New Deal Roadside Landscape Features

The massive Garrison Concourse-the only Mn/DOT overlook that projects into a lake-has been a landmark stop for travelers since the 1930s.

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Assessment + Analysis
The Garrison Concourse

Scenic overlooks were one of the features built most often by the Roadside Development Division. Overlook walls promoted highway safety by providing tourists with safe vantage points from which to admire a view, thereby discouraging them from stopping at unsafe locations. Overlooks also enticed tired drivers to leave their cars and walk around to refresh themselves. Local communities liked them because they promoted tourism.


A comparison of a bird's-eye view perspective drawing from 1937 showing the design of the Garrison Concourse and adjacent roadway (top) with a contemporary aerial view (bottom) reveals the high integrity of the site. Few changes have occurred since construction over 60 years ago.

The Garrison Concourse is located in the town of Garrison on the west shore of Mille Lacs Lake, an immense body of water in one of the state's most popular recreational areas. The Concourse is a massive fortress-like structure that projects 180 feet into the lake, rises 12 feet out of the water, and extends 336 feet along the shoreline. It consists of a retaining wall built with huge, randomly-laid, granite boulders. It was actually built on dry land during the drought years of the Great Depression with the expectation that the lake would eventually return to its normal level.

The landscape includes a circular roadway that forms a center island, a stone monument supporting a flagpole and historical plaque, and curved concrete benches resting on granite pedestals. (Several granite benches are missing.) Shrubs such as juniper, spirea, honeysuckle, and rugosa rose were planted in a symmetrical pattern that emphasized the island’s walkways, and dozens of American Elms provided shade. The project included designing the adjacent "Y"-shaped highway intersection and improving a swimming beach.

The Garrison Concourse was built by the CCC Camp SP-15 in 1936-39. The camp was one of four in Minnesota devoted to roadside development projects. The Concourse was the cornerstone of many miles of highway improvements near Mille Lacs. Along the corridor, CCC workers extensively shaped and planted the roadsides and developed four stone bridges, another stone overlook, and a rest area with a log and stone picnic shelter. Collectively, the work represents the most extensive roadside development project undertaken by the CCC in the state.

The Concourse is one of the largest stone features included in the inventory and the only overlook that projects into a lake. It was determined eligible for the National Register because of its significance to the history of roadside development, its design significance, and because it represents a rare federal relief property type.

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