Wyoming State Parks & Historic Sites
GUERNSEY MUSEUM DIGITIZATION PROJECT
Following the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. One of Roosevelt's first acts as president was passage of the New Deal legislation. This entailed a series of government programs and projects to put the American public back to work and return prosperity to our country. One of the New Deal programs was the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). The CCCs were primarily out of work young men, between the ages of 17 and 25, that were hired by the federal government to work on public projects. Guernsey is one of the first places where the CCC workers were allowed to perform skilled labor. Until this time, CCC workers were viewed as general laborers suitable for forestry and soil conservation activities. As a result, most of the CCC companies worked for the United States Forest Service and were often referred to as Roosevelt's Tree Army. However, at Guernsey State Park the CCC proved that with sufficient training and supervision they were capable of constructing high quality and enduring examples of architecture.
Guernsey State Park is where some of the most important National Park Service park planners of the Depression Era honed their trade, people like Conrad Wirth and Thomas Vint. These men were responsible for the "Rustic" architectural movement. The basis of Rustic architecture was simplicity in design, use of native building materials, avoidance of overly prefect construction lines, and a general feeling of having been built by pioneer craftsmen. While these buildings may sometimes appear crudely built, they are often excellent examples of design and craftsmanship. The Sitting Bull picnic shelter is a superb example of Rustic architecture, it is difficult to tell where the ground stops and this building begins as it rises out of the rock landscape. Some of our country's best examples of Rustic architecture are at Guernsey State Park. When you are in the park look for examples of how the buildings are blended into the surrounding landscape.
Guernsey State Park is unusual because of the historic integrity of the CCC buildings and features within the park. The historic portions of the park have been left unmodified since they were constructed in the 1930s. No where is this more evident then at the park museum. The museum building and displays are essentially intact to 1937. Today, the Guernsey State Park museum represents the finest and most intact example of a 1930s trail side state park museum
floor of the museum building was quarried, assembled and numbered
Thermopolis, Wyoming. The floor was then disassembled, shipped
to the Guernsey State Park museum and reassembled. If you look closely
you can still see some of the numbers on the museum floor.
In 1934, two of the nine CCC companies assigned to the Bureau of Reclamation were stationed at Guernsey State Park. Company 844 was located at Camp BR-9 on the east side of the reservoir and Company 1855 was located at Camp BR-10 on the west side of the reservoir. Each camp was responsible for the construction of facilities on their respective side of the reservoir. This was done intentionally to foster competition between the CCC companies. In the spirit of competition even ordinary structures, such as latrines, could became elaborate facilities and a source of pride for the workers.
The Million Dollar Biffy was probably the finest latrine of its time. The latrine cost over $6,000 to construct, but was purported to be worth a million dollars; hence, the name "Million Dollar Biffy." Today it would be very difficult to match the materials and workmanship in this structure.
Guernsey is one of the first examples of treating a park as an interconnected landscape, instead of a series of isolated locations. Public activity was planned to be centered around certain attractions, most notably the lake and the high overlooks. The first thing developed was the transportation network; Lake Shore Drive to provide access to the reservoir and Sky Line Drive to take advantage of the vistas. An extensive network of pedestrian trails and horse trails were also developed, this allowed for the separation of motor vehicles, horse traffic and pedestrians. All three provide a complete circulation system in the park, connecting hill tops, park facilities, overlooks, and natural settings.
To provide a variety of outdoor experiences the park was divided into a A conservation area and a recreation area. In other words, formal recreational developments are on the east side of the park leaving the west end undeveloped. The Castle is on the dividing line between the conservation area and the recreation area.
The Castle may be the most elaborate picnic shelter in the country. Along with producing grand structures, Rustic architecture often tried to tie the landscape to the building. There are two arched walkways on the lower level of the Castle, if you line up the two archways they point directly to Laramie Peak, the highest peak in the surrounding region.
State Park is truly a national gem, when you have an opportunity visit
this site and learn more about Rustic architecture and the Civilian