On-line Book
Book Cover to Mission 66 Visitor Centers. With image of Dinosaur NM Visitor Center, view from beneath ramp


Table of Contentss




Wright Brothers


Pertified Forest

Rocky Mountain

Cecil Doty



Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Mission 66 Visitor Centers
Chapter 6
National Park Service Arrowhead

Cecil Doty and the NPS Tradition

One of the most prolific designers in Park Service history, Cecil John Doty (1907-1990), is also one of the least known. Doty's absence in the annals of Service history reflects both the nature of architectural collaboration and the fact that he never entered the supervisory ranks of the Park Service. His name is often scrawled on the title block in the corner of a drawing, but has no place in administrative histories. And yet, in his thirty-five-year career, Doty worked with some of the Park Service's most famous designers and created many of the buildings park employees use every day. Doty grew up on a farm in May, Oklahoma, and graduated from Oklahoma A & M (now Oklahoma State) with a degree in architectural engineering in 1928. During his college years, Doty remembers the influence of "Paul Cret by proxy." The famous Philadelphia architect was a mentor to one of Doty's instructors who had recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Through Cret's work, Doty was introduced to Beaux-Arts neoclassicism adapted to modern tastes. [7] Doty credits his sense of "progressive architecture" to this early exposure to Cret's design.

Cecil John Doty
Figure 66. Cecil John Doty.
(Courtesy National Park Service Region Three Headquarters, Santa Fe.)

During the Depression, Doty was lucky to receive occasional work from the local architectural firm Valberg and Drury. He also briefly taught freehand drawing and architectural history at his alma mater. The 1930s was a difficult time to open private practice, and Doty's effort to launch a firm in Oklahoma City failed. Soon after, he joined the CCC state parks program, working under the title "file clerk" in the newly established office before officially signing on as an architect. Director Herbert Maier hired Doty to finish plans for a museum at Glacier. As Doty later related, his early architectural experience mirrored that typical of young draftsmen: he worked under the principal designers, imitating their style as much as possible. Doty and his fellow draftsmen were encouraged to look through photographs of Maier's work, which they called "The Library of Original Sources." Many of these photographs appear in three paperbound manuals compiled in 1935 to guide CCC employees in architectural design. [8] Although Doty expressed pride in one of his favorite projects from this period, the museum in Custer State Park that he drew up on the dining room table of a log cabin, he also admitted that it was "a pretty cold copy off" Maier's Norris Basin Museum. [9] In January 1935, Doty was given the position of associate engineer and paired up with landscape architect Harvey Cornell for state park work in Oklahoma and Kansas. [10]

When the Oklahoma office was reorganized in 1936, Doty became regional architect, and, the next year, followed Maier to the new regional office in Santa Fe. A contingent of young architects from Oklahoma A & M—Raymond Lovelady, Milton Swatek and Lada Kucera—also moved to Santa Fe. [11] The reorganization marked Doty's shift from work in state parks to national parks, which took place when the programs were officially combined. In the months preceding the move, Doty recalls preparing the initial design for his future office, the Santa Fe Region Three Headquarters. He created preliminary plans having never seen the site, with inspiration from memories of the area and, perhaps, the Library of Original Sources. [12] After visiting the site in July 1937, Doty prepared the final sections and elevations. It was a traditional adobe building, one-story except for a double-height entrance area, with exposed timber vigas and adobe bricks constructed on site by the CCC. [13] Newspaper accounts of the building praised Associate Architect Doty for a fine adaptation of regional architecture. The cover of the first "National Park Service Region Three Quarterly," of which Doty was art editor, featured the architect's pen and ink drawing of the new building.

Region Three Headquarters
Figure 67. Region Three Headquarters, Santa Fe.
(Courtesy National Park Service Region Three Headquarters, Santa Fe.)

In 1939, Park Service Architect Albert H. Good, compiler of Parks and Recreation Structures, expressed admiration for the headquarters and imagined an expanded role for its style in the future. "If the so-called modern, or International Style, of architecture is to gain in popular appeal so that it is universally adopted . . .there is probably in the United States no traditional architecture so kindred and complementary to it as the early architecture of the southwest. Broad, simple surface, a sense of the horizontal, and setbacks are common to both." [14] Although Good considered the presence of modernism in historic areas "unfortunate," he also realized that the style could be employed without transforming the scale and atmosphere of cities like Santa Fe. Good's statements not only demonstrate that the Park Service understood the potential of modern architecture nearly twenty years before Mission 66, but also that the boundaries between the two styles were not so rigid. Unknowingly, Good predicted the ease with which Doty would move from the horizontal planes of southwestern rustic to the flat roofs and low silhouettes of modern visitor centers.

After designing his first National Park building, Doty worked on various smaller projects before transferring to the San Francisco Region Four Office in 1940. It was probably here that he assisted Lyle Bennett, the designer of the southwestern style buildings at Bandelier, on plans for several similar structures at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. [15] During the war he worked briefly for the Navy, and on other federal projects such as the Alcan Highway, Lake Texhoma, and Shasta Dam. Doty returned to the Region Four office in 1946 and two years later became regional architect. His post-war designs include the lodge at Hurricane Ridge in Washington's Olympic National Park (called the Public Service Building in the early 1950s) and the administration building at Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, California. [16] The Olympic project featured designs for exotic wood carvings adorning the entrance to the lodge and an entire lobby full of furniture. Its fancy woodwork aside, the building was built of reinforced concrete walls with wood paneling and sheet metal flat and shed roofs. Indian designs were stenciled above the south elevation of large plate glass windows. Aspects of the Mission 66 visitor center Doty would design for Hurricane Ridge in 1964 are not so different from the aesthetic employed at the lodge. These designs indicate that Doty and his Park Service colleagues were already moving in a progressive direction; although the specific attributes of the visitor center had yet to be developed, the prevailing influence was definitely modern. In the early 1950s, Doty was promoted from Region Four architect to designer; in 1954 he followed Sanford Hill to the Western Office of Design and Construction in San Francisco. [17]

Just before the Park Service's next major reorganization, Doty designed a complex of public service buildings for Everglades National Park called Flamingo Marina. [18] Although the design included a Park Service administration building, it also featured a lodge, restaurant, gas station, and an elaborate dock into Florida Bay with facilities for cruise boats. Buildings were modern—concrete block, flat roofs, swirling concrete ramps, and terraces supported by thin columns. Patterns of louvered windows and perforated concrete screens provided ornamentation. Flamingo Marina is a resort of the type that became ubiquitous on the nation's beachfront in the 1950s and 1960s. Although Doty mentioned "a major change," reducing the size of the Park Service building at Flamingo and some alterations to the restaurant, the compound was built basically as designed. The marina project suggests that the Park Service began equipping parks with facilities to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors in the early fifties. As a development program, Mission 66 hoped to supply facilities to encourage public use, even if this meant boating in the Everglades and skiing in the Rockies.

Flamingo Visitor Center and Restaurant
Figure 68. Flamingo Visitor Center and Restaurant, Everglades National Park, 1958.
(Photo by Jack E. Boucher.)

Doty's first major design for WODC, the public use building at Grand Canyon, has already been discussed as a prototype for the visitor center. According to museum specialist Ralph Lewis, Tom Vint and Cecil Doty visited the Grand Canyon in July 1954, and Doty "began to design preliminary floor plans on the spot." [19] His design is most interesting, in retrospect, as an illustration of the transition from a simple program to one with more sophisticated requirements. The Grand Canyon building borrows the Santa Fe office floor plan, but incorporates modern facilities, such as an auditorium, into a more free-flowing version of the traditional courtyard layout. Despite its unified plan, the public use building looks more like a factory than the southwestern building style it tried to modernize. The two-story office space does not modulate the facade, as in Santa Fe, but rather adds an industrial feeling to the white-walled building. Efforts to moderate the harshness also mark this as a transitional building—exterior stone walls and flagstone are brought inside the lobby space; the exterior features large masonry columns; the courtyard is lined with a covered walkway supported by columns tapered on the side and includes native plantings. Although Doty obviously made an effort to temper the modernist style, his concessions seem tacked on. The building would appear more comfortable stripped of its rustic trappings. The public use building at Grand Canyon was clearly an experimental building, and, along with the similar facility at Carlsbad Caverns, defined the emerging model visitor center. [20] Both buildings were retrospectively renamed visitor centers. With the guidance of Vint and Lyle Bennett, Doty was instrumental in developing a modern visitor center design that would fulfill the programmatic demands of Mission 66.

The interior courtyard of Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Figure 69. The interior courtyard of Grand Canyon Visitor Center, 1998.
(Courtesy National Park Service.)

Despite the shocking transformation in architectural style exhibited at the Grand Canyon, Doty understood that Mission 66 architecture evolved within the Park Service tradition: "Most of what we see . . . was the work or direction of Tom Vint and Herb Maier. To me Vint, Wirth, Maier, (Hillory) Tolsen, (Dick) Sutton, (Sanford 'Red') Hill was the Park Service." Like Maier, Vint had made his career supervising the design of some of the landmarks of rustic architecture; the office he headed in the 1920s developed the Park Service Rustic style. But after the War, rustic no longer satisfied park requirements, either in terms of function or aesthetics. As Doty explained, he and his colleagues had witnessed some of the nation's great technological and engineering achievements—the Empire State Building, Radio City, and the Chicago World's Fair, not to mention the advent of television, the motion picture, and the origins of space travel. When questioned about this in an interview, Doty responded with his own question: "How could you help but go away from that board-and-batten stuff?" [21]

CONTINUED continued



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