History of the National Park Service
Arrowhead of the National Park Service
|Parent agency||Department of the Interior|
Since 1872 the United States National Park System has grown from a single, public reservation called Yellowstone National Park to embrace over 450 natural, historical, recreational, and cultural areas throughout the United States, its territories, and island possessions. These areas include a diverse varieties of areas —National Parks, National Monuments, National Memorials, National Military Parks, National Historic Sites, National Parkways, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Scenic Riverways, National Scenic Trails, and others.
- 1 Beginnings
- 2 Establishment and growth, 1916 - 1933
- 3 Reorganization of 1933
- 3.1 National Capital Parks line, 1790-1933
- 3.2 National Memorials line, 1776-1933
- 3.3 National Military Parks line, 1781-1933
- 3.4 National Cemetery line, 1867-1933
- 3.5 National Monument line II, 1910-1933; War Department
- 3.6 National Monument line III, 1907-1933; Department of Agriculture
- 3.7 National Park System areas by category following the reorganization of 1933
- 4 Growth, 1933-1966
- 5 The second 50 years; 1966-2016
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Additional reading
- 9 External sources
National Parks 1864-1891
The national park idea has been credited to the artist George Catlin. In 1832 he traveled the northern Great Plains of the United States here, he became concerned about the destruction of the Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness as eastern settlements spread westward. He wrote, “by some great protecting policy of government... in a magnificent park... a nation’s park, containing man and beast, in all the wild[ness] and freshness of their nature’s beauty!” 
Catlin’s vision had no immediate effect. In the east, romantic portrayals of nature by James Fenimore Cooper and Henry David Thoreau and painters Thomas Cole and Frederick Edwin Church began to compete with prevailing view of wilderness as a challenge to overcome. Slowly unspoiled nature and spectacular natural areas of the West became better known, the idea of saving such places became of interest.
In California, several state leaders sought to protect Yosemite Valley. In 1864, Sen. John Conness of California sponsored an act to transfer the valley and nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state so they might “be used and preserved for the benefit of mankind”. President Abraham Lincoln signed this act of Congress on June 30, 1864. California was granted the valley and the grove on condition that They would “be held for public use, resort, and recreation...inalienable for all time.”
The Yellowstone country was first "officially" explored by David E. Folsom, Henry D. Washburn, and Ferdinand Hayden in 1869-71. A myth evolved that near the end of the Washburn expedition, discussion around the campfire lead several of the members to suggest that the area be set aside for public use and not allowing it to be sold to private individuals. This myth was successfully exploited by National Park advocates but eventually debunked by historians. An early ally in promoting a public reservation was the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. They were seeking major destinations for their route through Montana. In an effort to reduce poaching and other misuse of the park, the U.S. Army established a fort in the area in 1881 and began park protection, establishing a pattern that would be continued by later park rangers.
In 1875, Mackinac National Park was created on a resort island in Lake Huron in Michigan, the second national park. As at Yellowstone, the army garrison at Fort Mackinac were in charge of supervising and improving the park. The fort and the national park were turned over to state control in 1895.
U.S. cavalry units took up a position in California-controlled Yosemite Park in 1891 and took over some management duties. In 1906 the park was completely taken into federal control.
National Monument line I, 1906-1916
Early emphasis had been on the creation of National Parks, there was another movement seeking to preserve the cliff dwellings, pueblo ruins, and early missions throughout the west and southwest. Often local ranchers would try to protect these ruins from plunder, but pot-hunters vandalized many sites. The effort began in Boston and spread to Washington, New York, Denver, and Santa Fe, during the 1880s and 1890s. Rep. John Fletcher Lacey of Iowa and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, created the Antiquities Act of 1906.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 was designed to protect antiquities and objects of scientific interest on the public domain. It authorized the President, "to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" that existed on public lands in the United States. The Act declared these sites to be National Monuments. It prohibited the excavation or removal of objects on Federal land unless the a permit had been issued by the appropriate department. Between 1906 and 1933 three Federal agencies, the Departments of Interior, Agriculture and War, initiated and administered separate groups of National Monuments.
President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act on June 8, 1906. As early as 1889 Congress authorized the President to reserve the land on which the well known Casa Grande Ruin was located. In 1904, Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett made a review of all the Indian ruins on Federal lands in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. He recommended many sites for protection. Based on Hewett’s report and many individual request and reports from throughout the west, between 1906 and 1916 the Interior Department recommended and Presidents Roosevelt], William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson proclaimed twenty National Monuments
On September 24, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower as the first National Monument. Devils Tower is a Wyoming landmark, a 600-foot (180 m) high tower of rock, visible for nearly 100 miles (160 km). It has been a guidepost and a religious site. In December of that year, three more National Monuments were created. El Morro, New Mexico is a wayside in the rugged desert lands used by Indians settlers and travelers for centuries as a watering hole and a place to leave their marks. The site includes prehistoric petroglyphs and hundreds of inscriptions from 17th century Spanish explorers and 19th century American emigrants and settlers. Montezuma Castle, Arizona, is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings. Petrified Forest, Arizona, is world renowned for its petrified wood, Indian ruins and petroglyphs. Three of these original National Monuments later became the core of National Parks. Mukuntuweap became Zion, Sieur de Monts grew into Acadia, and Petrified Forest which was expanded by Congress to become a National Park of the same name. Three of the smaller areas were later abolished, those being Lewis and Clark Caverns, Shoshone Cavern, and Papago Saguaro.
Mineral Springs line, 1832-1916
Mineral springs have been used for their medicinal properties since ancient times. By 1800, places like Saratoga Springs, New York, Berkeley Springs and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and French Lick, Indiana, were becoming popular American resorts. In 1832 Hot Springs, Arkansas, was set aside as a Federal reservation to protect 47 hot springs. In 1870 the area was protected by Congress as the Hot Springs Reservation and in 1921 it was made a National Park. Hot Springs National Park is a health resort and spa rather than a scenic area.
In 1902 the Federal Government purchased 32 mineral springs near Sulphur, Oklahoma, from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The Sulphur Springs Reservation was placed under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior who shortly acquired some additional land. In 1906 Congress created Platt National Park which included the Sulphur Springs Reservation.
Establishment and growth, 1916 - 1933
Forty-four years after the establishment of Yellowstone, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. For years J. Horace McFarland, President of the American Civic Association; Secretaries of the Interior Walter Fisher and Franklin K. Lane; Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson; Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.; Representatives William Kent and John E. Raker of California; Senator Reed Smoot of Utah; Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright had been seeking the creation of separate agency to manage the National Parks and Monuments.
Reorganization of 1933
On June 10, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6166 which consolidated all National Parks and National Monuments, National Military Parks, the eleven National Cemeteries, National Memorials, and the National Capital Parks into a single National Park System. The National Park Service was directed to oversee all of these areas. There were three significant results of this action:
- it made the National Park Service the sole Federal agency responsible for all Federally owned public parks, monuments, and memorials;
- it enlarged the National Park System idea to include at least four types of areas not clearly included in the System concept before 1933 — National Memorials, like the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty; National Military Parks, like Gettysburg and Antietam with their adjoining National Cemeteries; National Capital Parks, a great urban park system as old as the nation itself; and the first recreational area — George Washington Memorial Parkway;
- the reorganization substantially increased the number of areas in the System by adding 12 natural areas in 9 western states and Alaska and 57 historical areas located in 17 predominantly eastern states and the District of Columbia.
National Capital Parks line, 1790-1933
National Capital Parks are the oldest parks in the National Park System. These parks began with the founding of the District of Columbia in 1790. The President appointed three Federal Commissioners to design a district ten miles (16 km) square on the Potomac River for the permanent seat of the Federal Government. The current National Capital Parks office is a direct lineal descendant of the original office established by the first commissioners of the District of Columbia in 1791.
President George Washington engaged Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant to design the new capital city. The L'Enfant Plan proposed a city of beauty. The plan was designed around a series of boulevards, parks and The Mall. Additionally, L'Enfant envisaged a Congress Garden and a President's Park; embellished with statues, columns, or obelisks; grand fountains; an equestrian statue of Washington; a Naval Column; and a zero milestone.
Rock Creek Park was authorized on September 27, 1890, two days after Sequoia and three days before Yosemite. Congress carried over some of the language of the Yellowstone Act into all three acts. Like Yellowstone, Rock Creek Park was "dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States," where all timber, animals, and curiosities were to be retained "in their natural condition, as nearly as possible." Though not a ‘National Park’, Rock Creek Park is a major urban park of the nation.
National Memorials line, 1776-1933
The first memorial was authorized by the Continental Congress on January 25, 1776, to honor General Richard Montgomery, killed during an assault on the heights of Quebec in the midst of a snowstorm on the night of December 31, 1775. Montgomery commanded New York troops sent a few months before on an expedition designed to win Canada to the Revolutionary cause. It failed before Quebec, and Montgomery, became one of the first Revolutionary generals to lose his life on the field of battle. The Montgomery Memorial is not a part of the National Park System. But the chapel where it is located, St. Paul's Chapel, is a National Historic Landmark.
The Continental Congress climaxed its commemorative actions in August 1783 by resolving "that an equestrian statue of General Washington be erected where the residence of Congress shall be established." The equestrian statue of Washington is executed by Clark Mills, placed in Washington Circle on Pennsylvania Avenue, and dedicated in 1859.
When the centennial of Washington's birth came in 1832 with no satisfactory monument to in the National Capital, George Watterston, Librarian of Congress, and other civic leaders organized the Washington Monument Society, to erect an appropriate monument from private subscriptions. In 1848 Congress transferred a site on the Mall to the Society, and the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4. Slow progress was made worse by the Civil War. When the nation's first centennial came around in 1876 the Washington Monument was only a third completed. The United States Congress passed legislation authorizing the transfer of the Monument and site to the United States for completion and maintenance as a National Memorial. The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.
In 1933 these National Memorials were added to the National Park System and the National Memorial function assigned to the National Park Service, except Perry's Victory Memorial, which was administered by a commission until it was added to the System in 1936. Also, the fiscal functions of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission were assigned to the National Park Service in 1933 and the Memorial itself in 1938.
National Military Parks line, 1781-1933
The National Military Park line, including early battlefield monuments, began in 1781. Between 1890 and 1933 the War Department developed it into a National Military Park System. In 1933, there were twenty areas, 11-National Military Parks and 9-National Battlefield Sites.
The line started on October 29, 1781 when the Continental Congress authorized the first official on-site battlefield monument. It resolved: "That the United States in Congress assembled, will cause to be erected at York, in Virginia, a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and His Most Christian Majesty; and inscribed with a succint narrative of the surrender...."
In 1823 in Boston; Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, and other prominent citizens formed the Bunker Hill Battle Monument Association to save part of the historic field and erect on it a great commemorative monument. The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1825. During the Revolutionary Centennial years, 1876–83, Congress appropriated federal funds to match local funds for Revolutionary battle monuments, and through this means imposing monuments were erected at Bennington Battlefield, Vermont; Saratoga, Newburgh, and Oriskany, New York; Cowpens, South Carolina; Monmouth, New Jersey; and Groton, Connecticut. Of these, Cowpens is now a unit in the National Park System, and Bunker Hill, Bennington, Oriskany, and Monmouth are National Historic Landmarks.
April 30, 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Pennsylvania chartered the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association to commemorate "the great deeds of valor... and the signal events which render these battlegrounds illustrious." This association was among the earliest historic preservation organizations in the country. By 1890 it had acquired several hundred acres of land on the battlefield including areas in the vicinity of Spangler's Spring, the Wheatfield, Little Round Top, and the Peach Orchard as well as the small white frame house General Meade had used as headquarters.
With interest and support from both North and South Congress decided to go beyond the former battlefield monument concept to authorize the first four National Military Parks — Chickamauga & Chattanooga in 1890, Shiloh in 1894, Gettysburg in 1895, and Vicksburg in 1899. These areas were not selected at random but constituted, almost from the beginning, a rational system, designed to preserve major battlefields for historical and professional study and as lasting memorials to the great armies of both sides.
The National Military Park System was approaching maturity under the War Department in 1933 when all these battlefields were transferred to the National Park Service to become a significant and unique element in the National Park System. All of the exhibits are permanent,and will always be shown in the museum.
National Cemetery line, 1867-1933
The National Cemeteries in the National Park System are closely related to the National Military Parks. The battle of Gettysburg was scarcely over when Governor Andrew Y. Curtin (Pennsylvania) hastened to the field to assist local residents in caring for the dead or dying. More than 6,000 soldiers had been killed in action, and among 21,000 wounded hundreds more died each day. Initially interred in improvised graves on the battlefield, Curtin approved plans for a Soldier's National Cemetery.
William Saunders planned Gettysburg National Cemetery. He enclosed it with a massive stone wall, the lawns were framed by trees and shrubs. The graves were laid out in a great semicircle, state by state, around the site for a sculptured central feature, a Soldier's National Monument. The Soldier's National Cemetery, as it was then called, was dedicated by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863. The speaker's platform occupied the site set aside for the Soldier's National Monument, then awaiting future design. The immortal words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address gave this spot a historical and patriotic association. Gettysburg National Cemetery became the honored property of the nation on May 1, 1872, now a century ago.
Congress recognized the importance of honoring and caring for the remains of the war dead by enacting general legislation in 1867 which provided for a system of National Cemeteries developed by the War Department. Eleven of the National Cemeteries established under that authority were added to the National Park System in 1933. The act of 1867 also provided authority for preserving an important battlefield of the Indian wars when, on January 29, 1879, the Secretary of War designated "The National Cemetery of Custer's Battlefield Reservation."
National Monument line II, 1910-1933; War Department
The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the President to proclaim National Monuments not only on western public lands but on any lands owned or controlled by the United States. Between 1906 and 1933 successive Presidents proclaimed ten National Monuments on military reservations;
|1910||June 23||Big Hole Battlefield, Mont.|
|1913||Oct. 14||Cabrillo, Calif.|
|1923||March 2||Mound City, Ohio (now Hopewell Culture National Historical Park)|
|Fort Marion, Fla. (now Castillo de San Marcos National Monument)|
|1924||Oct. 15||Fort Matanzas, Fla.|
|Fort Pulaski, Ga.|
|Castle Pickney, S.C. (abolished 3/29/56)|
|Statue of Liberty, N.Y.|
|1925||Feb. 6||Meriwether Lewis, Tenn. (now part of Natchez Trace Parkway|
|1925||Sept. 5||Father Millet Cross, N.Y. (abolished March 29, 1956)|
The authority to proclaim National Monuments on military reservations is still valid, no others have been proclaimed. Instead, historic but obsolete fortifications are declared surplus by the United States Department of Defense and transferred to the National Park Service, the States, or other political subdivisions following Congressional authorization.
National Monument line III, 1907-1933; Department of Agriculture
- Lassen Peak, Calif. included in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Cinder Cone, Calif.
- Gila Cliff Dwellings, N. Mex.
- Tonto, Ariz.
- Grand Canyon, Ariz.
- Pinnacles, Calif. (trans. to Interior Dept. Dec. 12, 1910)
- Jewel Cave, S. Dak.
- Wheeler, Colo. (abolished Aug. 3, 1950)
- Mount Olympus, Wash. included in Olympic National Park
- Oregon Caves, Ore.
- Devils Postpile, Calif.
- Walnut Canyon, Ariz.
- Bandelier, N. Mex. (trans. to N.P.S. Feb. 25, 1932)
- Old Kassan, Alaska (abolished July 26, 1955)
- Lehman Caves, Nev. became the nucleus of Great Basin National Park in 1986.
- Timpanogos Cave, Utah
- Bryce Canyon, Utah
- Chiricahua, Ariz.
- Holy Cross, Colo. (abolished Aug. 3, 1950)
- Sunset Crater, Ariz.
- Saguaro, Ariz.
The first two National Monuments in the Department of Agriculture were Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone, created within Lassen Peak National Forest, California, on May 6, 1907, to preserve evidence of what was then the most recent volcanic activity in the United States south of Alaska. In 1916 these two monuments formed the nucleus for Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Fourteen of the other Department of Agriculture National Monuments were established to preserve "scientific objects". Moved by a report of plans to build an electric railway along its rim, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Grand Canyon National Monument on lands within the Grand Canyon National Forest, Arizona, on January 11, 1908. In 1919 the National Monument became the nucleus of Grand Canyon National Park.
Two days before leaving office, on March 2, 1909, Roosevelt proclaimed Mount Olympus National Monument, from lands in the Olympic National Forest, Washington. It was established to protect the Olympic elk and important stands of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and Alaska cedar and redcedar. It formed the nucleus for Olympic National Park in 1938.
The authority to proclaim National Monuments on National Forest lands is still valid, only two others have been created between the Reorganization of 1933 and 1974. Both were placed under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Cedar Breaks, Utah, (August 22, 1933), and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, (March 13, 1943).
National Park System areas by category following the reorganization of 1933
|Date||Natural Areas||Historical Areas||Recreation Areas||National Cap. Parks||Others||Total Areas in N.P. System|
1933 before Reorg.
The long period between 1933 and 1964, began with the need to assimilate 71 diverse areas into the System. Among many other measures in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted a broad program of natural resource conservation implemented in large part through the newly created Civilian Conservation Corps. At the program's peak in 1935, the Service had 600 CCC camps, 118 of them assigned to National Park System areas and 482 to State Parks, employing approximately 120,000 enrollees and 6,000 professionally trained supervisors.
By mid-century, a great and growing backlog of deferred park maintenance and development projects, posed vast new problems for the Service and System. It was an era marked by the dramatic inauguration and prosecution of Mission 66, the emergence of a national "crisis in outdoor recreation," creation of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission and the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and mounting national concern for better preservation of America's vanishing wilderness.
Between the Reorganization of 1933 and the Reorganization of 1964, 1 102 areas were added to the System as defined today, increasing the total number from 137 to 239 The distribution of the new areas among categories is significant. Of the new additions, 11 were "Natural Areas", increasing their number from 58 to 69 or 19%. Seventy-five were "Historical Areas", increasing their number from 77 to 152 or 96%. Fifteen were "Recreation Areas", increasing their number from one to 16, or 1500%. It is clear that during this period the growth rate for Natural Areas noticeably diminished from previous levels and by comparison with the rate for other categories, even though very important additions of natural lands were still being made. On the other hand the growth rates for Historical and Recreation Areas accelerated sharply. It took the Service a generation, from 1933 to 1964, to assimilate these 102 diverse new areas and the 71 areas added by the Reorganization of 1933 and incorporate them securely into one National Park System.
Natural areas, 1933 - 1966
|1933, Aug 22||Cedar Breaks N.M., Utah|
|1934, May 30||Everglades N.P., Florida|
|1935, June 20||Big Bend N.P., Texas|
|1936, Aug 16||Joshua Tree N.M., Calif|
|1937, April 13||Organ Pipe Cactus N.M., Ariz|
|1937, Aug 2||Capitol Reef N.M., Utah|
|1938, April 26||Channel Islands N.M., Calif.|
|1938, June 29||Olympic N.P., Washington|
|1940, March 4||Kings Canyon N.P., Calif.|
|1943, March 15||Jackson Hole N.M., Wyoming|
|1950, Sept 14||Grand Teton N.P., Wyoming|
|1956, Aug 2||Virgin Islands N.P., V.I.|
|1958, March 28||Petrified Forest N.P., Arizona|
|1960, Sept 13||Haleakala N.P., Hawaii|
|1961, Dec 28||Buck Island Reef N.M., V.I.|
Jackson Hole, had been talked of as a possible addition to Yellowstone as early as 1892, and from 1916 onward the Service and Department of the Interior actively sought its preservation in the National Park System. It was John D. Rockefeller, Jr., however, who rescued Jackson Hole. In 1926 he visited the area and discovered the cheap commercial development, on private lands, in the midst of superlative natural beauty. There were dance halls, hot dog stands, filling stations, rodeo grand stands, and billboards, blocking the view of the Teton Range.
Rockefeller began a land acquisition program. In a few years he held over 33,000 acres (130 km2) in Jackson Hole. He offered these lands as a gift to the United States. Meanwhile, opposition developed among cattlemen, dude ranchers, packers, hunters, timber interests, and local Forest Service officials. By 1943, there was still no park legislation. Rockefeller indicated he might dispose of the property if no action was pending. On March 15, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Jackson Hole National Monument, consolidating 33,000 acres (130 km2) donated by Rockefeller with 179,000 acres (720 km2) withdrawn from Teton National Forest. Thus, Grand Teton National Park was created.
President Roosevelt's proclamation unleashed a storm of criticism which had been brewing for years among western members of Congress. Rep. Frank A. Barrett of Wyoming and others introduced bills to abolish the monument and to repeal Section 2 of the Antiquities Act containing the President's authority to proclaim National Monuments. A bill to abolish the monument passed Congress in 1944 but was vetoed by President Roosevelt. The Presidented noted in his veto that Presidents of both political parties, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt, had established ample precedents by proclaiming 82 National Monuments, seven of which were larger than Jackson Hole. The proclamation was nevertheless also contested in court, where it was strongly defended by the Departments of Justice and Interior and upheld. A compromise was worked out and embodied in legislation approved by President Harry S Truman on September 14, 1950. It combined Jackson Hole National Monument and the old Grand Teton National Park in a "new Grand Teton National Park" containing some 298,000 acres (1,210 km2), with special provisions regarding taxes and hunting. It also prohibited establishing or enlarging National Parks or Monuments in Wyoming in the future except by express authorization of Congress.
Historical areas, 1933 - 1966
Seventy-five Historical Areas were added to the National Park System between 1933 and 1964, including nine National Historic Sites and one International Park in non-federal ownership. Areas represented nine historic themes: I. The Original Inhabitants (6); II. European Exploration & Settlement (12): III. Development of the English Colonies, 1700-1775 (2); IV. Major American Wars (10): V. Political and Military Affairs (16); VI. Westward Expansion 1763-1898 (15); VII America At Work (9): VIII The Contemplative Society (0); IX Society and Social Conscience (5).
Much of this would not have happened without the Historic Sites Act of 1935, a logical follow-up to the Reorganization of 1933. On November 10, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited his friend and neighbor, Major Gist Blair, to give consideration "to some kind of plan which would coordinate the broad relationship of the Federal Government to State and local interest in the maintenance of historic sources and places throughout the country.
The Act declared "that it is a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States'." This new and greatly broadened national policy has been the cornerstone of the Federal Government's historic preservation program ever since 1935, reaffirmed both in the Act of October 26, 1949, which created the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. To carry out the policy, the Act assigned broad powers, duties and functions to the Secretary of the Interior to be exercised through the National Park Service, among them:
- make a national survey of historic and archaeological sites, buildings, and objects to determine which have "exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States;"
- acquire real or personal property for the purpose of the Act;
- contract or make cooperative agreements with states, municipal subdivisions, corporations, associations, or individuals to preserve historic properties.
The Act established an Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments.
Some of the most important historical additions to the System between 1933 and 1964 are almost lost to sight in this long thematic list. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was the first National Historic Site established under authority of the Historic Sites Act. More important, its 37 square blocks embraced a key urban area on the historic St. Louis waterfront — the first major effort of the Service, after National Capital Parks, to conserve and develop a large and important urban historic site. Some architectural monuments, including the Old St. Louis Post Office and the Cathedral, have been carefully preserved, but the main feature of the area is the only major national memorial of modern design in the United States, and one of a small number in the world — Eero Saarinen's stainless steel Arch.
In 1948 Congress authorized another major urban project, the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, the most important historical area in the United States, embracing Independence Hall and Square, Congress Hall, Carpenters Hall, and many other sites and buildings associated with independence and the establishment of a government under the Constitution. The method of analyzing complex urban problems was used in Boston, where it led to authorization of Minute Man National Historical Park in 1959 and other sites, including the Bunker Hill Monument, Faneuil Hall, and the Old Boston State House. A commission was established for New York City, where a complex of urban monuments were added, including Federal Hall, Castle Clinton, Grant Memorial, Hamilton Grange, Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace, and Sagamore Hill to the previously authorized Statue of Liberty National Monument, whose boundaries were extended to include Ellis Island.
The Historic American Buildings Survey was organized in 1933 upon the initiative of Mr. Charles E. Peterson of the National Park Service in cooperation with officials of the Library of Congress and the American Institute of Architects. Since 1933 the HABS has gathered more than 30,000 measured drawings, 40,000 photographs, and 13,000 pages of documentation for more than 13,000 of the Nation's historic buildings.
The National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings was organized after passage of the Historic Sites Act in 1935. Beginning in 1960, the responsibilities of this Survey staff were extended to include recommendation of an important series of National Historic Landmarks, officially designated by the Secretary of the Interior. On October 9, 1960 Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton announced the first official list of 92 historic sites and buildings eligible for designation as National Historic Landmarks.
The Inter-Agency Archaeological Salvage Program was organized by the National Park Service in 1946 at the request of the Committee for Recovery of Archaeological Remains to coordinate the salvage of irreplaceable pre-historic and historic Indian artifacts from projected reservoir sites in river valleys throughout the United States, before flooding. This program, which has been conducted for a quarter of a century in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution and universities, museums, and research institutions throughout the country, has enormously deepened knowledge of American prehistory.
Recreation areas, 1933 - 1966
The Service responded to the emerging social and economic forces of the New Deal era, by expanding its cooperative relationships with the States, securing enactment of the comprehensive Park, Parkway and Recreation Area Study Act of 1936, and initiating four new types of Federal park areas — National Parkways, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores and Recreational Demonstration Areas. By the end of this period, fifteen of the over 50 such areas remained under the administration of the National Park Service. Because they had much in common, they were collectively designated Recreation Areas in the Reorganization of 1964.
Recreational Demonstration Areas
Reservoir-related Recreation Areas
The origin of Recreation Areas as a category in the National Park System stemmed in important part from widened responsibilities assigned to the Service beginning in the 1930s. A central feature of these new responsibilities was administration of hundreds of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps located in State Parks. The National Park Service had actively encouraged the state park movement ever since Stephen Tyng Mather helped organize the National Conference on State Parks at Des Moines, Iowa, in 1921. It was natural for the Service to be asked to assume national direction of Emergency Conservation Work in state parks when that program was launched in 1933. Fortunately for the Service an exceptional administrator, Conrad L. Wirth, was available to lead this complex nationwide program. It was a large and dynamic undertaking, at its peak involving administration of 482 CCC camps allotted to state parks employing almost 100,000 enrollees on work projects guided by a technical and professional staff numbering several thousand.
As this program got under way it became painfully evident that in the 1930s most states lacked any kind of comprehensive plans for state park systems. In 1941 the Service published its first comprehensive report, A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem in the United States, a careful review of the whole problem of recreation and of national, state, county, and municipal parks in the United States. Interrupted by World War II, Director Wirth arranged for these studies to be resumed with the inception of Mission 66, and a second comprehensive report was published in 1964 entitled Parks for America, A Survey of Park and Related Resources in the Fifty States and a Preliminary Plan. Numerous land planning studies of individual areas, river basins, and regions accompanied and supported these comprehensive reports. The four new types of Federal Recreation Areas added to the System between 1933 and 1964 were generally consistent with recommendations in these studies.
The modern parkway, fruit of the automobile age, appears to have its origins in the Westchester County Parkways, New York, built between 1913 and 1930. At first, Congress also applied the idea locally — in the District of Columbia — but later undertook projects more clearly national in scope. Congress authorized its first parkway project in 1913, the four-mile (6 km) Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, to connect Potomac Park with Rock Creek Park and the National Zoological Park. In 1928, Congress authorized the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway to link the District of Columbia with Mount Vernon in commemoration of the bicentennial of Washington's birth. In 1930 this highway was renamed the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and enlarged in concept to extend from Mount Vernon all the way to Great Falls in Virginia, and from Fort Washington to Great Falls in Maryland (Alexandria and the District of Columbia excepted).
During World War II Congress extended the National Capital parkway network by authorizing the Suitland Parkway to provide an access road to Andrews Air Force Base, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, whose initial unit provided access to Fort George G. Meade.
The Colonial Parkway in Virginia was the first authorized by Congress beyond the District of Columbia vicinity. It provided a landscaped 23-mile (37 km) roadway link between Jamestown Island, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield as part of Colonial National Monument, authorized in 1930.
A new era for National Parkways began with authorization of the Blue Ridge and Natchez Trace Parkways during the 1930s. These were not fairly short county or metropolitan parkways serving a variety of local and national traffic but protected recreational roadways traversing hundreds of miles of scenic and historic rural landscape. These different National Parkways started out as public works projects during the New Deal and were transformed into units of the National Park System.
The Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park served as a prototype for the Blue Ridge Parkway. President Herbert Hoover conceived the idea of the Skyline Drive during vacations at his Rapidan Camp. It was planned in 1931 and begun as a relief project in 1932.
Following President Roosevelt's election Congress quickly enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 to stimulate the economy. Among other provisions it authorized the Public Works Administrator, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, to prepare a comprehensive program of public works. Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, aided by others, seized the opportunity to propose the construction of a scenic roadway linking Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a public works project.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered by many to be a Service triumph in parkway design, providing the motorist with a serene environment conducive to leisurely travel and enjoyment while affording him many insights into the beauty, history, and culture of the Southern Highlands. The 469-mile (755 km) parkway, sometimes called a grand balcony, alternates sweeping views of mountain and valley with intimate glimpses of the fauna and flora of the Blue Ridge and close-up views of typical mountain structures, like Mabry's Mill, built of logs by pioneers and still operating.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is the second major National Parkway, a projected 450-mile (720 km) roadway through a protected zone of forest, meadow, and field which generally follows the route of the historic Natchez Trace from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. The Old Natchez Trace was once an Indian path, then a wilderness road, and finally from 1800 to 1830 a highway binding the old Southwest to the Union. The parkway was completed in 2003 with the final link south of Nashville, Tenneesee. The parkway links historic and natural features including Mount Locust, the earliest inn on the Trace, Emerald Mound, one of the largest Indian ceremonial structures in the United States, Chickasaw Village and Bynum Mounds in Mississippi, and Colbert's Ferry and Metal Ford in Tennessee.
Recreational demonstration areas
Like the Blue Ridge Parkway, two other Recreation Areas in today's National Park System trace their origin back to the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 — Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland, and Prince William Forest Park, Virginia.
Among many other features, the National Industrial Recovery Act authorized federal purchases of land considered submarginal for farming but valuable for recreation purposes. By 1936, 46 projects containing 397,000 acres (1,610 km2) had been set up in 24 different states, mostly near metropolitan centers, to provide outdoor recreation for people from crowded cities. It was intended from the beginning that most of these projects would be turned over to states and cities for operation and in 1942 Congress provided the necessary authority. By 1946 most of the conveyances had been completed. The National Park Service retained Catoctin Mountain Park, site of Camp David, but 4,500 of its acres were transferred to Maryland. Prince William Forest Park (formerly Chopawamsic) was retained as a unit administrated by National Capital Parks.
Some recreational demonstration lands were also added to Acadia, Shenandoah, White Sands, and Hopewell Village. Now largely forgotten, recreational demonstration projects left several permanent marks on the National Park System and illustrated again the ability of the Service to help meet changing social and economic conditions in the nation.
Five National Recreation Areas were added to the System between 1933 and 1964. This new type of federal park area grew out of large scale reclamation projects like Hoover Dam and multi purpose river basin development programs like the Tennessee Valley Authority which began in the 1930s and spread to river valleys in all parts of the country after World War II.
Lake Mead was the first National Recreation Area. The Boulder Canyon Project Act, passed in 1928, authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to construct Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Work began in 1931 and the dam, highest in the Western Hemisphere, was completed in 1935. The next year, under provisions of an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service assumed responsibility for all recreational activities at Lake Mead.
Coulee Dam National Recreation Area (now called Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area) was established in 1946, under an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation patterned after Lake Mead. Construction of Grand Coulee Dam began in 1933 and the dam went into operation in 1941. It impounds a huge body of water named Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, 151 miles (243 km) long with 660 miles (1,060 km) of shoreline.
Although Millerton Lake, California, Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, and the north unit of Flaming Gorge, Utah-Wyoming were administered by the Service for a time, the first was subsequently turned over to the State of California, the second to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the last to the Forest Service.
Three more National Recreation Areas established during the 1950s are still in the National Park System today. Shadow Mountain, adjoining the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, embraces the recreational features of Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Lake, two units of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Glen Canyon was established in 1958 to provide for recreational activities on Lake Powell formed behind Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, one of the highest dams in the world. The Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, California, was established by Act of Congress in 1962. The National Park Service, however, administers the recreational facilities only at Whiskeytown Reservoir, while the Forest Service takes care of similar, more extensive facilities at Shasta and Trinity.
By 1964, application of the National Recreation Area concept to major impoundments behind Federal dams, whether constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation or the Corps of Engineers, appeared to be well accepted by Congress. Eight more reservations of this type were authorized as additions to the National Park System between 1964 and 1972.
The first seashore recreation survey in the mid-1930s resulted in a recommendation that 12 major stretches of unspoiled Atlantic and Gulf Coast shoreline, with 437 miles (703 km) of beach, be preserved. World War II intervened and no action occurred before 1954. Then only one of the proposed areas was created: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. All but one — Cape Cod — had become commercial developments. A new shoreline surveys resulted in several major reports including Our Vanishing Shoreline (1955); A Report on the Seashore Recreation Survey of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (1955); Our Fourth Shore, Great Lakes Shoreline Recreation Area Survey (1959); and Pacific Coast Recreation Area Survey (1959). By 1972 fruits of this program included eight National Seashores and four National Lakeshores of which the first four were authorized before 1964.
The National Seashore concept reached the Pacific Coast in 1962 with authorization of Point Reyes, California, embracing more than forty miles of shoreline including historic Drakes Bay, Tomales Point, and Point Reyes itself. The National Seashore concept reached the Gulf Coast in 1962 also with authorization of Padre Island, Texas. This great shore island stretches for 113 miles (182 km) along the Texas coast from Corpus Christi on the north almost to Mexico on the south, and varies in width from a few hundred yards to about three miles (5 km). There is some private development at each end of the island.
The second 50 years; 1966-2016
The 1960s brought about public awareness of America's natural and historical wealth. The Johnson Administration became the start of a 'park's for people' mindset. Director Hartzog has been the superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis and was a supporter of public involvement and publicly accessible parks. It was the second 50 years that saw a significant increase in parks accessible to the general populations.
During the 1960s numerous legal challenges arose over the mission of the National Park Service. Using the court decisions, Congress supplemented and clarified the Organic Act of 1916 through the General Authorities Act of 1970. Additional challenges during the 1970s required that Congress again clarify the mission of the National Park Service. The 1979 amendment to the General Authorities Act of 1970 has been come known as the “Redwood amendment”, as it also contained language expanding Redwood National Park. The key part of that act, as amended, is:
‘Congress declares that the national park system, which began with establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every major region of the United States, its territories and island possessions; that these areas, though distinct in character, are united through their inter-related purposes and resources into one national park system as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage; that, individually and collectively, these areas derive increased national dignity and recognition of their superlative environmental quality through their inclusion jointly with each other in one national park system preserved and managed for the benefit and inspiration of all the people of the United States; and that it is the purpose of this Act to include all such areas in the System and to clarify the authorities applicable to the system. Congress further reaffirms, declares and directs that the promotion and regulation of the various areas of the National Park system, as defined in section Ic of this title, shall be consistent with and founded in the purpose established by section I of this title (the Organic Act provisions), to the common benefit of all the people of the United States. The authorization of activities shall be construed and the protection, management, and administration of these areas shall be conducted in light of the high public value and integrity of the National Park System and shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which these various areas have been established, except as may have been or shall be directly and specifically provided by Congress.’ (16 USC Ia-I)
The first national lakeshores were created in 1966 from some of the remaining unspoiled or unique coastlines of the Great Lakes. The first lakeshores were Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Penninsla of Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana as a part of the Greater Chicago urban area. In 1970, two additional lakeshores were added. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigans western shore of Lake Michigan, and Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Wisconsins Lake Superior shore.
National Heritage Area
Heritage areas were first established to identify regions having a common cultural impact on the development of the United States. The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail in the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia was established on March 28, 1983. Fourteen areas exited by November 12, 1996. Initially, all the heritage areas were in the east and northeast. Today, they exist from coast to coast. The entire State of Tennessee has been designated as the Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area
Urban recreation areas
During the Richard Nixon presidency, public parks expanded with the creation of the two gateway parks. Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco became the western book end to Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. Both were specifically created to serve these two major urban areas and create open space, rather than to preserve a specific scenic or cultural value.
The Alaska expansion
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter created a dozen national monuments, in Alaska. The controversy that ensued lead to the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Through this act, Congress affirmed the Executive Order, adding to it. The act set aside 47 million acres (190,000 km2) to the National Park System and 54 acres (220,000 m2) to the National Wildlife Refuge System. The act provided for the creation or expansion of Denali National Park, Wrangell - St Elias National Park and Preserve, Gates Of The Arctic National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Admiralty Island National Monument, Misty Fjords National Monument, Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Noatak National Preserve, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and made significant changes to the notable Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Reagan years (1981-1989)
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Bush years (1989-1992)
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Clinton years (1993-2000)
|Governors Island National Monument, NY||new unit|
|Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, VI||new unit|
|Minidoka Internment National Monument, ID||new unit|
|Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, CO||new unit|
|Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park, CA||new unit|
|Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH||Redesignated from a National Recreation Area|
|First Ladies National Historic Site, OH||new unit|
|Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, SD||new unit|
|Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO||Redesignated from a National Monument|
|Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, AL||new unit|
|Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, AR||new unit|
|Adams National Historic Park, MA||Redesignated from a National Historic Site|
|10/21/1998||Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, VT||name change|
|Oklahoma City National Memorial, OK||new unit|
|Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, DC||new unit|
|Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, OK||new unit|
|Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, KS||new unit|
|Nicodemus National Historic Site, KS||new unit|
|New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, MA||new unit|
|Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, MA||new unit|
|Cane River Creole National Historical Park, LA||new unit|
|New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, LA||new unit|
|Mojave National Preserve, CA||new unit|
|Joshua Tree National Park, CA||Incorporated Joshua Tree National Monument|
|Death Valley National Park, CA||incorporated Death Valley National Monument|
Bush years (2001-2008)
President George W. Bush approved/created seven new units of the national park service during his eight years. In that period he also approved the deauthorization of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
|World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument||incorporated USS Arizona Memorial|
|Minidoka National Historic Site, ID||redesignated from a National Monument|
|Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, CO||new unit|
|African Burial Ground National Monument, NY||new unit|
|Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, DC||new unit|
|Lewis & Clark National Historical Park, OR||incorporates Fort Clatsop National Monument|
|Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO||Redesignated from a National Monument|
P.L. 107- 011
|National World War II Memorial, DC||new unit|
|Oklahoma City National Memorial, OK||deauthorized as a unit|
|Congaree National Park, SC||incorporated Congaree Swamp National Monument|
|Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, VA||new unit|
|Flight 93 National Memorial, PA||new unit|
|Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, VA||name change|
|Craters of the Moon National Preserve, ID||new unit|
Obama years (2009-date)
President Barack Obama has approved three new National Park Units since taking office in January 2009 (through December 2010). As of January, 2011, five parks have been authorized by Congress with the intention of adding them to the National Park system upon land acquisition or monument completion. The National Park Service will end furloughs, known as sequestration, for US Park Police on June 1, 2013.
P.L. 111- 11
|William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site, AR||new unit|
P.L. 111- 11
|River Raisin National Battlefield Park, MI||new unit|
P.L. 111- 84
|Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, CA||new unit|
P.L. 111- 11
|Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, NJ||new unit|
|Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, DC||new unit|
|Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site, IL||awaiting land acquisition|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, DC||awaiting completion|
P.L. 107- 062
|Adams Memorial, DC||awaiting completion|
- Lee, Ronald F.; Family Tree of the National Park System, A Chart with Accompanying Text Designed to Illustrate the Growth of the National Park System 1872-1972; 1972
- The National Parks: Shaping the System; Harpers Ferry Center; U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., 2004
- Schullery, Paul; Whittlesey, Lee (2003). Myth and History in the Creation of Yellowstone National Park. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 30–32. ISBN 0-8032-4305-7.
- Horace M. Albright, Origins of National Park Service Administration of Historic Sites, Eastern National Park and Monument Association, 1971
- Cornelius W. Heine, A History of National Capital Parks (Washington: National Park Service, 1953)
- National Park Service Almanac, Rocky Mountain Region, National Park Service, Office of Public Affairs, 2007
- Management Policies 2001, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service; December 2000
- NPS Heritage Areas
- NPS Reference website
- "Furloughs to end for U.S. Park Police, Park Service director says". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- ALBRIGHT, Horace M. (as told to Robert Cahn). The Birth of the National Park Service. Salt Lake City: Howe Brothers, 1985.
- Albright, Horace M, and Marian Albright Schenck. Creating the National Park Service: The Missing Years. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.
- EVERHARDT, William C. The National Park Service. New York: Praeger, 1972.
- Hartzog, George B. Jr; Battling for the National Parks; Moyer Bell Limited; Mt. Kisco, New York; 1988
- Ise, John. Our National Park Policy: A Critical History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1961.
- Lee, Ronald F.; Family Tree of the National Park System; Eastern National Parks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1972
- Mackintosh, Barry. The National Parks: Shaping the System. Washington: National Park Service, 1991.
- The National Parks: Shaping The System; National Park Service, Washington D.C. 1991.
- Rettie, Dwight F.; Our National Park System; University of Illinois Press; Urbana, Illinois; 1995
- Ridenour, James M. The National Parks Compromised: Pork Barrel Politics and America's Treasures. Merrillville, IN: ICS Books, 1994.
- Sellars,Richard West, -- "A Very Large Array: Early Federal Historic Preservation--The Antiquities Act, Mesa Verde, and the National Park Service Act" (evolution of early national park system; legislative history; discussion of interpretation/education in early national parks, etc.), published by the University of New Mexico School of Law, 2007.
- WIRTH, Conrad L. Parks, Politics, and the People. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.Shankland, Robert. Steve Mather of the National Parks. New York: Knopf, 1970.
- NPS official site
- Criteria for inclusion in the National Park System
- The Book of the National Parks by Robert Sterling Yard
- Designation of National Park System Units
- National Park System Timeline
- A National Monument, Memorial, Park . . . What's the Difference?