Ranger Stations

With the creation of the Forest Service in 1905, the new director Gifford Pinchot had already devised an administrative organization for the agency. Each of the new national forest would have a supervisor who reported directly to Washington D.C. Under the supervisor were the rangers, a colloquial synonym for "range riders" and "forest guard." A ranger was assigned a district within a national forest. His job was to patrol and protect the forest reserves of the district. By 1908, the Forest Service policy was to furnish or construct at government expense a cabin for the ranger. Initially the limit was $300, but was raised to $650 the following decade, a sum that could easily construct a small building. 1

Meanwhile, Congress passed the Forest Homestead Act in 1906, which opened agricultural lands in forest reserves to settlement. 2   To secure good sites for administrative operations with good pasture for stock, the Forest Service began withdrawals of sites within the forest. On January 8, 1907, the Forest Service withdrew 40 acres from the public domain for an administrative site at the location of the present Elwha Ranger Station. 3   As the trail system expanded and both recreational and management use increased, additional withdrawals were made. A withdrawal was filed for the original Olympus Ranger Station on November 13, 1912, and one filed for the Elkhorn Ranger Station on April 11, 1914. 4

As part of Gifford Pinchot's administrative program for the Forest Service image was very important. As a reflection of the agency, the rangers who lived and worked at these stations, along with the stations themselves, would be the immediate public face of the agency. Pinchot required the rangers to maintain a high level of professional appearance and to keep clean and sanitary ranger stations. 5   In keeping with this ethic, the character and design of the stations was not to be left to chance. In 1908, the Forest Service issued a series of standard plans for buildings on Ranger Stations. 6

Twenty-nine standard plans were developed, including fifteen (15) for ranger cabins, four (4) for residential structures, two (2) for bunkhouses, four (4) for stables, two (2) for storehouses, and one (1) for typical details for frames houses, and one (1) for typical details for log houses.

While standardized plans were published for structures, the early years of the Forest Service is characterized by minimal administrative guidance in site planning. Gifford Pinchot's 1906 Use Book merely says the privy was to be fifty yards from the house and the American Flag was to fly over the headman's tent. It also envisioned a ranger station in every township within the forest, a concept that was quickly found to be impractical. There were though many unstated, but practical, provisions that were employed in the location of a ranger station. Consideration had to include:
  • Ease and access to different parts of the unit being managed
  • Accessibility to best serve the Public
  • Appearance
  • Natural setting
  • Exposure
  • Drainage
  • Accessibility
  • Fuel
  • Shade
  • Shelter
  • Water
  • Pasture
A southern or southwest exposure was preferred for maximum sunshine. Domestic water supply was critical. Open pasture for stock and a level, or slightly level site, for building placement while maintaining adequate drainage. It was preferable to have an open area around the cabin.

By 1915, a log cabin ranger station building was constructed at Olympus Ranger Station. A log cabin ranger station was also constructed at Elkhorn and Elwha around the same time. In both instances, the buildings and site reflect many of the early planning and design considerations that would evolve into the planning manual of the 1930's.

As the Forest Service matured and the roads began to penetrate the districts, ranger station became a term for a more central administrative operation and the former remote ranger stations began to be called guard stations. The term guard was a position below a ranger, often seasonal but not always, and more associated with fire protection than broader organizational responsibilities. Thus, locations like Elkhorn and Olympus evolved into "Guard Stations" from early ranger stations. Of historical importance though, they retained the concept of an early ranger station in having a small cabin that acted both as office and residence, a barn and small pasture area for stock, and a woodshed/storage shed.

During the early 1930's, new "Ranger Cabins" were constructed at both Elkhorn and Olympus. In an August 1935 report, Preston Macy, appointed administrative custodian of the Olympic National Monument in 1934, noted that Elkhorn had both a new and old ranger stations (cabins), a horse barn and a shelter (shelter dated as 1933), while Olympus had both a new and old ranger station, plus a combination shelter/woodshed (dated as 1932).

According to an August 24, 1935, report by Preston P. Macy, Acting Custodian for then Mount Olympus National Monument, the Forest Service constructed a Hayes River guard station ten years prior to his report, or in 1925. He described the cabin as being log, and 8' x 10' in size. 7   It is indicated on a Forest Service map of 1930. When the National Park Service began administration of newly established Mount Olympus National Monument in 1934, Acting Custodian Preston Macy noted the Forest Service had, "...removed some trail tools from Hayes River GS (sic) in spring of 1934." 8   A year later, in a memo to Superintendent Tomlison, Macy mentions that phone service had been established to Hayes River. In 1936, responding to a request of Asst. Director, Conrad L. Wirth, Macy noted that only three ranger stations were used in the Monument during the summer months. The stations included Elk Horn, Olympus, and Dosemeadows. No mention of the guard station at Hayes River being utilized. 9   By 1940, after creation of the national park, the Park Service developed a map to noted existing all shelters, ranger stations, fire lookouts, campgrounds, resorts, and "patrol" cabins. The patrol cabins were then noted as Flap Jack GS, Hyak GS, Olympus GS, Elkhorn GS, Dosemeadows GS, and Hayes River GS. 10   Eight years later (1948), in a list, compiled by Preston Macy, of National Park Service accomplishments since taking over the national monument and the creation of the national park, there is an entry for a new ranger station at Hayes River. 11   Given the Forest Service cabin is described as being only 8' x 10', and the current cabin is roughly 18' x 20', it appears the Hayes River Patrol Cabin was a construct of the National Park Service sometime between 1940 and 1948.

Conservation Goals

The guard stations at Elkhorn and Olympus still provide valuable administrative services within the Park. Both are used on a seasonal basis as backcountry visitor contact stations and area centers for park management programs like trail maintenance, conservation programs, and emergency coordination. They perform these services while retaining many of the qualities and character of early Forest Service ranger stations. They are located at early Forest Service sites and the buildings continue to characterize Forest Service values in scale, materials, and design. This combination of practical use and historic context makes these early ranger stations valuable landmarks in understanding the development of the National Park.

The Hayes River Patrol Cabin is of the National Park Service era, but it illustrates the continuing historic concept of having seasonal personnel stationed in the backcountry as part of an administrative program. It continues to be a functional resource.

These resources should continue to be addressed under a conservation policy of Preservation. Original material should be preserved and kept functional through a well-designed maintenance program. This program would include coordinated periodic inspections, essential annual maintenance task as insuring good site drainage and roof cleaning, and where necessary restoration of deteriorated material and replacement in-kind of material and assemblies that have reach their service life. Such an investment will be a benefit to the Park and the resources under its care.

Elements of Significance and Character Defining Features:

Early Forest Service "Guard Stations" provide a direct historical association with the development of the national forest and the foundation of many of the trail and development of what became Olympic National Park. In this context, the concept of significance plays a vital role in establishing maintenance policy. For historic structures, significant elements are those qualities of the building that provide historic meaning and understanding.

At Elkhorn, Olympus, and the Hayes River Patrol Cabin, in terms of significant character defining elements, the landscape site and the location of the buildings within the site are of vital importance. Keeping the open nature of the sites and the relationship of the structures is critical. For the most part, the structures have retained a high degree of integrity regarding design, materials, and function. Continued maintenance using material that matches the original construction is vital. Retaining the wood windows, shake roofs, milled board doors, wood flooring, and log frames/walls all contribute to preserving the history of the site. Refraining from additional buildings or additions to existing structures is important. If new functions are needed, or lost functions restored, they should first be evaluated in terms of either using existing space in the structures, or restoring the structure associated with the lost function. If a new building is needed, then very careful attention needs to be paid to location in the setting and to the historic buildings. In all cases of proposed work, the cultural resource staff and park historical architect must be consulted during the planning process.

1   Smith, Elizabeth M., History of the Boise National Forest, 1905-1976, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise, 1983, p. 41-44.
2   Muhn, James and Stuart, Hanson R., Opportunity and Challenge: The Story of the BLM, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1988, page 34.
3   Land Status Records and Withdrawals, Card 36, Microfiche files, Olympic National Park Archives, Olympic National Park; Elwha SW/SW Sec. 9, T29N, R7W, Transaction No. 3.
4   Ibid., Card 35.
5   Lewis, James G., The Forest Service and The Greatest Good, Forest History Society, 2005, p. 50-51.
6   Bills of Materials Accompanying Standard Plans for Buildings on Ranger Stations, Department of Agriculture, Government Printing Office, 1908.
7   Macy, Preston P., Acting Custodian, to Marlow Glenn, Accountant, Mount Rainier NP. 24 August 1935. (OLYM, Shelter Notebook, Paul Gleesons office.)
8   Macy, Preston P., Acting Custodian, to O.A. Tomlinson, Superintendent, 3 October, 1935. On file, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division, Prestion P. Macy Papers, Accession No. 3211, Box 1, Folder 18.
9   Ibid., folder 19
10   Ibid., Box 2, Folder 6.
11   Ibid, Box 1, Folder 33.

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