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Rustic Style Resources in Minnesota State Parks

Minnesota's state parks contain a variety of historic properties. Twenty-two parks contain Rustic Style resources that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Rustic Style historic resources in Minnesota state parks are local expressions of a nationwide philosophy of park development. They are significant for their association with the history of the federal relief programs of the Depression era, the history of the state park system, and the history of architecture and landscape design.

The Rustic Style buildings and structures listed on the National Register display thoughtful design and precise craftsmanship. They are a legacy of the Depression-era work groups, whose efforts helped preserve vast areas of wilderness and created remarkable buildings and structures of lasting value throughout the United States.

Two of the most popular and successful federal relief programs created in the early 1930s were the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In the few years of their existence, CCC and WPA crews made enormous advances in designing and constructing both state and national parks. By some estimates, the work done by these groups moved conservation and park development ahead 20 years.

Although some Rustic Style resources existed in Minnesota state parks before federal work groups began to arrive in 1933, most of those listed on the National Register were built by WPA or CCC crews. These programs provided the skilled and unskilled labor that constructed park buildings and a variety of other structures and also carried out extensive landscaping plans in the parks.

Click on the name of a park to learn more about its Rustic Style historic resources.

Blue Mounds State Park
Buffalo River State Park
Camden State Park
Charles Lindbergh State Park
Flandrau State Park
Fort Ridgely State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Interstate State Park
Itasca State Park
Jay Cooke State Park
Lac Qui Parle State Park
Lake Bemidji State Park
Lake Bronson State Park
Lake Carlos State Park
Lake Shetek State Park
Minneopa State Park
Monson Lake State Park
Old Mill State Park
St. Croix State Park
Scenic State Park
Sibley State Park
Whitewater State Park

The information about Rustic Style buildings and structures in Minnesota state parks has been adapted from National Register of Historic Places nomination forms written by Rolf Anderson. The images are representative of Rustic Style historic resources constructed in Minnesota state parks. Photos were taken by Rolf Anderson, Patricia Murphy and the State Historic Preservation Office staff. They can be found in the SHPO collection at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Rustic Style

By 1933, when the National Park Service first sent work groups to Minnesota, a design philosophy called National Park Service Rustic Style had emerged as the standard for state park development. The design philosophy insisted on emphasizing natural features rather than man-made ones.

Rustic Style buildings were designed not to call attention to themselves but to blend with the natural environment. They were constructed with whatever materials were locally available and often have a hand-crafted appearance.

Minnesota's Rustic Style resources tell the story of its land. Log construction took place in the northern portions of the state, where timber was plentiful. Stone buildings were more typical in the south and northwest. A combination of log and stone is common in the central section of the state. Minnesota stonework includes limestone in the south; basalt rock and sandstone in the east; colorful quartzites in the southwest; granite and gabbro near Lake Superior; and fieldstone in the west, north and northwest.

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