Flandrau State Park CCC/WPA/Rustic Style Historic Resources,Cottonwood Township, Minnesota

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Flandrau State Park

Beach House (Combination Building) at Flandrau State Park, 2012.
Rustic Style Building on old CCC site
Address: 1300 Summit Avenue
Location of Site: off Co. Hwy. 13, S.E. of New Ulm
City/locality-
State/province
New Ulm, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Brown County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1942
Historic Function: Park
Current Function: Park

New Ulm Brown County

Flandrau State Park CCC/WPA/Rustic Style Historic Resources,Cottonwood Township, Minnesota
(44.292582319243° N, 94.468800545001° WLatitude: 44°17′33.296″N
Longitude: 94°28′7.682″W
)
National Register of Historic Places Information
Reference Number: 89001658
Reference URL: [CCC/WPA|NRHP Reference]
Certification date: October 25, 1989
Level of significance: State

Contents





Introduction

Minnesota maintains a rich history in state parks throughout the state. With 31 properties and/or districts listed on the National Registry, the conservation efforts of Minnesota‘s state parks are some of the nation’s best. One example, Flandrau State Park in New Ulm, is a collection of buildings and structures that display a pivotal moment in Minnesota and United States history. Constructed by both the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, the park is a collection of 16 properties that are recognized by the National Register. The park is also known as the home of one of five Minnesota based German POW camps during WWII.

Park History

Purchased by the state in 1934, the 805 acre site was primarily recognized as abandoned due to a lack of flood control measures along the Cottonwood River. With the establishment of the CCC and WPA camps, the site saw dramatic natural and cultural transformations throughout the 1940’s. The dam was completed by the CCC in 1937, and a 209 acre reservoir was impounded. Work continued on the site until 1942 when the WPA and CCC were dissolved. By WWII, the Cottonwood Park was renamed Flandrau State Park in honor Charles Flandrau. Flandrau was a notable figure in New Ulm history as the leader of the military defense of the city in the Dakota War of 1862. In 1947, the dam was overrun and severely damaged by a flood. The dam was reconstructed at great expense, but in 1965 flood waters once again overtook the dam. This time, federal funds were not available to reconstruct the dam again. The full dam was completely removed in 1995, and today the Cottonwood River runs free-flowing through the park. Today the camp offers 92 camp sites and a sand bottom pool that attracts popular day-use throughout the summer months.

Architectural Style

The design philosophy of the National Park Style, the Rustic Style, emphasized natural features rather than man-made ones. The style was designed not to call attention to man-made elements of the park, but to blend with the natural environment. Materials used in its construction were based on the region in which the park lies within the state. Northern Minnesota parks utilized log construction where timber was plentiful. The southern parks utilized regionally specific stones and timber. Flandrau State Park’s major structures are composed of battered quartzite stone - laid randomly, ashlar, and heavy timber truss systems.

In 1933, the Parks Service employed a professional staff to supervise the newly established CCC in architectural and landscape design. Hired as the chief architect, Edward Barber was primarily responsible for many of the state park facilities design, including Flandrau. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Barber and his team were educated by the National Parks Service about the vision of the Rustic Style. The team was given photographs and drawings of park structures in Yellowstone National Park to guide their design vision. Flandrau State Park represents the most architecturally distinct collection of structures of any other park in Minnesota. These buildings feature picturesque steeply pitched rooflines with dormers and chimneys, as well as small pane casement windows which were designed to reflect the German Architecture of nearby New Ulm.

WPA and CCC

Flandrau State Park is one of only three state parks in the state which contained both a CCC and a WPA camp. The CCC (1933-1942) was a work relief program established as part of the New Deal, under Franklin D. Roosevelt. It provided work to unskilled young men and focused on conservation and the development of natural resources. CCC Camp SP-14 occupied the Flandrau camp in 1935 and was primarily responsible for the construction of the Cottonwood River dam. The CCC also constructed the Superintendent’s Residence and the Kitchen Shelter. The CCC camp was disbanded in 1942. The WPA (1939-1943) was another government funded work program as part of the New Deal. This agency focused primarily on public works projects and amazingly employed over 8 million citizens during its 4 year existence. WPA Transit Camp WC-12 was located at a different location that the CCC. The two organizations worked separately but often depended on one another for certain skill sets and expertise. The WPA constructed the Office and Garage and the Combination Building, which was one of the largest buildings constructed in the state park system. The WPA camp was also dissolved in 1942.

POW Camp (Camp New Ulm)

Commanded by LT. George O. Biliad, the POW camp had a short lived history existing from May 1944 to December 1945. Comprised of nearly 160 men, the prisoners were mostly members of the German Air-Force. Residing in the former WPA barracks, the prisoners spent much of their time cleaning, painting, and repairing camp facilities. Later, much of the camp was employed at a cannery in nearby Sleepy Eye at the rate of 50 cents per hour. During the off-season, the prisoners also worked in nurseries, processing plants, and local farms around New Ulm. The culture surrounding Flandrau State Park offered ideal conditions for the prisoners due to New Ulm’s predominant German heritage. These cultural connections lead the New Ulm Camp to become one of the country’s most successful POW camps. German speaking church officials lead Lutheran and Catholic services in the camp and gathered donations for the prisoners. Many rural families made connections with the German prisoners who served as farm hands, and many sought out one another at the end of WWII. The camp was closed in December 1945 and the prisoners were shipped to England and eventually back to Germany in the late 1940’s. Today the prisoner barracks are utilized as the park’s group center, and the camp remains one of the country’s few WWII POW camps still maintained by the state park service.

Cultural Value

Flandrau State Park holds cultural value due to the sites historical context, which represents a significant stage in United States History. The physical attributes that dot the wooded landscape bring camp patrons back to untouched examples of Rustic Architecture and government sponsored work program achievements. The work accomplished by the CCC and WPA remind Minnesotans and Americans alike the perseverance of its citizens in times of misfortune. The Great Depression of the 1930’s defined a generation that would soon go on to defend the freedom of the country as well, and the park will forever be linked to those endeavors. The POW camp displayed Minnesota’s commitment to the war effort and served as an example to comparable camps around the country. The architecture of the park offers well-preserved examples of an American style that blends the beauty of nature and the built environment.

Bibliography

-Minnesota State Park CCC/WPA/Rustic Style Historic Resources. (1989, September 15). National Register of Historic Places Mulitple Property Documentation Form.

-A History of Flandrau State Park Groups Center. (n.d.). State Park Interpretive Signage. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

-Benson, D. R. (2002). Stories in Log and Stone: The Legacy of the New Deal in Minnesota State Parks. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

-Meyer, R. W. (1991). Everyone's Country Estate: A History of Minnesota's State Parks. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press.

-Minnesota Historical Society. (n.d.). Flandrau State Park. Retrieved October 2012, from Minnesota Historical Society: http://www.mnhs.org/places/nationalregister/stateparks/Flandrau.html

-Recreation, M. D. (1839-1997). State parks maps and drawings.

-Simmons, D. (2000). Swords into Plowshares: Minnesota's POW Camps During World War II. St. Paul: Cathedral Hill Books.

Related Links

CCC/WPA

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Page

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