, and furniture shops at Lake Brownwood, Palo Duro Canyon, and Longhorn Cavern, respectively.
To maintain the architectural feats throughout the parks small groups of expert craftsmen known as the Force Accounts, under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), travel throughout the states to maintain and repair CCC park structures.
*All images and captions are from the book Texas State Parks and the CCC by Cynthia Brandimarte with Angela Reed