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The 6 Best Examples of 'Parkitecture' in Ski Country

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With the turn of the 20th century came efforts to capitalize on the majestic scenery of the areas that would soon come under the stewardship of the National Park Service. The first guardians of these the parks were the Army or, in some cases, a few conservators charged with protecting thousands of square miles, but as railroad companies reached their doorsteps and people traveled to explore the parks, better lodging was needed to house visitors and better infrastructure was needed for the park staff to handle the boom in visitation and use. From this need was born the architectural style that best represents the parks themselves and still shapes our impressions of them: National Park Service rustic, or "Parkitecture." Curbed Ski has put together a list of some of the finest examples of National Park Service rustic built in ski country's own parks.

While this list focuses on the largest and grandest of the rustic style, there are a great number of cabins, guard shacks, dormitories and administrative buildings constructed during this time period that are excellent examples of the diverse ways architects were able to blend structures into the landscape with natural materials and forms. Historical facts, dates and construction information for this list were drawn from Harvey H. Kaiser's "The National Park Architecture Sourcebook" and "Architecture in the Parks: National Historic Landmark Theme Study," by Laura Soullière Harrison.


Ahwahnee hotel, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite has more than its fair share of significant architecture: the Badger Pass Ski Lodge, a rustic lodge with Swiss influences and, being built in 1935, the first alpine ski resort in California; the Wawona Hotel, the oldest resort complex in the park system with its 1876 opening; and Ansel Adams' own gallery, where he taught photography workshops. But the jewel of Yosemite and one of the premier rustic lodging properties in the nation is Gilbert Stanley Underwood's Ahwahnee hotel, opening in 1927. It has a scale, setting and grandeur that's near impossible to match. Three, three-story wings radiate from a six-story central tower, with stone chimneys and pillars encircling and pushing through the structure. The hotel's famed dining rooms bathes in light from 25-foot-tall, south-facing windows, illuminating iron chandeliers and intricate wood truss work. Love affairs with National Parks and Parkitecture alike have been starting at the Ahwahnee for nearly 90 years now.


Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
One of the earliest examples of the rustic architecture philosophy of harmony with surroundings, the Old Faithful Inn, designed and built in 1902 and 1903, respectively, is one of the few log hotels still standing. Lodgepole pines were used peeled, unpeeled, varnished, unvarnished — anyway they could be used to create the scaffolding for the 92-foot, seven-story lobby. In the middle of the lobby sits a hulking stone chimney, the unequivocal focal point of the yawning space.


Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, Montana
Situated on the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake, Many Glacier Hotel, opened in 1915, was the largest and most picturesque of the lodging properties built by Great Northern Railway to host the influx of passengers they were bringing. Carefully designed to make an impression from a distance, the four-story buildings read as a chain of chalets, with roofline details adding to the perception. Inside the building, a four-story atrium is ringed by dark, peeled timber and balconies with their decorative fretwork. The copper fire hood links to a suspended chimney that extends upwards like another timber column up into the skylight.


Paradise Inn, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
Mt. Rainier National Park has a number of prime examples of rustic architecture across four historic districts. In the district that bears its name sits the Paradise Inn, the park's first lodging property completed in 1917 by the Rainier National Park Company. From afar, the Inn's most distinctive feature is the long pitched roof that looks like it stops just short of the ground. The lobby interior reveals the intricate log work that allows the dramatic roof line and opens space up for 50-foot stone chimneys at either end. In 2006, the Inn was closed for a two-year renovation.


Moraine Park Museum and Amphitheater, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Unlike some of the other sites on this list, the best example of rustic design in Rocky Mountain National park is not the iconic hotel at its doorstep, which, in this case, is the Georgian Revival style Stanley Hotel completed in 1909 by Stanley Steamer inventor F.O. Stanley. Instead, it's a lone (much more modest) example of lodges that used to inhabit the park: the Moraine Park Museum. In 1936, the building was renovated into the museum that stands today, and the nearby amphitheater was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. that same year. The amphitheater is notable in its own right, for being an example of the landscape architecture counterpart to rustic design.


Crater Lake Superintendent Residence, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park has two districts full of rustic architecture: Rim Village and the Munson Valley. While the Village Historic District holds Crater Lake Lodge, which unfortunately was plagued with construction issues from 1915 till its latest renovation was completed in 1995, the Munson Valley Historic District is home to the impeccably built and preserved Crater Lake Superintendent Residence. There are plenty of attractive rustic style dormitories and other residential structures in the parks system, but few can match the scale of the stone and wood work of this National Historic Landmark. The boulders that make up the lower half of this one-and-a-half story building are massive, some reaching 5 feet across. The timber beams form a dramatically pitched roof covered with cedar shakes. Native materials and the careful use of the site illustrate the height of the rustic style's power to draw visitors (or in this case, residents) into the setting.

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