17. OLD ADMINISTRATION BUILDING

 

 

SEE ALSO 40. GALLERY: OLD ADMINISTRATION BUILDING

We treasure the Visitor Center building as a hallowed and rustic Campground feature today. But many early campers did not want such a structure plucked down amidst the early bucolic field setting.

In spite of protests, this now much venerated meeting hall was built by CCC workers on what was being used as prime camping sites up until 1934.

Before and after construction: same view looking
south from Knoll in 1925 (left) and then near 1935.

A 1932 news article reports that “a community hall has been suggested but a keen protest is being put up by the association representing campers.” Also, from the campers perspective the need for such a building had ranked very low on the 1931 survey described earlier.

The orientation of this building on a southeast to northwest alignment nicely mirrors the historic Pinkham B Road routing which the building originally fronted and paralleled.

When constructed this building was sandwiched in between the Pinkham B Road on the west and a campsite access lane along the Peabody riverbank on the east. By 1940 the fronting state highway (formally the Pinkham B Road, now the Main Campground Road) had been relocated away from the building, where it remains today.

Looking north at Administration Building in 1934
before adjacent Pinkham B Road was relocated westward.

View west at Administration Building in the thirties with Peabody
riverbank access lane in foreground and Mount Madison in background.

The attractive stone walkways on either side of the building are early features as they appeared on the 1940 map. The west walkway must have been built or reoriented after the building was completed in 1934 as the original Pinkham B Road or its remnant still cut very close to the building that year.

This later thirties walkway on the west side links the building with parking spaces along the Campground Road. The 1940 map labeled these spaces as “parking to register only.” A thirties photo shows these spaces bounded by the low wooden guard rails common then.

Today the east walkway appears to lead nowhere. But in 1940 it led to outhouses serving the building, which along with one in the Big Meadow, were for many years the two largest in the Campground.

Vicinity of Administration Building on 1940 map (west at top).

The walkway’s stones lead into the woods and after a few feet large flat stones are seen. These were likely the foundations of the thirties era outhouses. There is also a south walkway that appears to be of similar vintage.

An informational display accompanying 1998 renovation work on the Visitor Center provided this narrative:

This monumental building is an excellent example of CCC era log construction. It was constructed without the use of power tools by novice crews of the CCC. It exists as one of the largest intact historic structures in the eastern national forests.

The CCC's were the first inhabitants of the building, using it primarily for administrative headquarters. As the CCC program was phased out in the early forties the building became the administrative center and workshop for the Forest Service in the upkeep of Dolly Copp Campground.

Camper amenities were the concern in this 3/19/1936 staff memorandum mentioning the new Administration Building: “I believe that we should encourage more use of this building during daylight hours by furnishing about a dozen comfortable chairs either of the canvas type or wood. Perhaps a few small tables for card playing would help greatly.”

The structure was referred to as the Administration Building in USFS literature from the thirties into the sixties. Then an early sixties USFS brochure called it the “Recreation Building.”

The Visitor Center was lit with gas lanterns before electricity arrived in the mid-sixties. Batteries powered record players for dances here in the fifties (CH).

Facing north while standing at the south end of the building, Casey Hodgdon remembers that in the early fifties the bunk room for the 4-5 man AMC crew then assigned to the Campground was on the left. A kitchen was on the right and included the public telephone, on a party line circuit with Camp Dodge. There was a flagpole near the fountain by today's lavatory.

There was also a small porch up at the north end of the building at that time, he says. Casey's eyewitness account confirms that there was a phone link to the Campground in the early fifties. One piece of evidence indicates that the phone link may have been in place at least twenty five years earlier.

Robert Monahan stated in a 1989 interview that:

It was our joint job to maintain the telephone line between what is now Dolly Copp Campground and Carter Dome itself, which was quite a tower... The tower is no longer there, but that is where Jigger Johnson spent a lot of his time during the fire weather and I was in the valley. So I got to know some of the people and many of the places in the summer of 1928.

The location of this log structure reflects the unique history of Dolly Copp. Visitor centers in newer facilities are not placed where vehicles bound for them must pass through all of the camp site area.

Rather, they are usually constructed at or close to the main entrance. This reversal at Dolly Copp was not a mistake of early planning, for this attractive building sat right at the entrance to the Campground in 1934, but at the extreme back end after the entrance from Route 16 was relocated northward in 1950.

Photos above and below show
g
ood times on a Saturday evening
in 2001 at the Dolly Copp Visitor Center.
(In photo below, at center in white shirt is Danielle Rugg,
holding hands to right with sister Michelle Rugg in pink shirt).

Also from the 1998 informational display:

Originally, it had fully enclosed rooms at both ends and the center was an open pavilion. The north room was used for administrative purposes and the south end consisted of a kitchen and a bunk room.

In the mid-1960's the center portion was enclosed, doors were added and the windows closed in. Enclosing the middle portion was done primarily to provide more space and security for interpretive displays. Around 1964 the kitchen area was renovated into storage and office space.

The reroofing and replacement of rotted timbers undertaken in 1998 was planned and executed by Joe Taylor, Casey Hodgdon and Reed and Marianne Leberman.

Also in this section of the Campground, to the north at the edge of the Play Field, is seen an unused capped well. According to Brad Ray it never produced much water and was more of a liability than an asset, so its use was discontinued.

SEE ALSO 40. GALLERY: OLD ADMINISTRATION BUILDING