Flandrau State Park CCC/WPA/Rustic Style historic resources are included within an 805-acre historic district adjacent to the city of New Ulm in the valley of the Cottonwood River. The district defines the boundaries of the original park, which are the same as the present-day boundaries of the park. The park contains 24 historic resources located within the concentrated use area, the service yard, the Civilian Conservation Corps camp site, and the Works Progress Administration transient camp. Architects for the buildings were from the Minnesota Central Design Office of the National Park Service.
The park’s historic district includes these resources:
Concentrated Use Area
Garage and Workshop
Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Site
Works Progress Administration Transient Camp
WPA Office/Staff Quarters
Flandrau State Park is significant for its association with the development of the Minnesota state park system. The park site was chosen for its location in a densely populated agricultural section of Minnesota not otherwise served by a large recreational area.
Flandrau State Park CCC/WPA/Rustic Style historic resources are architecturally significant for their unique and distinctive Rustic Style construction featuring a colorful local quartzite. The buildings at Flandrau State Park are the most unusual architectural designs in the state park system. They feature picturesque, steeply pitched rooflines with dormers and chimneys, as well as small-pane casement windows. This style was chosen by architect Edward W. Barber to reflect the German heritage of the nearby New Ulm community. The buildings represent an important principle of National Park Service Rustic Style design philosophy, namely that a park’s buildings should harmonize with natural surroundings and reflect the park’s cultural context.
In 1934, the State Executive Council purchased land for Flandrau State Park for unemployment relief purposes. The principal improvement in the park was the construction of a concrete dam in order to create a 209-acre lake in a widening of the Cottonwood River where it flows into the Minnesota River a few miles below the park. Since there are very few lakes in this section of the state, the lake was created to provide recreational canoeing, boating, swimming, and fishing.
The park became one of three in the state which contained both a CCC camp and a WPA transient camp. CCC Camp SP-14, which first occupied the park in June 1935 and remained until March 1942, constructed the Dam, the Superintendent's Residence and the Kitchen Shelter. WPA Transient Camp WC-12, located at a separate site in the park, constructed the Office & Garage and the Combination Building, one of the largest buildings constructed in the state park system. The WPA cooperated with the CCC in constructing the dam. The WPA camp was housed in buildings overlooking Lake Cottonwood. These buildings were intended to serve as an underprivileged group camp after the relief agency abandoned them. They housed German prisoners of war during World War II.
Cottonwood River State Park was renamed Flandrau State Park in 1945 to honor Charles E. Flandrau, a prominent lawyer and Indian agent of the Minnesota River country during the 1860s.
For current information about Flandrau State Park, go to the DNR website.