Battlefield Guide Services

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Building the Spotsylvania Exhibit Shelter: Mission 66 - A Then & Now Look

In preparation for the fiftieth anniversary of the National Park Service in 1966, the Department of the Interior implemented a ten-year program of enhancement projects designed to improve the visitor experience. The program was dubbed "Mission 66." Among these tasks were the construction of modern interpretive facilities, replacing the rustic Contact Stations of the CCC era. In the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, two new Visitor Centers and three Exhibit Shelters would be constructed to coincide with the anniversaries of the battles they'd interpret. The Chancellorsville Visitor Center was set to open on the first weekend in May, 1963. By July of that year, construction was underway for an exhibit shelter on the Grant Drive entrance to the Spotsylvania unit. By the end of April, 1964, the shelter was nearing completion, in plenty of time for the hundredth anniversary of the Spring Campaign of 1864.

This September 1963 photograph documents the pouring of the concrete floor and patio of the Spotsylvania Shelter. It was built on a substantial cinder block foundation with brick walls and a heavy steel framework that emulated residential architecture of the day. The roof had four skylights to provide additional ambient light to the open air design.
Approximate same view in February 2011.
 Prior to the installation of wire mesh to the open gable ends of the rafter
system, workers are seen here applying a clear sealer coating to the
natural wood ceiling planks inside the interpretive area.
Over time, the natural wood look was replaced by a heavy coating of
white paint, providing durability and easier maintainance. Note the
 skylight and wire mesh enclosed gable end.
                   On April 28, 1964, the interpretive display panels were being installed.
                       This approximate view of the same corner shows updated panels
and more engaging graphics installed around 2004. There is a continuing
 effort to enhance the visitor experience. Photo taken February 22, 2011.
                   In another April 28, 1964 photograph by NPS historian Ralph Happel,
Peder Kitti and Frank Philips of the Department of the Interior's Branch
of Museums, prepare hardware for the mounting of the interpretive panels.
They were assisted by Freddie Paytes of the F&SNMP maintenance department.
Note the accordian style, gate enclosure for the shelter, rarely if ever, used today.
Approximate same view, February 2011.

The one-hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service will be celebrated in 2016. 
Black and white photographs seen here are from the files of the F&SNMP.
Color photographs copyright 2011 by John F. Cummings III


Larry G said...

Hey John - how about the history of the rest rooms?

Been not open for along time until this year and then they re-opened them.

what was that all about?

John Cummings said...

If I am not mistaken there was a problem with the shelter's well water. The Park wisely waited to invest in repairing the situation until a long anticipated extension of the County water line was made in the summer of 2009. I'm sure you will recall seeing all the work going on in June and July, along the length of Brock Road from Gordon Rd. to the Courthouse area.
If anyone from the Park would like to inject and add to this, please do. I believe it was just a matter of fiscal responsibility.